Student-Centered: By Design. A New Way to Think about Educator Conferences. The #ISBLbD conversation continues...
By Jennifer Williams
These days, conferences for educators seem to be on the right track in starting to understand that, as teachers, we need our learning to be directly connected to the learning of our students. Sitting in session rooms in distant conference centers far from our classrooms and our students is a bit risky--creating more space for making assumptions as opposed to making connections. With an understanding of the value, need, and importance of representative student voice, conferences now are finding ways to get kids into the conversations--and, particularly into the ones where big questions are being asked and ones where big decisions are being made.
Learning by Design, a learning event that is said to be less of a conference and more of “a point in a learner’s journey,” is certainly the best I have seen to date. During this three-day experience that takes place biennially at the International School of Brussels in Belgium, students are invited into the conversation with educators at every point --- and not as an afterthought, but by design.
1. At the center through their perspectives.
As I arrived at the International School of Brussels, I was greeted in the Chateau, the white-as-snow 170-year old building that serves as the entrance into the 40-acre campus situated in the Forêt de Soignes. In the very first moments, I sensed that the students in brightly colored shirts that read “What should school be for? Ask me!” would be my partners in learning for the next several days.
My first stop was the Logistics Meeting in the Middle School Collaboration Room to meet the other seven Invited Guests (no keynote speakers by design) and our two student hosts. One of our hosts, 10th grade student Emily, invited us to join her for a private tour of the elementary, middle, and high school buildings to help us to get to know the school. She shared her experiences, her worries, her joys, and her passions. She told of her work around creating healthy body images at ISB with her LbD project #NoNorm. Later, Emily would tell a room of 500 her vision of what school should be for. She would also inspire us to challenge our own assumptions and intended messages when she reflected so articulately on a world that told her she “could be anything”--a message she said that as a younger child she heard and interpreted as “you need to be everything.”
Just before the welcome ceremony and our first panel discussion “A Call to Action: What Does it Mean to Re-Imagine School?” Marial, a 12th grade student and our second student host, joined in. With images of peace painted on her cheeks, she apologized for missing our morning meeting, but then went onto share that she had just come from the city center where she had joined with thousands of other students in the Brussels #ClimateStrike student demonstration--a march she had been participating in every Thursday morning for the past several weeks.
Along with Marial and Emily and global innovators Ewan McIntosh, Katie Martin, Cornelius Minor, Rebecca Bell, Niall de Búrca, Ed Bice, and Mathilde Dratwa, we set out with 500 others to dive deep into the question of “What should school be for?”--through panel discussions, workshopping, film clip provocations and conversation, inquiry, and connection--we aimed to figure it out together.
2. At the center through their ideas.
Alongside the planning for the educator journey at #ISBLbD, classroom teachers and administrators had been prepping with students for months for their student journey. Following an application process, students in mixed-age teams organized around new ideas and innovation for a prototyping project. These Student Agency Teams came to LbD with a concept and, over the three-days, worked through phases of inspiration, ideation, and pitch. As Invited Guests, we met with the teams to offer feedback, mentorship, and counsel. LbD attendees were encouraged to visit teams in the library or cafeteria between sessions to help encourage and also prompt new thinking. On Day 3, with ideas focused and “elevator pitches” set to go, the students hosted a poster session to showcase their work and celebrate transitioning to the next stage of implementation.
3. At the center through their creativity and stories.
The power of stories and storytelling was a major theme of sessions and conversations at LbD, and the students were not only part of the story of LbD, but they were also the storytellers. Each day, student performers inspired us with their songs. Student sketchnoters --having been coached during the week by professional graphic recorder Taryl Hansen-- joined for sessions to capture and synthesize shared ideas. A team of student journalists joined with the school’s marketing directors to tell the story through video, photos, and interviews. They took over Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the school website, and they created montage videos for the audience each day. The Humans of ISB project zoomed in on the lives of individual attendees, and these kids for sure captured my heart and spoke my language of media literacy!
Interested in joining the global conversation on re-imagining school and education? Check out @IntSchBrussels and the hashtag #ISBLbD on Twitter, and be sure to follow these innovative educators that are continuing to push thinking and practice:
Front load concepts. Establish foundational knowledge. Make connections. Plant some seeds of inspiration. All instructional practices we as educators work to weave in prior to the start of a lesson with our students. In our classrooms, we seem to recognize the great power that "laying the groundwork" can have to support deeper and more personal understandings of new ideas, but how often are we applying this to our own learning as adults? When designing learning experiences for educators, are we building in that extra intentional pause -- the time that allows teachers to catch their breathe, come prepared, and become present and in the moment of learning?
For the team at the International School of Brussels (ISB) organizing the Learning by Design conference (14-16 February), that start of the conversation was one that they were dedicated to cultivating and contextualizing well before the day that everyone was set to arrive onsite.
By leveraging innovative communication technologies, educators in the ISB Learning by Design community were invited to join in for an #ISBLbD Twitter chat. Held weeks before the February event in Brussels, educators from around the globe came together for a 30-minute inspired online conversation to begin exploring the question of "What should school be for?" And, true to ISB's mission of "Everyone included. Everyone challenged. Everyone successful." the chat welcomed in not only expected attendees, but also anyone from anywhere who was interested in jumping into the discussion on re-imagining school and learning.
For me, the chat served as that perfect pause -- a moment for us each to reflect on current conditions, to begin thinking on questions we hoped to explore together, and to have a few "nice-to-meet-you, see-you-in-Belgium" moments as we all looked ahead to when we would be together in person.
Here are a few of my personal take-aways from the #ISBLbD chat:
#1: Educators love being with other educators!
60 minute countdown. 30 minute countdown. 10 minute countdown. The excitement leading up to the chat was contagious! From Belgium to England to Singapore to Chicago, educators from everywhere it seemed were joining in and gearing up to chat. And, regardless if they were on the campus of ISB joining for the live Tweet-Up ("Twitter chat meet up") or if they were countries away joining from a train or a classroom or, like me, from home (with just my laptop and two puppies), it was evident that there was excitement around the idea of togetherness. Educators just love being with other educators!
#2: Educators want students in the conversation.
As we dove into answering big questions in our chat around "What should school be for?" it seemed we all knew right away that what we needed to help us work toward our collective answer was really less about "what we needed" and more about "who we needed"--students! As André Henry, IB teacher at ISB shared, "The opportunity to have students help shape the curriculum needs to happen."
#3: Learning should be purposeful.
One theme that really stuck with me (and, one that I hope to explore more with everyone once I arrive at LbD) was this idea of purpose -- the deep and explicit work around purpose. "I believe that students sometimes look for straight answers and sometimes don't get them from us." ISB Advancement Director David Willows shared. "Like when they ask, 'Why am I learning this?'" This got me thinking--why are we in education not leading with answering this for and with our students. How might school look if we always did?
#4: Change is here.
As chat participant Benoit Pernechele expressed in the #ISBLbD chat, "Change is happening." Sometimes slow and sometimes lightning fast (and, oftentimes messy)--change is here, and it is now. We recognized that change is a process--one that will require us to take inventory and together determine how we can keep and build on what is working and move away from what is not.
#5: This was only just the start to the conversation...
...and, we have LOTS more questions to think on. With bags packed and my mind filled with "sticky note reminders" for exploring with my new #ISBLbD friends, I am set to fly out tomorrow and ready to immerse myself in the moment with 500 other dreamers and doers at Learning by Design. Yes, I am ready to break down and tackle this feels-oh-so-big-to-me question of "What should school be for?" Get ready to see what we come up with!
