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TriConf 2017 - My Takeaways

posted Oct 18, 2017, 1:04 PM by Diana Salda–a

It's been a week or so since I came back from Costa Rica where I attended the 36th Annual Educators' Conference. I had the opportunity to listen to inspiring keynotes, participate in a pre-conference session led by the legendary Michael Fullan, attend a number of concurrent sessions, and also present my own session that focused on facilitating virtual field trips.

Great personalities delivered the keynotes: Michael FullanAllison Zmuda and Heidi Hayes Jacob, and Douglas Fisher. However, throughout the conference I felt I was hearing the same things over and over. In a good way I mean! So, using the notes I took from all of these sessions, I created this word cloud using Wordle. This way I could quickly see what were the main ideas discussed throughout the event.

This is the word cloud based on my tweets during the event:

Taking the top words that appeared in the word clouds, I related them to each of the sessions or keynotes that I attended or presented. This is the resulting web. (Actually, I think everything connects to everything.)

My main takeaway from the conference is learning about the importance of establishing solid relationships between teachers and students, before embarking on any new initiative, in order to make the most impact on student learning.

To learn more about the conference, follow the hashtag #TriConf17 on Twitter.


Intentional Social Media Use at #TriConf17

posted Oct 16, 2017, 12:41 PM by Douglas Frankish   [ updated Oct 16, 2017, 12:44 PM ]

As a presenter and attendee of the annual Tri-Association Educators’ Conference for the past couple years, the 2017 conference in Costa Rica introduced an exciting additional component- an intentional implementation of social media. While many conferences around the world have well developed hashtags and digital components, this was an area of opportunity for enhancement at the Tri-Association Conference.

In past years, you would often find the same 10-15 people Tweeting links and sharing ideas, and that was about it. Generally speaking, it only happened during the days of the conference, rather than as a continuous collaboration throughout the remainder of the year. This year proved different. First, Silvia Tolisano was on board with the mission of encouraging the use of social media throughout the 3 day learning experience. She spoke to the attendees, following a keynote presentation, about the power of social media and its benefits for collaborative learning. She then introduced two powerful tools that would be used throughout the conference in order to encourage the use of social media in a positive and intentional manner: Twitter and GooseChase.

The Twitter hashtag #TriConf17 was introduced and demonstrated to show how the hashtag can be used to aggregate and curate the resources and ideas shared throughout the conference. After the promotion and understanding that we would all be using a consistent hashtag, it was clear the explanation proved effective. Based on my experience, it’s easy to say (and see) that this was the busiest year the Tri-Association Conference had on Twitter. In addition, a Storify was also created for the conference- to bring content containing the #TriConf17 hashtag together from other other social media platforms outside of Twitter.

GooseChase was the other fun and engaging tool introduced this year. This free mobile app creates a mixture of physical and digital components in the form of a scavenger hunt. This tool created a sense of community, learning, and healthy competition. The entire attendee community was divided into teams based on the country they were representing at the conference. There were a series of challenges, each attached to a valued number of points- and countries were encouraged to complete these challenges throughout the days of the conference. Updates were given as teams completed challenges and it added a great sense of fun- and maybe a little bit of anxiety (the good kind). Challenge examples ranged from sharing your favorite educator blog to actually writing a blog post and sharing it (this is that example!). Others challenges included created a human pyramid, organizing and documenting a flashmob, and taking selfies with people you met and plan on collaborating with (example below).

Overall, the addition of the digital and social media component at the 36th Annual Educators’ Conference created a new sense of learning and community- that will hopefully continue through the year… and onto next years conference in the Dominican Republic!

Professional Development via Screencasting

posted Sep 21, 2017, 8:50 AM by Douglas Frankish


Our Technology Integration Team recently led its first Nursery – Grade 5 professional development event of the school year. To provide some context, that is two Tech Integrators leading 110 teachers and specialists through an hour and fifteen minute learning experience. I say learning experience intentionally, as our goal is to avoid a stand and deliver or workshop model- not that there aren’t appropriate times for both formats. However, we aspire to model innovative practices, risk taking, failing with reflection, and focusing on the learning process. This recent learning experience did some of each of those.

We tried something that we had never done before, led an event completely digitally- from the facilitation end. With a “Mission Impossible-esque theme,” at 3:00 teachers received an email from Tech Integration that contained directions for the afternoon via video in a YouTube playlist (accompanied by a checklist). The playlist also contained 2 screencast tutorials with instructions for creating a screencast using Quicktime or Screencastify. You can you view the video(s) and message below. Teachers had from 3:15-4:00 to complete the following:

YouTube Video

Teachers were provided autonomy over location, tools, and whom they worked with during this time. At 4:00 they arrived to the classroom of their grade level/specialist Digital Teacher (DT). The DT then led teachers through a 30 minute activity around their personal passion project for the school year. Thus, during the entire afternoon, the only time teachers saw the people facilitating the experience was via video. And there were reasons for this.

