OnCUE

Author - Doug Robertson

A 1:1 Journey — In The Beginning

In the beginning there were 33 Chromebooks. And it was good.

I started this school year unsure about the state of the technology in room 17. Over the years I’ve used Donors Choose and grants to slowly grow my classroom technology from almost nothing to a decent set of thirteen mismatched laptops and two school-given iPads. Fifteen pieces of technology is nothing to sneeze at, but last year my class topped out at 37 students. Spend a second on that math and you’ll find that I wasn’t even at 2:1. Necessity is the mother of invention and this lack forced my student teacher and I to get creative and find ways to engage all the students and give them equal access to the technology on hand. Still, there’s a huge gulf between using technology yourself and being in a group helping someone else use it.

I spent parts of the first few teacher set-up days bothering the wonderful ladies who run our school via the office for information about my computers. I wanted them back from the tech department, where they’d been stored all summer, as soon as possible. I have plans for those things, and I know how fast things (don’t) move in a school district, so I generally made myself a pain.

Then one afternoon right before I packed up to head home and collapse on the couch, someone rolled a beautiful white rectangular prism into my room, parked it, and left. Channeling Jack Skellington, I danced about singing, “What’s this? What’s this?” My principal had gone for the day. I would have to wait.

The next day she came to me to explain. “We were supposed to get three carts with the new district-wide grant, but instead they gave us four. Because I know the fifth grade team has been asking, and I trust that you’ll use them, I decided to park a cart in each of your rooms, leave 33 laptops in each, and take the rest plus any other technology that was turned in last year and cascade that down through the rest of the grade levels. How does that sound?” I could have hugged her. But I didn’t, because I’m supposed to be a professional. Instead I took pictures like this:


Of course, now the adventure truly is beginning. My principal has granted our team our fondest wish (or second fondest wish, with the first being, “Could we please maybe have less that 30 students per room?”), and now it’s on us to put up. We’ve already excitedly huddled a few times, looking at the brand new math curriculum, the old reading curriculum, and all the project-based learning stuff we love to do, and we started plotting out a plan. Classrooms are being built, rosters input, and hands rubbed gleefully together while not* cackling in a manner more suited to a mad scientist.

This post will act as the first of a regular series of reflections on the real-life implementation, struggles, and successes of going 1:1 for the first time. Think of it as a journal/instructional guide/what-not-to-do series from the perspective of a classroom teacher in a room full of kids. One of my greatest joys as a teacher is finding ways to use new tools to best suit my students, and I’m looking forward to all the experimenting to come, especially when it comes to combining my love for building with cardboard with my love of the digital.

The kids start next week. Let the journey begin!

 

*read- totally


Doug Robertson is the CUE Blog Editor and a twelfth-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of three books about education,He’s the Weird Teacher ,THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and the upcoming A Classroom Of One, one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

Let Paperslide Into Your Class

Isn’t it great when you walk away from a keynote with something you can actually use immediately?

This is what happened when I saw Lodge McCammon give the closing keynote at IntegratED IPDX 2017 in February. He introduced us to Paperslides, a new-to-me combining of the low tech paper-glue-and-scissors we all love and miss with the ease and versatility of making videos for flipped or blended learning.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “These sound interesting, Doug. But what exactly are they?” That’s an excellent question, Dear Reader. And I could spend a lot of words explaining paperslides to you. But that isn’t nearly as neat (or meta) as actually using a paperslide video to explain. And with that I turn it over to Paper Courson and Paper Sophie-

This was made, all told, in about two and a half hours. But that’s because my student teacher Veronica and I got caught up in the fun and it got a little more detailed than we initially planned. But it went exactly like my paper monsters explained. I scripted the whole thing out, we decided what needed slides made, sketched out what the basic plan was, and got to cutting and gluing. We rehearsed twice and shot it in one take. Honestly, the hardest part was figuring out how to get the iPad we used in the correct position without letting it fall on Veronica’s head.

Precarious much? Really though, that was the best way to get everything framed properly.

But it’s not cool if you show your students how to do something and then don’t allow them to do it. After all, the goal of any nifty teacher tech is to hand it to students so they can create. At the same time Veronica and I had been banging our heads against the converting units section of our math standards. Yes, there’s giving the kids all the different measuring implements and letting them go to town, but we’ve got a big group. There had to be a more efficient way. Enter paperslides, one of those wonderful moments of serendipity that happen in classrooms. We (she- hey, she’s a student teacher, she needs to practice this stuff) broke the class into groups of three and assigned each group a one step conversion to represent using a paperslide. This allowed the kids to practice converting units by explaining the process, while also allowing them to make a paperslide video, while also keeping them from going completely overboard with their first paperslide video and thus keeping the timeframe tight and focused.

They were given a little under an hour total to design, rehearse, and shoot a class-wide paperslide video. This is what we ended up with after the hour-

It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it wasn’t meant to be. And now we have a student-created review and a new type of presenting learning that the kids are clamoring to use again. So much so that we just wrapped up some vocabulary reviews using a slightly more time-intensive version of the technique. That first, whole class one though, that was a fun challenge to set up and shoot. Felt like a baby OK Go video*.

Oy, did my back hurt by the end though

The combination of simple video making, incredibly high student engagement and creativity, and ease of set-up and execution makes paperslide videos something I’m going to keep in my Teacher Pocket for a long time to come. Steal my Courson and Sophie video. Show your kids. Make good things.