Follow all the learning and sharing from the Learning by Design 2019 Conference by joining on Twitter with the hashtag #ISBLbD. For more information on Learning by Design and the work of the International School of Brussels, visit https://www.isb.be and follow on Twitter at @IntSchBrussels.
By Fran Siracusa
After spending a couple days at a homestay in Batey Libertad, I witnessed the overwhelming poverty of the batey’s people. Whether it was the simple wooden and tin structures that existed as homes, the dry clay or the wet mud of the streets all over my sneakers, the thick charcoal-smoke-filled air that made my lungs tighten, the dark and small community-shared latrines, the police raid for illegal charcoal, or the frustrating and constant shutting-off of electricity and water supplies, I thought about what fate had placed me in my homeland of America, and not here in a rural settlement of a Caribbean island. I pondered the way life seemed to pass more slowly in this community, maybe due to the incredibly warm temperatures and Spanish-sense of time and clocks. I reflected upon the happy spirit of the batey people, constantly listening to upbeat bachatas and merengue music coming from boomboxes. I watched as little ones walked around the streets, seemingly unsupervised, sometimes not fully clothed. I puzzled over if this was because of the hot temperatures or because of poverty. And, what really stood out to our group was how everyone was always “out and about.” Women sat outside their homes, enjoying each others’ company and the breeze, while they peeled the pigeon peas over large steel bowls. One could see women carrying water jugs on their heads as they probably headed back to their homes to provide hydration relief to thirsty family members. As evening rolled around, the batey was alive with even more activity, whereas people strolled, chatted, attended religious services, or cooked dinner on outdoor charcoal stoves.
I think about descriptor words such as adaptability, resourcefulness, survival, intelligence, and withstanding negative public opinion. I cannot help but compare these positive characteristics to the people of the batey who have been denied their human rights to education, citizenship, freedom of movement and dignity. We learned during our service-learning program that residents of over 400 bateyes in the Dominican Republic were mostly of Haitian descent by way of grandparents and great-grandparents. Their relatives were recruited from Haiti many years ago by Dominican landowners, seeking cheap labor to work in the sugar cane and rice fields. At first, the bateyes were formed as settlements of barracks where the workers lived. But over time, instead of returning to their homes in Haiti, the Haitian laborers settled in the Dominican bateyes with their wives and children. The settlements continued to grow, but unfortunately, workers’ rights to fair pay, fair working conditions, sanitation, and city development were stifled. As we learned during our program and through research, the issues of inequality were not, and continue to NOT be addressed by the national government. With specific reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, created in 1948 by the United Nations, and the Youth for Human Rights booklet, I feel compelled to advocate for our Dominican brothers and sisters whose rights are unfairly denied and that I witnessed:
- We are all born free and equal.
- Don’t discriminate.
- No slavery
- No unfair detainment
- Freedom to move
- The right to seek a safe place to live
- Right to a nationality
- The right to your own things
- Social Security
- Workers’ rights
- Food and shelter for all
- Right to education
“Step in” my student Nathalie and her family. Or the volunteers from Yspaniola, or the community members of Batey Libertad, who choose to both address and fight issues of inequality. I was invited to participate in such an experiential service-learning program along with my sons and friends this past May. The Yspaniola service learning trip sounded right up my alley, as it is an organization “centered on education and solidarity… (with an) aim to show students from different parts of the world that their lives are intricately connected to people seemingly a world away.” Nathalie and Melanie had invited me to partner with them in ensuring access to quality education for the batey’s children. Specifically, they asked if I would voluntarily provide support by means of teacher training for the Learning Center teachers during workshops as well as materials for classrooms. They had secured funding themselves by way of grant-awarded funds for which Nathalie had applied the year before, and based upon the needs recommendation of the Batey Libertad Peace Corps worker the family met the year before. The Learning Center directly serves the batey’s children, who respectively benefit from the educational grant monies. After the Learning Center teachers explained their needs for better tools to effect change and improvement in the students’ capacity for literacy, a plan was devised.
As for myself, inspired by the request of UN Ambassador Dessima Williams when I first met her in 2017, I wanted to scale up pedagogical innovations in order to be a catalyst for educator work that can be repeated and sustained. With small steps to progress on eventual closing of the wealth gap or education gap, I felt I could attempt to make a difference pushing Global Goals 4 and 10: Quality Education and Reduced Inequalities (respectively). At the suggestion of the Peace Corp worker and the tireless funding efforts by Nathalie and Melanie, we worked in partnership to utilize technology as a means to move education forward. In doing this, we exemplified for all, but especially my sons, how we ought to understand that we have brothers and sisters in other parts of the world and that we are connected in solidarity. As Ambassador Williams described to me, we need to further champion “connectedness to each other, not just connectivity, but connectivity for solidarity.”
The Caribbean region is one critical area of the world that struggles with sustainable development. In the Yspaniola program and the two human rights organizations we visited (ASCALA and Centro Montalvo), we learned about disquieting facts and issues facing these batey communities. Specifically, we learned of the injustice of revoked citizenship, racism, discrimination, labor rights and lack of education. We were blessed to meet and work with community leaders like Julio, Wilson and Susana, teachers like Mayra, Maricela, Leidy, Daniel and Alejandra, volunteers like Amy and Tiffany, homestay moms like Cuca and Agustina, and neighbor children like Evelín, Darlín, Yuli and Alex. The Haitian/Dominican history and issues of which we learned now connected with the human faces and kind souls of our new friends listed here.
As I reflect back on our experience, I consider how our friends compare to an incredible survivor. Despite difficult circumstances, one has the power to use one’s resources to adapt, create, and problem-solve. May each of us reading this post consider anew our positions of solidarity, spread the Global Goals, and take action to “bring a deeper understanding of the world around us and provide better opportunities for everyone,” through Quality Education and Reducing Inequalities.
Stay tuned for a consecutive blogpost where I will outline Tech Tools for Literacy workshop ideas and strategies, conducted with the Batey Libertad teachers.
Connect with me to learn more about our service-learning experience, the Yspaniola organization, or to add or access materials for teacher-training for technology for literacy and social good. @ProfeEdTech
Click button here below for 360 degree view of Centro de Aprendizaje in Batey Libertad
By Fran Siracusa
Last Sunday, I listened intently to our pastor, Father Len, as he urged the congregation to “give up plastics for Lent” this year. He preceded this challenge by also discussing how instead of choosing something to give up that really only affects the person as an individual, it might be a better idea to care for God’s creation, and make a sacrifice/decision that would help the Earth. (The mom in me chuckled on the inside, as I have been saying that to my family for years, how it is better to spend your time doing good deeds rather than just giving up favorite candy or videogaming for Lent.) His homily especially resonated with me, though, as I am a dedicated advocate for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and a co-founder of the TeachSDGs organization.
Over the last couple weeks, as I worked on a new #TeachSDGs project, I spent time researching ways for individuals to make small differences. When it comes to SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production, or Goal 14: Life Below Water, simple ways to help include making intentional decisions to reduce usage of single-use plastics to positively affect reduction of marine litter. I asked my husband and my children for suggestions for ways we could help within our household, and I challenged our family to make a real difference this year, and especially, this Lent. We do recycle at our home, and I advocate for different related causes, like #CleanSeas and #byebyeplasticbags, but we can take this measure further.
Particularly, I truly admire young people who take a passionate stand for what they believe is right, and who take action. The sisters Melati (17) and Isabel (15) Wijsen from Bali were instrumental in spreading their mission to “to ban the use, sale, and production of plastic bags from retailers.” They worked with the government of Bali to create and change environmental policy! Whether it is by using technology in new and profound ways, or leading groups as an activist, or developing tools to affect, serve or empower global citizens, everyone can increase efforts to engage others in the realization of the Global Goals.
So, today and everyday through April 1st, I challenge my family and friends to make at least one decision each day to reduce usage of single-use plastics. Furthermore, I challenge you all to publicly post an image/photograph so that we can campaign together for SDGs 12 and 14. Please additionally use any related hashtags, but especially #giveupplasticsforLent. If you have any ideas/suggestions, or practices already underway in your home, please share them with us here in the Comment Section below.
To better equip you with inspiration and evidence, please check out the following links. These websites provide more information on how you can take action, along with me and my family. Until soon, and God Bless!
Church of England issues anti-plastic tips for Lent http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43071151
http://www.byebyeplasticbags.org/ and https://flipgrid.com/2df8ae
By Jennifer Williams
I felt I mastered the art of the “teacher pause” early on. Pose a question or a new idea and then wait. Sometimes seconds, sometimes longer. Maybe only a moment in time— perhaps just long enough for words to travel through the air to fall upon listening ears and ready minds. If you are a teacher, you know there is much to be understood within this pause. Seeing connections being created; the fusing of concepts from past experiences to new thoughts. Spaces for certainty and uncertainty to co-exist. Stillness that offers support for continuation on a path or need for a new direction—or maybe even retracing steps once more. The “teacher pause” for me became one of my most essential instructional practices.
Outside of classroom walls, though, stopping mid-thought, mid-sentence, mid-action has never been quite my style. “Head down” on tasks; all set to create and complete. Checklists checked and ready to keep on. Led by intention, reflection, and a constant curiosity for “what’s up next.” Always stretching higher and seeking depth and resolve.
Always stretching higher and seeking depth and resolve. I’ve thought often on this--the concepts of “higher” and “deeper” as my destinations. Two forces working in synchrony or in opposition? This question, however, may be unanswerable for me. My resolve--to find a pause.
Not a hard stop or a break. Not a time for reflection or redirection. But instead, a settled hold to take in my surroundings and allow for awareness of all that is good and right (and maybe things that may not be so good or so right).
And, here I sit. Thinking on a lifetime of aiming and acting and shooting for the stars, that in this moment, I am actually precisely where I want to be. A space of much certainty and still some uncertainty. A pause. And, as motion calms, I realize this place is one new to me. No longer am I seeking where to head next, but instead it is more how can I stay right where I am and do better, do deeper.
This year, my hope is to take hold of each moment. To embrace this time, this opportunity, this space where no longer am I concerned with “next” and “higher,” but instead “here” and “more complete.” Through this awareness and in moments of pause in days and months ahead, there are many things I hope to see…here are a few:
Pause…to seek out whimsy.
Recently an Instagram post for plaid shirts grabbed my attention. And, though I love a good, comfy plaid shirt, it was an unexpected connection made between classic books that intrigued me. Similar color palettes of the two--shirts and books--were the links drawn between them. These two typically distinct items bound together through whimsical and unconventional connections. This year, I will pause to seek out whimsy---find lines and pathways to connect the disconnected.
Pause…to celebrate human experience.
It is interesting what you notice when you move past looking to truly seeing. This past year, I have followed my #oneword2017 to be intentional in celebrating and honoring human experience. As I have begun my “daily pause” rituals, I am starting to see that I am not alone. A juice container. A cereal box. Spaces looking to pull people into good by a focus on the human experience. As our world becomes “busier” and “noisier,” I hope to pause and have eyes wide open to opportunities in front of me that connect me more (and more deeply) to those I love and cherish.
Minute Maid #DoingGood Campaign
Cheerios #GoodGoesRound Campaign
Pause…to ensure we are fixing what needs to be fixed.
Right before the new year, as I was leaving from a school visit to head to the airport, I waited and waited for my Uber driver—probably at least 15 minutes. The time waiting--that years ago would have felt normal--in today’s times of instant gratification felt like forever. My driver never ended up coming, and I, in a new city uncertain of clear directions, started to feel a little nervous. So, I requested a new driver, and he arrived in what felt like moments. Greeted with one of those smiles that just instantly draws you in and lets you know “all will be well,” I was now back on course. John and I were instant friends. A retired assistant principal, husband to the love of his life, and father of five. A man of great experience and, for sure for me, great impact. For our probably 40-minute drive, he shared funny stories and sad ones. Moments of pride and some of regret. And, as our time together was coming to an end, he said—in a way for me that was almost like reading the last page of a wonderful book—“We did a lot of work.” (referring to educators of “his time”) “We did a lot of work and fixed a lot of things. But, you know, I look back now and think we probably fixed a lot of things that probably weren’t really broken.” This year, I hope John’s words stay with me, and I can pause, think not of “missed rides,” but more of the ride we are on, and be sure, be really sure, that what I am working to fix really needs fixing.
Pause…to look into the eyes of my children.
As a teacher that tries to see the world through a global lens, I very much have always viewed all the world’s children as my own. Beyond the students in my classroom, it is my school of students, my community of students, my world of students that I hope to somehow wrap my arms around and lift up and support. Years ago, the kindergarten teacher to all my own three children said to me—teacher/mom to teacher/mom—be sure that when you are caring for all the kids in your classroom not to forget to care first for your own. As moms that are teachers we are multi-tasking ninjas! This year in the moments I am with my own children, I want to pause--really more stop—look into their eyes, listen more than hear, and hold tight to each and every second.
2016 #oneword: BOUNDLESS
2017 #oneword: INTENTIONAL
2018 #oneword: PAUSE
By Fran Siracusa
Relentless. Whether as a dual-language learner attempting to make sense of the world as a three-year-old, or as a 44-year-old life-long learner attempting to transform people and planet through global education, I am relentless in moving forward to affect change. My newest passion project and vision for social good led me to a new role as an Educator Task Force leader who contributes to global citizenship by advancing the work of the United Nations in relation to education through advocacy and outreach.
Just like me, I know relentless students who are craving opportunities for empowerment, within and outside the classroom walls. In our global learning spaces, past student participation in projects and interactions has changed perspectives, developed appreciation, bolstered empathetic response, and spurred catalytic movement. The learners with whom I worked, virtually and in person, consequently reciprocated with invigorated reactions and plans that offered contributions; these “workers” who were saturated with knowledge later contributed to real-world solutions and served less-fortunate communities with their dedication and magnanimous energies. Those students were, and are, relentless!
As we examine Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education, the first target is access to any form of both primary and secondary education, including books, classrooms and teachers. Second, quality education must be stressed, as well as eliminating gender disparities and equal access for vulnerable peoples. UN Ambassador Dessima Williams from Grenada expressed that in global education, “there is inequality remaining still,” and be it through a foundation, a global project, or 21st century innovations, students ought to understand “the concept of solidarity and connectedness with each other.” To bring this message to students and educators is imperative; I help my students and other global education stakeholders to see the relevance of connection, and enable them to work with others, while promoting and experiencing intercultural understanding. All students worldwide ought to be asked to impact the world through social good by means of campaigns or innovations, in their educational spheres. As Unicef articulates, in order to realize the Global Goals by the year 2030, “everyone, however young they are, needs to take part. So join our movement, teach young people about the Goals and encourage them to become the generation that changed the world.”