If you think this is cool, you should check out Dr. McCammon’s videos. They’re ridiculous.

*side note- if you’re not using Ok Go videos to inspire students to get to the making, you’re doing it wrong.

Doug Robertson is the CUE Blog Editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

Blending Together – Creating and Bringing Videos Into Class

Today I asked my students who their favorite musicians are. It was a natural extension of a conversation we were having that sprang from the curriculum and I was genuinely curious. I am an Old, and I don’t know what The Kids are into these days. I mean, Taylor Swift is my jam, but other than her I’m at the point where the only reason I can recognize current artists is when “Weird Al” parodies them. So I have no idea. And it’s fun to give my students a reason to laugh at me.

Going around the room, something interesting happened. It wasn’t that they were naming people I didn’t know, it was that more than a few listed a person who, “has a YouTube channel, and they put their songs up there. They’re really good.” My students love YouTube. Some have their own channels, and they follow their “subs” as closely as I track twitter likes (only because I’ve somehow tied my self-worth to those little hearts, is all). Others own t-shirts with YouTubers on them. That was when I knew I was an out-of-touch Old. The look the student gave me when I asked her who was on her shirt. “He’s got, like, a million subscribers. He’s really talented.” I’m sure he is, and I’m not mocking my student. I haven’t turned into John Lithgow in FOOTLOOSE just yet. But I barely have time to watch the Netflix show my wife and I are slowly staggering through, I’m not tracking the latest and greatest YouTuber.

That does not mean, however, that I can’t exploit those obsessions for my own gain. The kids love the YouTubes, so to the YouTubes I will go. Honestly, I started doing this before I knew it had a name- blended or flipped learning. Blended means incorporating videos into class, while flipped, traditionally, means the lesson is done on video, the kid watches on her/his own time, and then the work is done in class. Great idea in theory, not so much in practice when you start to think about the internet connectivity of some of our kids.

Making video is daunting. Teachers can be much shyer than you might think considering our job is to stand in front of an audience (I know, I know, guide to the side, not sage on the stage, but the point stands). But it is harder to make a video and then watch yourself than it is to just do the thing. Though, making a video of yourself is a great reflection tool. That’s a post for another time.

Making a video is also shockingly easy. A simple, one-shot, short lesson. Set up your phone or iPad, point it at your face, do the thing, upload it to YouTube. All of you have a YouTube account, because YouTube is owned by Google, and gmail is ubiquitous. Heck, your school district probably runs on Google, making it easier because then you’re not putting stuff onto a “personal” account, it’s all going onto the one associated with your school. But do you know what that makes you? It makes you a YouTuber! You might not be as awesome as JoGirl27, but you’re on the platform. And that carries cache with our kids.

But why, aside from giving our kids a better reason to buy in? Why make a video? Because you can get information across faster and clearer in a video than you can live. There’s no interruptions, no phone calls, no bathroom requests, no repeating yourself over and no, no repeating yourself over and over. Set up the device (I don’t have a tripod, so I cut the corner out of a cardboard box and slide my iPad into the slot, works just as well), point at yourself in front of the whiteboard, get the lesson out in five minutes. Let stumbles stay in, we’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for efficiency.

I have a bunch of Chromebooks in my classroom from various grants and Donors Choose campaigns, so I break my kinds into groups of two or three, send them to the bit.ly I created for the video, and let them watch. I’ll either put the actual assignment at the end of the video or up on the board. The kids watch the lesson, they’re able to go back, pause, replay, and take it at their own pace. I’m free to walk the room, answering specific questions and lending specific guidance.

Honestly, the biggest part is getting over feeling silly talking into a camera, and not stressing about being Spielberg. When it comes to making one-shot videos, go in for a KISS- Keep It Super Simple. I have puppets, and they teach most of my video lessons. The kids like the puppets more than me anyway. But one way or another I’m making videos and finding yet another way to deliver content. Maybe this way will work for that kid who wasn’t getting it the other ways. Maybe they’ll be jazzed because their teacher is a YouTuber (“But Mr Robertson, why do you only have six subscribers?”). And of course YouTube isn’t your only option. There’s Vimeo and Schooltube as well.

Get out your device. Set it up. Give a three, four, five minute lesson about something you’re teaching tomorrow. See what happens when you tell your students they need to go to YouTube to learn. Couldn’t hurt.

 

Two Video-Related Notes

1) CUE recently partnered with WeVideo and are currently offering a free six month trial of their online video editing tool through the California Student Media Festival. Just head over to www.mediafestival.org and click the WeVideo link on the homepage to sign up. 
2) We have a “Teacher Created Project” video category in the California Student Media Festival, which accepts entries from January-late March/early April every year. Who knows? Your video lesson might become an Award-Winning Video Lesson!

Doug Robertson is the CUE Blog Editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

Finding My Way In Palm Springs

The CUE 2017 National Conference is right around the corner, so I’m here to tell you what you’ll find around the corners at the conference.*

I suggest adding this link to your Use At National list of helpful websites. Behind those friendly blue underlined words lay your one stop shop for all your CUE 2017 National Conference map needs. But, because I’m a nice guy, and because my boss told me to, I’m going to give you some of the highlights and changes from last year.