The main message I individually gleaned from attendance at the Global Education Forum conference last November was also the fourth pillar of Global Competence: take action! The students with whom we work should be prepared to make a difference in the world, not just learn about the world. By creating interactive routines where we push our students not only to investigate other cultures, but instead to also communicate and collaborate with learners from other countries, we can promote authentic global citizenship.
With a call to action, students can help communities across the globe. Connection-based learning leads to personal connection among global peers; furthering of such relationships builds teamwork and sense of providence so that students can affect wider audiences as well as change on an international level and in those global communities needing help.
So, what impact could such “take action” steps of Global Goals campaigns and innovations technology have upon education? After a review of the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students resource, I pondered the scope of three of the skills and qualities we hope to cultivate in our students: (a.), Digital Citizen; (b.), Creative Communicator; and (c.), Global Collaborator. Students could employ digital tools such as messaging and posting apps, digital artifact creation apps, and video communication and/or broadcasting, for example, to broaden their perspectives and global awareness while conversing or working with international peers. Engaging in teams to develop understanding of others’ environments, or later, to devise imaginative solutions when tackling global issues would enhance the overall learning landscape. Further opportunities would arise for learning with and from global peers. Global education is empathy education, and to provide platforms and opportunities for meaningful learning experience for youth around the world is crucial.
Next steps: partnering with the students! I know that in order to add to the impact of global education, one must continue to scale up. Therefore, after introducing the topics of Quality Education and Gender Equality (Global Goals 4 and 5), my students and I set out to explore and innovate. I contacted fellow educators through social media to connect with us and investigate laterally. Alongside global peers and utilizing powerful resources such as Unicef’s “World’s Largest Lesson,” we built global awareness and cultural understanding while infusing openness, curiosity, innovation and responsibility. Consequently, students integrated innovative technology tools in order to create digital artifacts; these artifacts are authentic campaigns spread on social media to advance real-world solutions. In utilizing a design-thinking framework at inception, spreading their message, and ultimately, collaborating with global peers, the students’ actions are catalytic! My students and I have created genuine partnerships, parallel to the genuine partnership fostered between myself and colleagues in my PLN, or at my school, or on our UN Educator Task Force.
Todays’ students can engage with each other and utilize shared resources and voice to achieve so much. I continue to advocate for connections-based learning in conjunction with authentic student experience in all classrooms in tandem with action pieces where students take to heart the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and do their part to transform the world for the better.
Back to being relentless: if future educators see our work and reciprocate efforts, this momentum can only increase, and the positive impact can only escalate. This kind of catalytic action becomes a response to the Global Goals. Perhaps, with small steps like these, students partnered with educators or with other global peers can help close the education gap, the gender equality gap, the wealth creation gap, and the peace gap, etc. Imagine the influence of a young adult in shaping our world of today and of the future if he or she has been exposed to the Global Goals for each year of schooling between the ages of eight and 18! Those 10 years of intentional analysis and respect of the Goals ought to influence a young person to always selflessly consider his present living conditions and not to compromise the earth’s resources for future generations.
I myself promise to be relentless, to enliven the learning landscape, and imitate future workplace settings. I am prepared to permeate and forge environments where student teams practice capacities for understanding, investigating, connecting and integrating. I will encourage creativity and international collaboration in education now, so tomorrow’s global workforce is prepared today. As Ambassador Williams iterated with a Grenada colloquial expression, we all ought to “do ‘thing,” and I intend to relentlessly spread that message to students.
21st Century Outcomes
Learning & Innovation Skills
Creativity & Innovation: Developing, implementing and communicating new ideas to others; Acting on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the domain in which the innovation occurs
Information, Media & Technology Skills
Information Literacy: Access information about communities around the world from a variety of information sources
Life & Career Skills
Productivity & Accountability: Through a service-learning project that requires the sharing of work activities, students develop awareness of our responsibility to help others in society who experience a crisis
Instructor's Lesson Plans
Choose one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in which to focus.
Reach out on social media to colleagues in your PLN in order to find project partner classrooms who will work alongside you and your students, whether synchronously or asynchronously. First, utilize Twitter as a starting point to reach out for project partners. Second, use Twitter to update your PLN on your students’ work, to drum up encouragement or participation by others, and/or to point to collaborative spaces (such as Padlet). Use strategic hashtags (#TeachSDGs, #globalgoals, #SDGs, #genderequality, #globaled) and personal invitations on DM to encourage teachers to join your activity, or to celebrate your students’ work.
See below in the slideshow of images for screenshots from Twitter regarding the Gender Equality activity.
Collaborative Space: https://padlet.com/fransiracusa1/GenderEquality_Goal5
Access quality resources that enable teachers to easily integrate the Global Goals into young people’s curriculum and multi-disciplinary coursework.
SDGs in Action app, sponsored by Project Everyone: https://sdgsinaction.com/ https://education.microsoft.com/Story/SkypeCollaboration?token=Yxkm9
http://www.teachsdgs.org/projects.html sponsored by Participate.
Create or co-create a teacher collection of resources (relevant links, videos, ideas, projects, and inspiration) to share with other teachers and the students who are participating.
http://www.calliopeglobal.com/teachsdgsgoal5.html (2017- Siracusa: focus on Goal 5)
http://www.calliopeglobal.com/ourblueearth.html (2016- Siracusa: focus on Goal 6)
Inspire students to affect positive change among the most vulnerable peoples of the world. Invite them to create digital artifacts for campaigns that make an authentic difference, and that develop a world-view that broadens and deepens thinking. Students started with their first Global Goals task: create a digital poster to raise global awareness of the issue of gender equality, or Goal 5. Students were introduced to the Buncee application, (creativity and presentation tool). Next, students were asked to voluntarily post their digital posters on social media messaging mediums, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, or on the class virtual corkboard, Padlet.
Finally, students were tasked with working in small groups or individually to complete their personal choice SDGS: INVENT, INNOVATE, CAMPAIGN project, as if they were hired by a company as innovative designers, charged with branding and spreading their message. As global collaborators, they ought to create, question, and communicate in multiple and creative formats. Those particular students who felt they could “stretch their wings” creatively were invited to use the web tool of their choosing and liking. The others just followed the task instructions below to create an informative Spark/Sway (created and modeled on Adobe Spark):
Celebrate the amazing Global Goals campaigns the students created by publishing on a shared interactive corkboard, such as Padlet. The students projects are not complete, but one can view work thus far at the link below, as well as on actual embedded Padlet below:
Collaborative Space: https://padlet.com/fransiracusa1/TeachSDGsInventInnovateCampaign
By Jennifer Williams
Across grades and content areas. For engagement, assessment, and crowd sourcing ideas. Our month-long journey exploring ways teachers are creatively using Nearpod’s Collaborate! in classrooms across our country has returned us back to “home.” And, one thing is quite certain--teachers are a remarkable bunch! Each day in our schools, they are seeking out ways to connect students meaningfully to concepts, and they are purposefully using resources to inspire students to think “beyond the page” and invent their own learning. Collaborate! as an interactive virtual discussion board has already brought limitless possibilities to instruction, and one of the very best parts has been seeing the ways all students in a class can feel part of a conversation. Ready to put Collaborate! into practice with your students? As we unpack ideas shared along our journey, here are eight extraordinary examples of ways teachers are putting Collaborate! into action:
1. Six Word Stories
Six Word Stories are short, short stories that encourage young writers to succinctly organize thoughts and ideas. With an aim of being concise and direct, the messages often center on topics that evoke deep emotion, humor, or insight. This week, Courtney Kofeldt, a K-12 Educational Technology Director and fellow Nearpod PioNear, shared on Six Word Stories in a Bite Size PD session at her school in West Chester, Pennsylvania. With a focus on digital storytelling, teachers were invited to create their own six word stories using Spark Post from Adobe, and then they shared their finished creations with the group using Nearpod Collaborate!. In real time, teachers were able to see the shared examples and discuss ideas! How creative! LINK to ClassBoard.
2. Teaching Future Teachers
So often, transformational change in education starts with how we prepare our pre-service teachers. Following this, many university programs today are placing dedicated efforts on infusing meaningful learning with new age technologies into all college of education courses. Integration specialist and PioNear Laurie Guyon put this into practice with students at Skidmore College in New York by sharing and modeling high-quality edtech tools in her own instruction. This week, Laurie was able to share on Nearpod with Junior block students in a workshop on integrating technology into literacy lessons. Students were able to see the great ways Nearpod interactive features can encourage engagement and communication of ideas, and then they got to jump in by using Collaborate! to share authentically on ways they felt Nearpod could be used with students in their future classrooms. Check out all their amazing ideas: LINK to ClassBoard. Especially love this shared idea: if you introduce a new topic you can use the poll to gauge students' background knowledge on the topic and then have them share to the class. What a wonderful way to bring in the voice of each student.
3. A World of Ideas
Each year, teachers of the world join together to connect students around selections of stories in the Global Read Aloud project. The world becomes a classroom as students engage in lessons with international classes to discuss and analyze text collaboratively. As a Grade 3 teacher in Ontario, Canada, PioNear Vickie Morgado was eager to bring the conversation on her class readings of The BFG to a larger audience using the new Collaborate! feature of Nearpod. To extend the conversation out to the world, she shared her Nearpod lesson code on Twitter and invited teachers within her PLN to join in on a prediction activity with their students. Over several days, students from near and far shared ideas and posted what they anticipated would happen in the next chapter of the book. Such a wonderful example of students working together beyond classroom walls! Check out the shared ClassBoard HERE.
4. Virtual Team Teaching
Fourth grade teachers, Rachel Thomas and Steven Lamb (better known on Twitter as Collaborative Genius), are reinventing the concept of “team teaching!” Each week, the two Albuquerque, New Mexico teachers come together in what they have termed Virtual Team Teaching (VTT), and, though at schools eight miles apart, they join with their classes using videoconferencing, a variety of technology tools, and innovative teaching practices to engage their together 50 students in interactions and inspired lessons. Use of Collaborate! has enabled their students to document and share on understandings of rocks, circuits, and even their personal learning environments. This past week, the classes joined in a science lesson where each group simultaneously examined a human heart. Videoconferenced conversation was supported with the Collaborate! discussion board which also served to inform learning as a reflection and assessment tool. Such a WOW! Learn more about their extraordinary journey on their website, and be sure to catch their upcoming TEDx Talk where audience members will too be joining on a Collaborate! board!
5. Making Time for Reflection Adds Up
For years and years, learning to count and add money has been a staple lesson in early elementary—but, with Collaborate!, 2nd grade teacher Gabrielle Cinelli found a way to make it not only engaging and collaborative for her students, but also reflective to extend learning. Gabrielle’s young students were able to seek out evidence and document knowledge on the interactive discussion board, and then were encouraged to make deeper connections to concepts through self-evaluations and shared personal reflections on the process of counting. The class also used DrawIt, Nearpod’s version of an interactive whiteboard, in a counting money activity which was then captured in a graphic collage that was sent right to Gabrielle’s email inbox! How fun!
6. Digital Citizens Get Social
In addition to having access to the Common Sense Media K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum in the Nearpod Content Library, California Tech Coach and PioNear Joe Marquez is finding innovative ways to engage his middle school students in discussions on social media etiquette and the importance of cultivating a positive digital footprint for college and career readiness. In his classes, students participate in Twitter EdUniversity and receive their “Twitter Learner’s Permit.” This semester, Joe and his students were able to use Collaborate! during their lessons to share their ideas as they selected their “handles.” Click here to view his ClassBoard, and be sure to follow Joe on Twitter and Periscope at @JoeMarquez70 to learn about all his great ideas on empowering students with technology!
7. Self-Assessment: Español Style
As a Nearpod Certified Educator and PioNear, Foreign Language teacher Rachelle Poth uses the Nearpod platform throughout the day in her Spanish classes in all forms of language study—reading, writing, listening, and speaking. In recent weeks, Rachelle has incorporated the new Collaborate! feature into class lessons with activities such as photo scavenger hunts in cultural studies, open-ended sharing of foods, dishes, and recipes common to Mexico, and reflective lessons on language use. For one Collaborate! lesson, she asked students to engage in a self-assessment exercise that had them considering areas in which they may need additional help. To guide them further, areas of focus were indicated as verbs, grammar, and vocabulary. Check out the ClassBoard to see how her students were also able to reflect on others’ responses with the heart icons. Rachelle shared that in addition to self-assessments, a benefit for her as a teacher is the ability to delete or reinstate answers as needed. Truly fantastic!
8. Little Learners and Big Elephants
Collaborate! can be an effective learning tool for students both old and young. Kindergarten students in Kali Kopka's class were able to jump into a cross-curricular literacy/science lesson in their non-fiction unit called "All About Elephants." To gauge background understandings before the daily lesson, Kali welcomed her little learners to each add one fact about elephants using Collaborate!. Next, the kindergarteners watched a video and then did a reflection activity using DrawIt. For Kali, the data obtained and recorded in the Teacher Report was instrumental in guiding her next lessons. And, how precious are these responses:
With Collaborate! now available for all teachers, the journey really is just beginning! Please share ways you are using Nearpod and Collaborate! with your students by sharing your ClassBoards and photos on social media! Happy collaborating!
Special thanks to all the amazing teachers and students that kindly shared their learning this month! Celebrating you all each and every day!
Introduction Post: How Do You Use Nearpod Collaborate!?
Field Notes Week 1: Nearpod Collaborate! in Action
Field Notes Week 2: Pick-Your-Path to Engagement
Field Notes Week 3: Unpacking Ideas
By Jennifer Williams
Where have we been? This month we are taking virtual visits to classrooms around the country and discovering ways teachers are putting the new Nearpod Collaborate! feature into action to support learners. Last week, it was great to meet up with Global Studies Teacher, Amber McCormick, to learn how she uses this interactive discussion board with her elementary students. Her top uses: student shared responses with photos and crowdsourced ideas! With two more weeks in our journey, we decided to follow Amber’s lead in crowd sourced ideas and invited teachers in our PLN to help map out our route by sharing their interests:
Where to next? To answer this question, we looked to Twitter to ask teachers their interests in using the new Nearpod Collaborate! feature in their own classrooms. Educators from around the world cast their votes and almost 60% indicated student engagement as the #1 way they wanted to use Collaborate!! So, through a lens of seeking ideas for engagement, we were off to “visit” classrooms. This week, we were able to catch up with three amazing educators using Collaborate! to increase engagement in classrooms, and we found three unique pathways for use! In a true choose-your-own-adventure style of planning, here are three ways you can bring Nearpod Collaborate! to your students:
Path #1: Collaborate! + VR
Teachers looking to engage students in immersive learning experiences are finding ways to combine the virtual discussion board of Collaborate! with Nearpod VR virtual reality lessons. To see this in action, we caught up with Kristen Brooks and her 1st & 2nd grade students at Woodstock Elementary School in Woodstock, Georgia. Kristen, a K-5 iPad Lab Technology Teacher, often uses the Ready-to-Teach Interactive VR Lessons from the Nearpod Content Library. After downloading the Patriotic Landmarks pre-created lesson to her own personal library, she was then able to add in the interactive Collaborate! activity. Next, it was time to put it into practice with her students. Joining into the live lesson on their own devices, each of Kristen's early elementary students "traveled" across the U.S. to locate and take screen captures of favorite national symbols. Love seeing students so engaged in learning in these videos:
To bring her young students back from VR field trips, Kristen shared that she uses a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown with a double clap at the end to get them quickly seated with iPads on laps and hands on floor! Brilliant way to support students to have success with tech tools! Next up, students were guided to add their favorite images to the Collaborate! discussion board. "It was super fun to look at the Collaborate! board as it filled up and it naturally encouraged a group discussion about the locations we visited and why they are important. The students loved it!" For these students, learning was extended past consuming information to creation of knowledge through a process of research, evidencing, and reflection. Students were able to discuss observations and then vote with the heart icons to select a favorite class U.S. symbol. Learning was not only engaging, but was their own.