The CUE 2017 National Conference has taken place at the Palm Springs Convention Center and Renaissance Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel, and the Hilton. We are thrilled to announce that we’ve expanded to the Riviera as well. What can we say? When there’s so many incredible sessions to host we need as much space as we can get.

“But Doug,” I hear you ask. “Those aren’t next to each other. What if I want to get from one hotel to another in hurry so as to not miss valuable learning? My online schedule is packed! Isn’t there a faster way than walking?” I’m glad you asked, Imaginary Conference Goer. There is. We are bringing back our shuttle service-

Photo by Danny Silva – www.iteachag.org

The Green Shuttle leaves from the PSCC every thirty minutes on the hour and half hour.

ROUTE (returns in reverse):
– V Palm Springs – If staying at the Vagabond Inn, walk to the V
– Ace Hotel
– The Saguaro
– Courtyard
– Palm Springs Convention Center

 

The Blue Shuttle leaves the PSCC every ten minutes

ROUTE:
– Hyatt Regency Palm Springs
– Hilton Palm Springs -From the back of the Hard Rock, walk over to the Hilton
– Palm Springs Convention Center
NOTE:
– Thursday evening will be modified because of the Street Fair

 

The Red Shuttle leaves the PSCC every fifteen minutes

ROUTE:
– Riviera
– Palm Springs Convention Center

 

Keep an eye on this space as the CUE 2017 National Conference gets closer to know more. We’ll be having posts about badging at the conference among others. We’ve already had blogs about the LeRoy’s Big Idea session on Saturday, 3/18, the Future Ready sessions by Spotlight Speaker Tom Murray, and Divergent Thinking by Closing Keynote Cathy Hunt. In the words of Agent K, “Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

*That was clever, right? That’s why I make the big buck.


Doug Robertson - CUE Guest Blog EditorDoug Robertson is the CUE Blog Editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

CUE Presents the LeRoy’s Big Idea 2017 Finalists

CUE is you, the educators. CUE is big ideas and steps forward and risk-taking. CUE is always looking for ways to not only acknowledge those efforts, but to support them. To support you. We want to help you bring your ideas to life, and in that way help your students to grow and succeed. To that end we established the LeRoy Finkel Fellowship in 1995 and launched LeRoy’s Big Idea lesson design contest on its 20th anniversary. We asked for a one minute video and a pitch- What’s your Big Idea for your school? If you had the money, what would you do with it to help your kids?

You stepped up to the challenge and we received many incredible and inspiring Big Ideas. It was a challenging process, but in the end our selection panel managed to choose five Big Ideas to be represented at the CUE 2017 National Conference. These finalists will present their Big Ideas in a Saturday (3/18/17) morning session called LeRoy’s Big Idea: Innovative Lesson Design Competition. These teachers have already be awarded $500 for each idea. The audience (you!) and a eduawesome panel will watch each presentation and vote on which finalist will be awarded an additional $2000 and full rock star ISTE 2017 treatment including flight, hotel, transportation, and registration.

Let’s meet the five finalists and see what the Big Idea is.

***

Kim Calderon– 8th and K-2, Fowler Unified School District- Central Valley CUE

Big Idea:

STEM Buddies is designed to bring together 8th grade students with K-2 students to do STEM projects together. We (my 8th grade STEM class and I) want to create a mobile STEM Lab that we can bring to classes. Teachers would choose from a list of STEM activities, depending on the standard they want to cover, and we would take the STEM lab to them and do the activity with their students. Each STEM Buddy will pair up with a younger student and work with them to complete the project. The big Buddies will share what they have learned about different science concepts with their little Buddy while they work on the STEM project. At the end of the activity the STEM Buddies will present their solution to the project and discuss possible changes. The Buddies will also talk about how their project applies to the science standard that it is tied to. Each activity will cover different Science, Math and ELA standards where applicable. The lab needs to be mobile so we would purchase 2 Stanley rolling tool carts. We would also purchase supplies to go in our carts: small motors, scissors, duct tape, straws, wiring, cardboard safety cutters, and other materials as needed to different activities. We also pLAN to purchase 1-2 Spheros. We realize that coding can be difficult with only 1-2 Spheros but students can write it out and then test with their Big Buddy. We will reuse as many of our supplies as possible in order to maximize the amount of activities that can be done.

 

***

Amy Downs and Julie Cates– 6th grade, Annie R Mitchell Elementary- Central Valley CUE

Big Idea-

Our big idea is aligning the sweet spot of learning, the dynamic Ah Ha moment, the engagement provided utilizing Breakout EDU, & NGSS standards focusing on Ag in the Classroom. Our first Breakout topic is invasive pest species Asian Citrus Psyllid and its devastating effect on California’s citrus industry. The possible connections are endless. Local/global issues addressed: MSLS21 Ecosystems Interactions, Energy and Dynamics, LS2C Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning and Resilience. Driving question: What happens to ecosystems when the environment changes? Our students’ local region has a global impact as the Central Valley produces $6.1 billion in ag sales. Bringing our world impact into the classroom with Breakout EDU will keep us in that sweet spot of learning. Budget Plan 4 Breakout EDU Kits at $125.00 = $500 Initial student impact 250 students, District impact 2,300.

***

Jesus Huerta5th grade, Brawley Elementary School District- Inland Area CUE

Big Idea-

My plan is to use the money to buy 13 used amazon fire tablets, 1 set of Bloxel blocks, Bloxel app, 8 packs of (4) perler bead peg boards and 2 (22,000) perler bead buckets for a grand total of $498. This would align with art, writing and technology. First the students would use the tablet to find examples of pixel art and make their own. These bead art works are then ironed by the teacher (me) and fuse together to create 8-bit art. This will allow them to understand how to create their own characters for when I introduce the Bloxel blocks pack and the app. Before the students create their own games, they will need to write a narrative about their game. This backstory will follow them as they finally create their own game. The Bloxel board itself allows for the students to create more complex stages, enemies into bosses and much more.

***

Kimberly Johnston6th grade, DMUSD- San Diego CUE

Big Idea-

This project could be applied to any topic, but I will use it with a 6th gr Lit unit. Students will read the novel Hatchet and research survival, then write a realistic fiction narrative. Students will use the coding software Scratch to bring their story to life. They will create the sprites and backdrops for their story, and record sounds to set the mood. They will code an animation that blends together all these elements into a dynamic representation of their narrative.

I want students to create and express themselves. I want research to influence and ignite their creative process. I want them to see how their choices of words, sounds, and images can make others feel something. I want them to see coding as a way to allow them freedom of expression.

This project encompasses ELA, Engineering/Design, ISTE, VPA, Music & Math Practice standards.

4 USB Microphone for recording; 4 Portable Recording Box for improved sound quality in close quarters; Total: $450

***

Adam Juarez6-12th grade, El Monte Middle School- Central Valley CUE

Big Idea-

Student success in college and career requires creativity and innovation. We no longer live in an industrial economy. Rather, students must collaboratively problem solve to design creative, innovative solutions. It is vital our learning spaces empower students to produce rather than consume content, aligned to ISTE Standard 1: Empowered Learner. The Cardinal Innovation Center correlates to ISTE standards, impacting all departments and subject areas with solid pedagogical focus.

Classroom spaces need to be overhauled. The Cardinal Innovation Center is a student-centered, flexible learning environment. The space is designed to encourage students to innovate and find their voice, to construct knowledge (ISTE Standard 3: Knowledge Constructor). The Cardinal Innovation Center serves as a blank canvas encouraging students to design and ideate (ISTE Standard 4: Innovative Designer, ISTE Standard 5: Computational Thinker). This learning space is fluid and flexible. It has a lounge atmosphere as opposed to a traditional classroom of rows and desks. Whiteboards as well as flexible table set-ups and fluid seating fosters collaboration and increases student communication (ISTE Standard 6: Creative Communicator). This student centered learning environment makes students feel comfortable and fosters innovation and creativity.

The Cardinal Innovation Center serves as a model for teachers to see an innovative, student-centered learning environment in action. Teachers can replicate this learning space in their classroom, multiplying the impact. The space increases collaboration as teachers work with me to design differentiated lessons. Students needing enrichment activities visit the Cardinal Innovation Center under my guidance, while teachers benefit from smaller class sizes for personalized, needs-based pedagogy.

The Cardinal Innovation Center serves students throughout the school day and is also available before and after school to provide free WiFi and a safe place to collaborate, create, and innovate. As students collaborate globally (ISTE Standard 7), the center provides a safe space for students to learn and demonstrate digital citizenship (ISTE Standard 2). The lounge atmosphere allows school clubs and sport teams to support extra-curriculars by fundraising through sales of refreshments to students and staff.

To effectively align the Cardinal Innovative Center to ISTE standards, funds from the LeRoy Finkel fellowship will be used for tools such as: Chromebit ($80), Chromecast ($35), Wireless Mouse and Keyboard ($30) Rolling tables ($80 x 4 = $320), and 6 USB Charging Station/Power Strips ($20 x 2) for a total cost on $495. Chromebit and chromecast are used to facilitate digital display to promote student creativity and collaboration. Rolling tables allow for flexible seating arrangements to best meet the needs of innovative learning tasks. Charging stations/power strips promote student choice of device and learning location within the space.


***

LeRoy himself

Saturday, 3/18, at 9am all six of these educators will take the stage in front of a panel of rock star educators and sell their Big Ideas. By a combined vote of the panel and the audience, one educator will be named the next “LeRoy Finkel Fellow.”  The Fellow will be given a mentor, provided travel and registration to the ISTE Conference and invited to write about their idea in an upcoming issue of the OnCUE Journal. We hope to see you in the audience, ready to vote and get inspired for your 2018 Big Idea.


Doug Robertson is the CUE Blog Editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

Build, Test, Revise- Quick Builds and Problem Solving

One of the rules of teaching is to make your expectations as clear as possible to your students. 

“We’re going into the MakerSpace,” I said to my fifth-graders. “Using only the materials you can find in that room, each partnership is going to build a wind-powered car. This is all the description I’m giving you. You have an hour. Go.”
Teaching is also about bending the rules.

Winter break was long and we needed something to get the juices flowing again. Something active and creative and a little off the wall. So I booked an hour fifteen in the MakerSpace and went looking for a quick project to do in there.  A few Google and Pintrest links later and I found some lessons about building wind-powered cars. As is my whim, I took the part of that plan I liked (the final product) and tossed what didn’t work for me (everything else). And thus our Quick Build was born.

What I wrote above is exactly what I said to my kids before we went in. My student teachers created groups of two and three, students got into their groups, and in we went.