[Click HERE to view ClassBoard]
Path #2: Collaborate! + WebQuests
Jumping from elementary to middle school, we head to "visit" Ed Finney and his 6th and 7th grade social studies students at Maple Hill Middle School in Schodack, New York. Ed, both a Nearpod PioNear and Nearpod Certified Educator, often custom creates Nearpod lessons to engage his classes in learning of history, geography, and cultural studies. Ed shared several ways he is using the new Collaborate! feature with WebQuests in instruction. Nearpod's weblink feature allows teachers to connect students to sites automatically--so, no need to take time for students to search for sites or type in domain names. Here are three ways Ed engaged his students in learning this week:
[Click HERE and HERE to view ClassBoards]
Path #3: Collaborate! + Discussion
One of the greatest parts of Nearpod is that it is an effective tool for learners at all levels. Michelle Moore, a District Resource Teacher for the Educational Leadership and Professional Development department in Hillsborough County Schools works to always model effective uses of technology in her PD sessions with teachers. This week, Michelle joined a group of high school science teachers in a professional development session on Increasing Student Engagement in Classrooms (wow, what perfect timing for the new Collaborate! feature to be released). Throughout the session, teachers participated in peer discussions to brainstorm ideas to answer the question "What does engagement look and sound like in a science classroom?" Groups and individuals were then able to post ideas forum-style with the Collaborate! discussion boards which, then in turn, inspired further inquiry and conversation. A favorite idea from the group centered on use of the discussion board with students in Socratic seminars: inner circles of students engaging in discussion with outside circles documenting ideas on the Collaborate! board. Looking forward to trying this idea myself!
[Click HERE to view ClassBoard]
Special thanks to Kristen, Ed, Michelle, and their classes for sharing with us this week and for always inspiring engagement in our schools!
Next week we visit more classes to see Collaborate! in action. Excited to share new ways students and teachers are connecting learning!
Introduction Post: How Do You Use Nearpod Collaborate!?
Field Notes Week 1: Nearpod Collaborate! in Action
Field Notes Week 2: Pick-Your-Path to Engagement
Field Notes Week 3: coming 2/28
By Jennifer Williams
Welcome back to our month long blog series visiting incredible schools across our country and highlighting great ways teachers are engaging students and positively impacting learning. Last week, we learned about the newest Nearpod feature Collaborate!. Offering immediate benefits for classrooms, including student engagement, crowdsourced ideas, and formative feedback for teachers, Collaborate! brings an interactive discussion board to Nearpod lessons. Over the next three weeks, we will “travel” across the country to meet some extraordinary teachers and their students to learn new ways they are putting Collaborate! into practice.
Our journey takes us first to Ridgeview Global Studies Academy in Davenport, Florida. Here we meet K-5 Global Studies Teacher, Ms. Amber McCormick. Amber is known by many for her amazing sketchnoting talents and her ability to infuse technology meaningfully into instruction to create fun and interactive lessons for her students. With collaboration being a major focus in her classes, Amber always is seeking out ways to bring her students together through inquiry, exploration, and cooperation. After learning about Nearpod’s new interactive discussion board, Collaborate!, Amber was ready to jump in!
Lesson 1: Identifying and Counting Canadian Currency
Audience: K-5 Students
Nearpod Collaborate! Objective: Student Sharing of Responses/Photos
Studying Canada this year, Amber’s objective this week was to introduce Canadian coins to her students. I caught up with Amber as she was preparing by both creating an interactive Nearpod lesson and cutting out many, many laminated Canadian “coins.” Check out her amazing Nearpod lesson where she not only incorporate Collaborate!, but also explicit vocabulary instruction, real images, related videos, and interactive Nearpod features, like DrawIt and Memory Test.
For Amber and her students, learning is always connected. In this lesson, Amber brought together the interactive Nearpod lesson, direct instruction, group work, and hands-on learning experiences to maximize understanding of concepts. To help her students identify and understand how to add the Canadian coins, Amber started with a guided lesson paired with the Nearpod presentation introducing new concepts. Next, the students worked in small groups to find ways to make 50¢ with the cutout coins. Once they found their solutions, they used their devices to take photos. Returning to their Nearpod lessons and the Collaborate! slide, students added their photos and ideas and submitted their responses. To finish up, Amber engaged them all in a reflection activity where the students evaluated the responses of their peers and indicated with the heart icons ones they felt were correctly solved. According to Amber, "Collaborate! is an amazing way for students to see that there is more than one solution to a problem." In addition, she expressed "they were able to see how others thought or solved a scenario." [Click here to view the Class Board]
Lesson 2: Study of Canadian Sports: Focus on Curling
Audience: K-5 Students
Nearpod Collaborate! Objective: Crowdsourced Responses
For part two of the study of Canada in Amber's classes this past week, she created a lesson focused on the study of Canadian sports. After sharing on popular Canadian sports through a discussion around her Nearpod presentation that was both projected up on the class screen and also out on individual student devices, the students played tabletop-versions of curling (and, Amber brilliantly connected back to previously learned information from the coin lesson by using real coins as the "rocks").
After, they worked together to create the "largest list of Canadian sports" they could come up with using Collaborate!. Amber shared that one of her favorite parts of Collaborate! was the fact that her students were able to work with one another in real-time. She shared "I could see this being a fantastic tool for group projects or classwide brainstorming." More, her students liked how the heart icon offered the feel of social media. For Amber, she noticed that this feature offered validation of answers. As students indicated preference, Amber was able to arrange responses by “likes” and crowdsource ideas to give a visual understanding of order for her students. [Click here to view the Class Board...and, if you look closely you can find a "Ms. McCormick photobomb"]
More ideas Amber has for using Collaborate! in the future:
• Color scavenger hunt, in French
• Writing your name in Inuktitut (Inuit)
• Brainstorming for ideas
• Posing opinion questions about current events
• Creating a gallery of finished projects for classmates to evaluate
Special thanks to Amber and her students! Be sure to connect with Amber on Twitter at @EdtechAmber.
And, to keep the learning going...check out other ideas from the field from more PLN friends!
Join us all month long as we continue our journey! Excited to see where Collaborate! takes us next!
Introduction Post: How Do You Use Nearpod Collaborate!?
Field Notes Week 1: Nearpod Collaborate! in Action
Field Notes Week 2: Nearpod Collaborate! in Action coming 2/21
Field Notes Week 3: Nearpod Collaborate! in Action coming 2/28
By Jennifer Williams
With students. With teachers. In classrooms. And beyond. In education today, educators are constantly seeking out ways to bring collaboration to learning experiences. Seeing the benefits of project-based learning and cooperative lessons that encourage teamwork and shared perspectives, teachers more and more are finding ways to engage students in the discussion of learning at every point of the process. This understanding paired with the seamless integration of new technologies in many classroom environments is sending teachers looking for digital options for bringing voice and choice (Note: you’ll see me say this again soon 😄) into lessons.