I like contracted time frames for projects. Jon Corippo describes lessons as being like a gas- they expand to fill the space they’re given. Give students three days to build wind-powered cars and most groups will finish with five minutes to spare. Give them an hour and the same groups will finish with five minutes to spare. Plus it’s fun to watch them plan, design, build, test, and revise as quickly as possible. Teaches efficiency and creativity.

It was interesting to see what students went for. A bunch started cutting Styrofoam into circles for wheels. Others found the Lego sets and pilfered wheels from there. Some found cardboard or wooden circles. This is where most ran into their first, and biggest, problem. Almost to a group they fixed their wheels to an axle and then fixed the axle to their car’s body. But they did it with tape, or by putting a hole in the body. And when they tried to make their car roll nothing happened. NOW the learning really starts. What’s the problem? The axle isn’t letting the wheels spin.  How do we troubleshoot this? Bigger hole? Rubber bands? There were all kinds of solutions. Only one or two groups used the straws they found as the fixed axle which attached to the car body, and put toothpicks they’d glued together inside the straw, connected to each wheel, allowing the wheel to spin freely. Most groups just made the holes bigger or figured out a way to get the wheels on the axle loosely enough that they’d spin but not come off. Hey, they solved their problem. Without me. Most groups didn’t even look at me for help. They saw their problem, got their heads down, and tried again. The solutions weren’t elegant. But I didn’t say the car had to be elegant. You’re not getting elegant in an hour. You’re getting working.

The next major problem was the wind power. Once the wheels where on I caught a bunch of groups laying on the ground blowing as hard as they could on the back of their car, trying to make it go. In a moment right out of MEN IN BLACK one group finally noticed the fan sitting unused, plugged it in, and stopped hyperventilating. The others came over quickly, “Can we get in on that?” But they still just turned the fan on the backs of their cars. I did a little prodding, “Why do you think it’s not working? Can you think of something else that is wind powered? What’s that have that yours doesn’t?” “A SAIL!” one group exclaims. Soon the idea to mount a sail spread across the room, as good ideas often do.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Testing continued and, “Our sail isn’t working, Mr Robertson.” “Hmm, turn the fan on it again. What are you seeing it do?” Some sails became flags, others were too tight. One-by-one groups realized their sails weren’t catching any wind and they started testing ways to keep the sail from being a flag and ways to catch more wind. Curved sails began to appear. But none looked like another. Rectangles, triangles, big, small, paper, fabric, tin foil. Every car was different.

At the end of the hour, and I want to stress again that all of the above design, building, testing, revision was done in under 60 minutes, we sat and watched each group go, marveling at the breadth of the creativity in the room. Two groups were unsuccessful in their builds, but they knew why and were on the right track. With a little more time they also would have had working builds. Some cars only rolled a few feet. One tipped onto its nose immediately and fell over, but the group noted that the Lego man they put in the front was throwing the weight off, removed him, and had a successful second run. And two or three rolled impressively far.

“Why does it have a spoiler?”
“Spoilers are cool.”

“We call it the Egg Roll.”

Afterward, back in class, we wrote reflections, talking about the process, struggles, successes, and reasoning behind the choices made.

This is a project that I could go back to if I wanted to. We kept the cars, I’m going to display them in a case at the front of the school reserved for projects. We could continue to revise. But I like having proof of what’s possible in a short amount of time. I can use that lesson in class for other things.

Designing, building, testing, and revising– isn’t that the learning process for everything we do? Isn’t that how we want our students to approach problems of all shapes? Make that process concrete. Make it fun. Let them surprise you, and themselves.

Here’s the video of the final products rolling along.


Doug Robertson is the CUE Blog Editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

What’s Your Resolution? Plus the CUE Shortlist

Celebrating New Years as a teacher is a strange proposition because we don’t operate on the calendar the way most people do. This isn’t the new year. The new year started five or six months ago, or is coming in six months. This is, quite literally, the middle of the year. Sure, things change in January. Any teacher can tell you that some of the kids who left our rooms before Winter Break will be different when they walk back in afterwards. A lot of growing happens in those ten-to-fourteen days. Switches flip, hormones fire, growth occurs. Be that as it may, the point stands that the calendar New Year is not our new year.

Still, it’s a good time to make a few resolutions. Halfway through the school year means we know our kids well. The chemistry experiment that is a classroom has pretty much been solved and the puzzle pieces are in place. If we’ve done our jobs well, the kids know the expectations back-to-front, we know each other, and things are moving along nicely.

Which means it’s a perfect time to switch things up.

What’s been itching at the back of your mind? What have you seen here or on Twitter or Google+ or in another classroom that’s made you think, “I want to try that!” Or (even better) “That makes me think of this whole other idea to try!” Why haven’t you launched it yet? Time. Energy. All the other things that pull at us.

Now is your chance. Bust out that project. Take that leap. Experiment with a new program, a different bot, alternative seating, anything that changes things up. It’s the new year. You’re a good teacher and you’ve been reflecting on your practice all year. You’ve probably been putting those reflections back into your practice as you go, but now’s the chance for something new. Maybe it’s starting a blog or a podcast or building your own website or a class YouTube channel. 2017 sounds like the future to me so it’s time to get Future Ready.