Enter Nearpod’s new feature Collaborate!! (Fun fact: Collaborate! has an exclamation point in its name—my guess on why is because it brings that much WOW!). Following a great lineup of newly released features in most recent months, like Nearpod VR, Nearpod 3D, and integration of Microsoft Sway, the new Collaborate! feature brings a wonderful solution for teachers looking to add an interactive discussion board to their Nearpod live lessons.
Easy as 1-2-3
To add Collaborate! to your Nearpod lessons, all you simply need to do is follow these three steps:
Step #1: Add Collaborate! to your Nearpod lesson by selecting Add Slide --> Add Activity --> Collaborate! (so love seeing any feature marked as 🆕! For a teacher, that equals FUN!🎉)
Step #2: Next, select your Style from the five options and enter topic + description. Corkboard, chalkboard, sketchpad! Love them all!
Step #3: Launch your lesson and engage your students in a discussion! The opportunities for interaction are truly endless!
Though it was only just released this month, as a Nearpod PioNear I have been able to test out Collaborate! while it was in beta form. Instantly, I was able to see immediate benefits for the classroom. Offering students an opportunity to share in both voice and choice (there are those great words again), Collaborate! for me was the integrated solution I had been waiting for! Here are some of the immediate benefits I have seen:
Nearpod has always been my go-to tool for engaging all students in learning. With Collaborate!, students now have a safe forum inviting them to share in ways they each learn best. Students can document knowledge through evidencing in the form of shared written responses, images, links, or photos. Everyone is a contributor and all are collaborators.
Crowd Sourced Ideas
Different from other platforms I have used in the past, Collaborate! allows for crowd sourced ideas within the feature. Students are able to indicate their preference for certain responses by simply clicking on the heart icon. Teachers then are able to sort boards based on number of likes—they also have the ability to delete comments (here’s where many teachers say “Oh, phew!”). For activities involving decision making, this practice allows every voice to play a part in selection (i.e. back to that great word “choice”) of task or outcome. Fantastic! 💙💙
With the rise of teachers seeing extraordinary value in formative assessments in instruction, this was one area I found right away that would be of tremendous benefit to teachers. The Teacher Reports within the Nearpod platform have always proven valuable for me as an educator providing the ability to record and review assessment data. Capturing information on engagement, accuracy, and opinion, Nearpod allows me to see analytics both at a class-level and individual student-level. Responses with the Collaborate! tool now extend to allowing for both open-ended and multimodal feedback combined. As an educator, I am able to review this information and use it to guide future instruction or to identify areas of interest or areas for growth.
Beyond all these great benefits, Collaborate! allows ME to collaborate! I can share the boards with customized links, via email, or on social media. Perfect option for teachers looking to share with administrators or as part of Professional Learning Communities within their schools or departments. All so amazing!
Over the next month, I am excited to share examples of ways teachers are using Collaborate! in their classrooms. Watch for Field Notes: Nearpod’s Collaborate! in Action blog series coming up each week in February! And, please share on how you are using Collaborate! in learning by tagging me on Twitter at @JenWilliamsEdu! Happy Collaborating!
By Jennifer Williams
Educational conferences bring great opportunities for learning through keynotes, workshops, sessions, and poster presentations. Beyond the formal learning experiences, the exhibitor hall is always a favorite place for educators to network and explore. Each year at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida, I am always eager to take ideas from the booths and the vendors and to find ways to apply the innovative practices of startup companies to classrooms and instruction. This year’s FETC conference was no exception. And, actually, this year perhaps even more than ideas on innovative uses of space, what I was left with was ideas on purposeful and inventive formats for sharing. Here are my top five lessons I learned from the exhibitor floor and ways to apply to the classroom for students:
#1: Pick-Your-Path to Learning
In the classroom, I always love offering menus of options for students to select their own paths to learning. Similar to a choose-your-own-adventure framework, the Nearpod team brought this concept to the exhibitor hall with a pick-your-path-style of sharing. Educators looking to take a peek and just learn the basics were able to visit and take a #SpinToWin for a chance at winning some great prizes for the classroom and also an opportunity to learn a little about the platform. As a second option, I sat in on one of the small group sessions where educators could join in interactive guided lessons to discover more and have an opportunity to ask questions. Alternatively, educators ready to learn about customized options for their schools could schedule 1:1 sessions with members of the Nearpod team to find out about solutions to meet their specific needs. With at least three pathways to learning, educators were able to personalize experiences based on time, scheduling, interests, and needs. I’d love to see this model carry over to classrooms more often! And, if teachers can get students lining up the way educators were in line at the Nearpod booth, we will know we are on the right “path” to learning!
#2: All Spaces are Spaces for Learning
Learning at FETC is everywhere! Energized conversations in coffee lines, inspired discussions at café tables. People buzzing through exhibitor hall rows filled with ideas ready to take back to schools and classrooms. For me, one of my favorite take-aways from the week came about from learning in an unconventional space. I first learned about Caribu, an innovative literacy app that allows parents/teachers to read and draw remotely with children through video and shared screens, on Twitter several weeks before FETC. After connecting with co-founders online, we decided a meeting at the conference was definitely in order, and as all spaces at FETC are spaces for learning, we figured a designated spot on a hallway floor was an ideal place for us to connect. Knowing I was searching for “Max in red glasses,” I quickly found my new friends, co-founders Alvaro and Maxeme, and with devices in hand we were ready to get to talking! In 30 minutes, I was able to learn all about their journey in creating Caribu and about ways families and schools could use the app to connect in shared literacy experiences. This type of learning and sharing moment truly examples the idea that for learning to be impactful and powerful, schools don’t necessarily need high levels of tech integration or perfectly designed learning spaces. All you really need is an engaged and inspired discussion with maybe a little bit of tech to support. Hopeful in 2017 we start seeing teachers and students taking learning to all spaces. Expected and unexpected. Physical and virtual. Because for me, those hallway conversations sometimes are the most powerful!
#3: Bring FUN to Learning
It isn’t surprising at all to me that Ami with Peekapak brought me a lesson for the classroom from the exhibitor floor. Peekapak, a social emotional learning platform, always brings joy to learning through their beautifully illustrated stories and their adorable characters. FETC attendees were able to become part of the fun as they learned about Peekapak throughout the week and “met” some of the 12 characters through the magic of fun, impromptu photo shoots that were also shared on Twitter. Whether posing with “Leo,” the adorable peace-keeping hedgehog, or the imaginative “Cody,” teachers were all smiles and, of course, quite inventive in their poses. For me, I got to pose with “Saffron”—a sweet little skunk that loves both cooking and chemistry. Perfect combo! Ami, one of the co-founders, also spent time with educators inviting them to share their ideas on ways to design the “world” that is developing within Peekapak. Invitations both to have fun and to share. What a wonderful way to think about teaching.