Change keeps everyone on their toes, it keeps us from getting complacent. We want our students comfortable, but not settled. Find ways to make them dance (including having them actually dance- movement is good). I know, now is the time when some of us start gearing up to think about *glances around* *whispers* The Big Tests At The End. But if this consumes us then what are we doing?

Grab a few resolutions, steal a couple of ideas, and take a leap or three. What will you change, add, or replace in your classroom in 2017? Share in the comments.

Happy New Year!

CUE is also happy to announce The CUE Shortlist- 5 to Love & 5 to Lose. Making its premier in the Winter edition of OnCUE, The CUE Shortlist looks at five education trends that we love and are on the rise, and five trends that need to be on their way out.

5 to Love

 

The Maker Movement

> Student Voice

> The TOSA

Laptops and Tablets

> Open Education

5 to Lose

 

Teacher Lecture

> Interactive Whiteboards

> Reading Anthologies

Paper in the classroom

> Homework


Doug Robertson is the CUE blog editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

BOLD Classrooms Reimagines Your Room

bold-classrooms

Ed. Note- This program was formerly known as Classroom Cribs and has, since publication of this piece, been re-branded as BOLD Classrooms. This post has been updated to reflect the change.

Environments impact life. The kind of environment an animal evolves in impacts what that animal becomes, what its strengths are, and how it approaches the world around it. Is the environment harsh and inhospitable, barely allowing its inhabitants to eek out an existence? Or is it lush and vibrant, and those who dwell within are free to frolic and grow safely?

Often the educational environment is divorced from the most hospitable learning environment. Sure, we say “learning environment”, but what we mean is “the room the school assigned me where my kids gather every day.” We don’t actually think about it like the environment where they (and we) exist every day, learning to live and thrive. Do we consider the educational impact of what we’re setting up from an evolutionary scale? Are our rooms built to take our kids to the top of the food chain?

BOLD Classrooms, taking place Oct. 17 in Fairfax, CA, wants to get teachers thinking about their rooms and how they, on a teacher’s budget, can move their rooms from the “place where their kids are” to “a vibrant learning environment”. This one day event, which still has openings so get in now, features five presenters who want to help teachers bring their rooms to life.

I spoke to conference lead and CUE Rock Star extraordinaire Jon Corippo about the reasoning behind BOLD Classrooms. “This is to bring together five educators who have all worked on the idea of classrooms as a learning space instead of gravestones with quiet boxes…Schools are in a place to starting truly thinking about how the space affects the learning.” He went on to say that attendees will be given the tools to think about their rooms as “classroom studio environments”, and as a teacher myself, that sounds like an outlook I have been going for myself.

When we think of classroom redesign the first thing that pops up, after all the Ohhhhh I want THAT are dollar signs. Jon knows that, and BOLD Classrooms was intentionally designed to get around that. “I know your have a room full of furniture from the 80s, if you’re lucky. We’re not looking to build fantasy classrooms. We’re bringing teachers usable and replicatable ideas.” The conference won’t break the bank either, with a registration tag of only $99 for a full day of innovative learning. When pressed on what these wonderful and cheap alternatives might be, Corippo mentioned his belief that every classroom should have a green screen, whiteboards on every wall, and a simple, smart power plan for charging any technology you might have. Speaking as a teacher, just hearing him talk about ideas like building a six-inch plywood stage for students to present from had me making a Home Depot shopping list. Alas, I work in Portland, OR and won’t be able to make it to Fairfax on Oct. 17. But if you can, you should.

Think about your students. How comfortable are they? What can we be doing to improve the space where they spend the majority of their year? Beyond pedagogy, is there more we can be doing to help them learn? BOLD Classrooms is your step in the right direction.


mt6Doug Robertson is the CUE blog editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome) and an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

Editorial: Screens Are NOT a Hoax

EDITORIAL

We try to keep our ears to the ground here when it comes to the public buzzing around educational technology in schools. To be properly responsive and timely, we should know what people are saying about the various tools and techniques out in the world. On top of that, I’m a 5th grade teacher so I want to know what’s what. Often there are arguments about this piece of pedagogy and that new tablet, but rarely does the entire entity known as EDTECH get disparaged as a whole. And even more rarely does it get the title “Hoax” hung on it by a major magazine.

But here we are. As loathe as I am to provide links to the post, I need you to know what I’m talking about- a TIME.com editorial by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras entitled “Screens in Schools are a $60 Billion Hoax”. And right off the bat you must be thinking, “Man, when TIME does clickbaity titles they do them big.” And you’re probably thinking that “hoax” seems like an awfully strong word. And then you might be thinking, “Wait, how many zeros are there in sixty billion?” A lot. A lot of zeros. Which is good, because many of the points and evidence Dr. Kardaras uses in his editorial add up to exactly zero.

Let’s be up front- CUE is an edtech nonprofit. So it’s fair to say that we have a vested interest in this editorial being dead wrong. According to Dr. Kardaras, CUE would be part of the hoax of edtech. We run camps and conferences and professional development centered around the idea of using technology well in the classroom. But a nonprofit enriches society as a whole, not an individual. Further, I am a full-time teacher, and I was using edtech in my classroom long before I knew what CUE was. I, as a professional teacher, see the value of edtech everyday in my classrooms and I can’t stand the idea of parents or other teachers reading what he’s written and believing he’s right. 

Yep, video games will help you kill people. Right. from http://observer.com/2016/08/video-games-and-ipads-are-ruining-your-childs-brain/

Yep, video games will help you kill people. Right. from http://observer.com/2016/08/video-games-and-ipads-are-ruining-your-childs-brain/

Prior to this piece, Dr. Kardaras also argues that video game addiction is exactly the same as cocaine addiction and spins every gamer’s favorite lie that video games are to blame for violence. I bring this up because it’s important to realize where the guy saying “Screens in schools are a hoax” is coming from. He’s also pinning Sandy Hook on Call of Duty.

And while he cites data that claims technology hurts scores, it’s not hard to find data that says technology helps scores and again and again. His data does come from the UK, and up until now he was talking about American schools, but we’ll let that pass. In fact, in the study that he links to, and you’re going to like this, the summary actually says:

That’s straight from the Summary of Key Points section of the pdf that Dr. Kardaras uses to say technology in the classroom is bad. Do you see where it says it can be powerful? That’s not my favorite part though. My favorite part comes right after, when the study he is using to say educational technology is a hoax says, “particularly when there is regular and frequent use…” The study says we should be using tech regularly. And it says it’s especially good for special education kids. Why is Dr Kardaras suggesting we do away with something that is helping our lowest achieving students? I have noticed that intelligent and pedagogically sound usage of technology can and does improve the scores and confidence of the students in my classroom. Not all the time roboteaching, which is the world Dr. Kardaras seems to think we live in, but smart integration.

The cited research claims that overexposure to screens make kids more likely candidates for ADHD and what one person has decided to call Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS). It should be noted this is not a medically recognized disorder, it’s just linked to in Dr. Kardaras’ editorial like it is one. The cycle goes like this- It looks like ADHD diagnoses are on the rise. Kids are also using screens more. Screens cause ADHD. It’s like that old cause-and-effect example that murders go up in the summer, and so do ice cream sales, so ice cream makes people murderous.

And this brings us to the crux of the problem with Dr. Kardaras’ “hoax” claim- Educational technology is a tool. No one actually believes it can solve all of education’s woes. There isn’t an administrator, teacher, coach, or student out there who honestly believes that through iPads and Chromebooks we will achieve Education Nirvana, scores will soar to unseen heights, 100% of students will be engaged, and unicorns will be parked in every parking lot. I love teaching with computers and iPads and drones and Spheros and all the other tools the 21st century provides. I also like crayons and colored pencils and paper and real books. I, unlike Dr. Kardaras, understand that the reality and norm of education is differentiation. “The proper tool for the proper job,” as my set building teacher used to say back at the University of the Pacific theater department.

He did link to a few other pieces of evidence. Here, we see a report that’s sixteen years old.

Since nothing about edtech or its usage in schools has changed in nearly two decades this is probably a worthwhile read. It’s also valuable to know that technology is not part of society and cannot help solve social challenges. I wonder if the people who participated in the Arab Spring or #BlackLivesMatter movement are aware that technology cannot help social challenges. Both of those movements, by the way, impact our classrooms and are easier to teach about because we have screens in class so students can find information for themselves. I’m sure Dr. Kardaras would rather they wait for the book.

Oh, by the way, that study he uses in his argument that edtech is a giant hoax? It says, and I quote,

from http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/is-technology-producing-a-decline-79127

What? The study he cites in his post about screens being bad actually tells schools to use screens. Weird, it’s like he’s cherry picking only what backs up his position. The same article also says, “Many students do not read for pleasure and have not for decades.” Decades, huh? Like, longer than edtech in the form of screens in student hands has been around? So maybe the link between screens and a decline in reading for pleasure isn’t as strong as he might suggest? So I’m not accused of cherry picking, that article does say that when students were allowed to surf the web during a lecture they processed less of the lecture. Now, I’m not a professional educator…oh wait, yes I am. And as a professional educator I’d have to say that letting students surf the web while I’m trying to talk is pretty impressively bad pedagogy. So yes, if your teaching strategies are already bad technology will not make them better. Glad we cleared that up.

I want to repeat that this entire piece hinges on the idea that we are using only technology to teach. That the edtech companies have swindled us all and we are in the thrall of Big Screen. Not only does he think that we are only using technology, but that we are only using it badly. That we somehow think good teaching is parking a class full of kids in a room with iPads and setting them to work. Do some teachers do that? Probably, yes. Are their kids loving it? No. But you know what that’s not called? Balance. Balance is when you take what works from a variety of areas and use them together in harmony. Balance is what good teachers do. Perhaps Dr. Kardaras would argue that I’m being too generous in my estimation of teachers, who I work with and run trainings for and sit in trainings with. Maybe he thinks most teachers are bad and we’re just looking for a panacea. Perhaps he’s never been in a classroom where technology is used well. If that’s the case then Doctor, I formally invite you to my class. Room 17, Powell Valley Elementary School. Oregon. You pick the day and time. You could even drop in unannounced. Come watch my kids work. Come learn something about teaching with technology firsthand.

Dr. Kardaras wants us to see education technology as a hoax and throw it away. Quick! Before we do irreparable damage to our kids (who will go home and use their smart phones and tablets in an uneducated way). But in every study that he cites, in every piece of research in his editorial, the argument is never made to throw away technology. It’s always to use technology better. Be smart about its use. That technology is not for everything all the time. He constantly spins the smallest hints into things that backs up a conclusion he reached long before starting his research

Saying edtech and screen time are for never? Claiming we’re hurting our kids? That’s the hoax.


mt6Doug Robertson is the CUE blog editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher andTHE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome) and an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST. He is currently running a Donors Choose to get his class more Chromebooks and alternative seating and would love help.