#4: Interact in Environments
My next lesson learned from the FETC exhibitor hall is one I am always seeking out. As I shared in my piece on startup culture with Edutopia, I see extraordinary benefit in bringing concepts of innovation and design seen in the startup world of edtech into education. The vendor hall is always a favorite place to gather ideas, and at this year’s FETC, three of my favorite booths perfectly demonstrated ways to invite educators to interact with the learning environment. Without even needing spoken words, the Sphero booth did a wonderful job at welcoming attendees passing by to join in play. With a beautifully built structure designated for learning and sharing, the Sphero “room” was always packed! Nearby, the MCSquares booth similarly welcomed educators to creatively “leave their mark” by adding drawings/ideas to the interactive panel board. Another favorite was the Gumdrop booth. The team did such a fantastic job showcasing their device cases in an open environment that seemed to naturally bring in teachers eager for hands-on learning. All these booths and so many others captured the concept that the learning environment is key in education. Prepared environments that are purposeful and practical—without distractions and narrowed specifically to the learning objective. Oh, and I love those casters on the Gumdrop booth tables. Brilliant hack for the classroom!
#5: Selfies. Enough Said!
4 Guiding Principles for Early Learning & Technology Integration: Review of Official DOE Policy Brief
By Jennifer Williams
As Peekapak founder, Ami Shah, and I set out to create an immersive and interactive session for our upcoming FETC presentation “Trending Topics in Early Literacy: Practices and Tools for the Early Childhood Classroom,” we sought ways to share relevant, research-based information that could guide practice and instruction for early childhood educators. In our work in early childhood education, literacy, social-emotional learning, and educational technology, we look to frameworks and guidance based on evidence from the field of education.
In October of 2016, in response to increased use of technology with early learners, the United States Department of Education in partnership with the United States Department of Health and Human Services published the Early Learning and Educational Technology Policy Brief. As teachers are faced with the need to make decisions on growing amounts of emerging technologies available for young students, including educational apps, digital books, interactive software, and games, this brief offers four primary guiding principles for use of technology with early learners are provided.
Guiding Principle #1: Technology---when used appropriately---can be a tool for learning.
According to the DOE, developmentally appropriate use of technology can be beneficial to young children. As technology enables students to extend learning beyond the walls of their classrooms and homes, it can offer experiences that before were nearly impossible. Recommendations for use include:
Guiding Principle #2: Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.
Today in education, the topics of access and opportunity for all students are growing concerns for educators and policy makers. Technology also enables access to a world beyond one’s own community and can provide culturally responsive learning experiences for students. The DOE brief indicates multiple activities that can be incorporated into instruction with early learners to help connect different communities and close the digital use divide:
In recent years, technology has brought considerable focus to importance of building the home-school connection, particularly for early learners. As a third guiding principle, the DOE recommends use of technology to help build and strengthen relationships between educators and families. Though it is not recommended for technology to replace meaningful face-to-face communications, the brief specified several areas where use of technology can help bridge physical divides between home and school:
Guiding Principle #4: Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.
With any instructional tool, proper guidance and instruction from an adult or knowledgeable peer is critical for effective use. Interactive discussions with authentic connections to real-world experiences can bring technologies to life for young learners. Within the brief, the DOE recommends that parents and educators use interactions before, during, and after use of technology to personalize learning for the early childhood learner. The following examples were offered:
In efforts to help educators and parents be well-informed on integration of technology to support young learners, the DOE brief further provides an evidence base and call to action for researchers seeking ways to advance current understandings within the field. To review the entire brief, please visit https://tech.ed.gov/earlylearning/.
We hope you are able to join us at FETC as we further examine the guiding principles offered by the DOE brief in relation to practice and pedagogy in early childhood classrooms:
FETC, Orlando, Florida
Trending Topics in Early Literacy: Practices and Tools for the Early Childhood Classroom
Presenters: Ami Shah & Jennifer Williams
Also, please look to join us at the final FETC #CoffeeEdu on Friday, January 27th at 8-9am as the conversation continues! Click HERE for more info & registration.
United States Department of Education & United States Department of
Health and Human Services. (2016). Early learning and educational
technology brief. Retrieved from: https://tech.ed.gov/earlylearning/
By Fran Siracusa
A little over a year ago, two close friends of mine encouraged me to contemplate putting into words my “why” and my “one word.” This task was not just another New Year’s resolution, but became an impetus to internally rejuvenate my life journey with passion, energy and focus. What purpose did I seek in my personal, professional, and spiritual life? How could I do better?
It is now January of 2017, and I observe that my context has expanded from last year. In 2016, I was mobilized to pursue engagement of self and others, as expressed in a Cold Play song: “We are diamonds taking shape.” My one word was “reflect,” but not in the passive definition of “pondering” one’s past actions. Instead, I aimed to interpret the word “reflect” to denote signification like “echo,” “mirror,” and “resound” with the illustration of children reflecting their unique personalities and energies upon one another.
Throughout my professional endeavors last year, I developed global projects and activities where human beings could connect with each other in meaningful ways. Opposite of “one size fits all” conference sessions, I involved international classrooms of students in active learning during “presentations” by utilizing the Google Hangout, Kahoot!, Padlet, Buncee, video, and sketching applications, within unique projects that culminated in a live broadcast and participatory activity. I personally introduced a young student entrepreneur from Kenya who is making strides combating water scarcity to six international classrooms. She and I later invited these students to spread global awareness, turning the students into teacher-learners, exponentially educating others through the use of social networks. I facilitated global challenges involving mathematics, science, art, design, and communication. With unfaltering fervor, I focused on connections-based learning and a personal approach where peers could explore and express themselves first individually, but also within a mutually respectful community, leading to global integration of voice. As demonstrated, within professional and personal circles, I have always amplified the importance of active participatory processes and creativity. Similarly, Daniel H. Pink conveys the same message in his book, Drive: “Like young children… we are not destined to be passive and compliant. We’re designed to be active and engaged.”
Along the same vein of emulating energetic and extraordinary experiences, my one word for 2017 is “exemplar.” By modeling superior behaviors, projects, conversations, and goals, perhaps other global citizens, including educators and students, will take risks and serve the greater good. Just like family members who help each other with household chores, so should society members value one another and take responsibility to contribute to the collective unit. Perhaps, these members will grow to embrace challenges, remain empathetic, organically care for the whole community, and participate with amazing approach.
In my role as Educational Technologist for Calliope Global, or volunteer at St. Cecelia School, as a mom to two impressionable teenagers, or a friend to countless international companions, I always aim to live well, be grateful, and model kindness. I create conversations, engage in champion ventures, and stand alongside the vanguard of global cooperatives and colleagues so that students in global classrooms, as well as my own two children, will view the world through a global lens. I model learning tasks where students can be autonomously curious, risk-taking, creative and productive. I encourage my cohorts to strive to create unique advancements; equivalently, my “EduPals,” “EduHeroes,” and students inspire me with their triumphs, and I am blessed to stand alongside as co-learner, coach, and/or guide. Most likely, it was my experience at a Montessori school that strengthened my belief that learners should be autonomous; undoubtedly, it was my multicultural upbringing and religious training that move me to consider community service as the core of humanity, and that all learning has real-world purpose.
I choose to surround myself with extraordinary people, who wish to cultivate our relationships. I choose to empower students and educators to take part in a global conversation about kindness and responsibility; I also choose to conscientiously set up students for success. I choose to volunteer in the collective movement to make the world a better place. I choose to respond to a call to action to accomplish difficult but worthwhile global goals as an exemplary advocate. I choose to do what is best for children, and our planet, and be an exemplar. Follow my lead, and in 2017, let’s mobilize as exemplars to connect, create, inspire!
What’s your #OneWord2017? Please share with me your thoughts because I would love to continue the conversation and further the “ripple effects.” Shout out to Buncee for developing such an engaging creativity tool for students and me! #weheartBuncee
By Jennifer Williams
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