Making a MakerSpace

“Rise up, it’s time to take a shot.”

My Shot from HAMILTON

20160316_112023 That’s all Michael Stephens and I had to go on when we gathered in his 4th grade  classroom to hatch a plan to build a MakerSpace. It was early in the year and I was new to the school, looking for a kindred spirit. When I was hired my principal said I would get along with this fourth grade teacher, and she was right. Michael and I spoke the same nerd language and we shared philosophies on teaching. He’s tech savvy and has been coding with his students for a few years, and I pretend at being tech savvy and have been moving in a more Maker-style direction over the last few years. Once we finished talking geek properties (a common nerd bonding exercise) we got into ideas for our school. The Big Idea we landed quickly on was, “What if we had a MakerSpace? That would be amazing for our kids.”

“Where would we put it? There’s that one empty portable. What if we had one of these? Think of all the things we could do. What do we need?” We took to twitter in search of answers. In one night, with lots of help from experienced makers like Nathan Stephens, we built a strong list of Needs and Wants.

A list is the easy part– Now we have to sell it to the boss. Two things to know about me- 1) I have no fear going into my principal’s office to ask for something or talk about something. This approach has served well over the years, even when I shoot my mouth off about things a teacher in his first year at the school maybe shouldn’t. 2) I had just left an awful administration. A terrible VP who had no interest in anything but tearing my ideas down and pulling my leash. So while I wasn’t nervous about pitching our, “Hey, can we have a few thousand dollars?” idea to the boss, I was ready to be told “No,” in short, declarative sentences. And if I was I’d find a way to work it in my own class.

Instead, our principal was even more supportive than we could have imagined. She was on-board from the word Go. She got us in front of our PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) within a week. She had us pitching the staff. She went looking for funding with us. All we had to do was explain to her WHY we wanted a MakerSpace and HOW it would benefit the kids. Reasonable.

I am great at ideas. I like being an engine and the energy, but I’m not the most organized human. Which is why when I’ve run projects like this I need a partner who is those other things. Michael has a mind for organization and planning. He helped channel me and together we put up a fantastic presentation for our PTO. They loved us. They were over the moon about it. One of the parents, Alison Gentry, became the third member of our team. She wrote grants and hunted down supplies and made lists and did all those things we didn’t have the time to do because we were teaching. Without Alison the MakerSpace wouldn’t have been made. She spent her free time repainting the room we were going to use.

We had many meetings and hammered out a Phase One Wishlist and budget. Supplies start rolling in- Spheros, iPads, LEGO, arts and crafts supplies, a green screen, old sewing machines, and more. Polar3D accepts me into their Ambassador program and donates a 3D printer (Thank you!). Michael and I start a GoFundMe and make an OkGo-inspired commercial for it.

Which leads us to the last, but most important part of building a MakerSpace– Selling the teachers. Think about it, a teacher you’ve never met before steps in front of you at a staff meeting and says, “Hi, I’m here because we’re building a new room to our school. We’re funneling tech funds into it. It will have a bunch of things in it you’ve never even heard of before. Come with us on this adventure.” To be honest, Michael did a lot of the talking. They know him, he’s calmer than me- it’s a better plan. We had a little resistance, but not as much as we expected. Anyone who’s ever been in a staff meeting knows there’s always a few of Those teachers, who have “too much on their plates already.” To assuage them we made it clear the space was, at least for this year, completely optional. No pressure. And that we’re both happy to do any helping needed.

20160505_131534

My 5th graders training 1st graders in all the Space’s tools

Many teachers jumped– jumped– at the idea though. “This is how teaching used to be back when I started!” they exclaimed! “Finally we’re moving away from the drill and kill of the last few years and back to creativity.” We explained to some that were optimistic but cautious that there were baby steps in. We listened to the teachers of tiny people when they brought up concerns about what a ten year old can do that a kindergartner can’t and did some digging to find kinder and first-grader-friendly activities. We knew that once we got them in the room with their kids they’d be hooked.

All in all we went from having a crazy idea in late September/early October to having a fully operational MakerSpace when we got back from the winter holiday in January. Nothing in education moves that quickly. It takes six months to get new pencil sharpeners. Without an enthusiastic partner willing to put in tons of his own time, an administrator that believed in us and supported us to the hilt, without a parent group that jumped on board, without a parent who took on massive responsibilities, and without a staff who took a risk with us, we wouldn’t have a MakerSpace. We would have an idea that never got done. We would never get this-

Take a risk. Take your shot.

All the documents shared in this piece come from our MakerSpace folder, and if you have more questions about what we did and how we did it either of us would be happy to answer those. I will also be presenting a session on this called “Making a MakerSpace” at the CUE 2016 Fall Conference.

CEO’s note: if you run into more resistance than Michael and Doug, you might consider signing up for FREE CUE STEAMpunk mobile labs program. It’s a great way to make the case to all stakeholders without first having to buy the gear!

 


CdxiPwKUYAAr5NwDoug Robertson is the CUE blog editor and a tenth-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome) and an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.