Experiential. We wanted teachers to experience how it felt to learn from a digital tool, in order to create a digital product. Often students are asked to complete a similar task- what better way to build empathy for students than being able to share a similar experience. Teachers stated in a feedback form, that they often had to rewind videos, start over, delete sections of video- and often asked a fellow teacher for help. In other words, they were a student again. The time expectation was also a factor. There was pressure to complete a task in a short amount of time. We heard scattered comments about teachers feeling rushed and anxious. Again, this might have one considering the time limits of lessons and how long students have to complete projects. Imagine how some students in your class might feel when being rushed to complete an assignment by a particular deadline- especially if it something they are learning for the first time.

Exposure. Nearly all the teachers on our campus have videos hosted on their Learning Management System pages. Very few teachers have their own videos shared with students. And while some teachers have personal videos, they are not screencast recordings. Tech Integration creates screencasts weekly, adding them to our Tech Trick Tuesday playlist– so they have been seen multiple times by our teachers- but not necessarily a skill that’s been intentionally developed itself. Therefore, we wanted to expose teachers to a skill they can add to their instructional strategies bank. A screencast provides students with more personalized learning- along with the opportunity to watch the video anywhere at anytime. (The benefits of personalized screencasting could be its own blog post) Not only were teachers exposed to the QuickTime and Screencastify for recording- but to AutoDraw from experiments.withgoogle.com and Sketchpad, two free online creation applications.

Creation. We often hear teachers and leaders in education saying that students need to not just consume content with technology, but create with it too. Our Tech Integration team believes the same- however we extend that ideology to teachers as well. Rather than sharing the YouTube video that “works” with students, why not create your own? Now, I am guilty of this as well. It is not feasible to create a video for every tutorial I need to send, so I borrow. However, there are some skills that are more important than others- and I want to be sure the process is explained with the correct scaffolding and vocabulary for my intended audience. The same goes for teachers and their knowledge of content and the needs of their students. So, for those few tricky skills that stump students every year, consider if it might be worth the time invested to go ahead and create that screencast or recording for your students to access. Lastly, it’s not a bad idea for students to see their teachers creating with technology and modeling how it can be used for learning.

By the end of the day 95 teachers successfully created their screencasts, uploaded them to YouTube, and shared the link to their video in a Google Form to the Tech Integration team. While there are varying levels of products created- as there should be- our team is thrilled with the completion rate. Teachers approached the challenge and provided overwhelmingly positive feedback about the experience, as well as their intentions for creating screencasts for future lessons or units.

Icons retrieved from smashicons at flaticon.com

Keep it Together: with Google Keep

posted Sep 20, 2017, 7:33 AM by Brian Hamm

Meet Google Keep, in my opinion, Google’s most underrated collaborative task management tool which embeds various forms of media including audio, photos, annotations, among others. Think collaborative Post-it notes with embeddable media. What really sets Keep apart is the syncing capabilities between other Google products, the mobile app, and of course the ability to search within Keep. 

If you have students working in collaborative teams Keep could be used to assign tasks with a checklist and due dates including integrated links to resources. All this in one place, in real time, and shared with all members of the group. Imagine this, in one place, amongst all your teams/groups. 

Try getting started by: 

  1. Creating a weekly to do list: 
  2. Adding notes from a conference, book, or YouTube Video you’re watching
  3. Expand on those notes by opening Keep in Google Docs
  4. Share a shopping list
  5. Add a photo to share with annotations 
  6. Record a voice recording. Keep will translate to text. 
  7. Translate Handwriting to text (Android Only) 
  8. Set a reminder based on a time and date
  9. Set a reminder based on a location 
For example: 

1. Create a list and click on the reminder icon at the bottom left of the list. 

2. Select “Pick Place” 

3. Add a location. Whenever you or collaborators on this list come within close proximity to the location, they will receive a notification which will remind them what is on the note/list. 

4. When you’re finished, you should see the location at the bottom of the note/list. 

Designing a Science Lab

posted Sep 15, 2017, 6:50 PM by Diana Salda–a   [ updated Sep 15, 2017, 7:13 PM ]

Back in March, the TI team was approached by the principal to see if we could help with the design of a brand new science space. At that time, we were under the impression that there would be a brand new STEM lab for Elementary, apart from the existing science lab. With the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards, this made perfect sense. However, throughout the process we learned that it was not a new space, but rather the relocation and redesign of the current science lab. We also learned that our budget was going to be smaller than what we had thought.

To get started, we called a meeting with the science reps, the school's projects team, the admin team, and of course, the science lab teacher, Ms. Georgina. This was the first of several meetings. We decided we'd follow the ASFM design process, created in partnership with design expert David Jakes.

        Provocation: How might we design a learning experience 
that allows students to be scientists?

Part 1: Identify learning verbs

The first step was to dissect the NGSS standards to identify the verbs. Teachers were grouped by tables and handed the standards according to grade level. Teachers wrote each word on a post-it note. Afterwards, the verbs were grouped and 5-7 learning verbs emerged per table. Those key verbs were shared and then the whole design team decided on which 7 learning verbs to work on.


Learning verbs
  • Observe
  • Analyze
  • Design
  • Test
  • Identify a problem
  • Predict
  • Plan
Part 2: Develop learning statements and Spatial concepts. 

The next step was to transform the learning verbs into learning statements. That is, what experience or behaviors do we want to see in students, and what kind of space will support this statement. This is what the design team developed:

When students OBSERVE:



Observe relationship between different kinds of living things

Open space that allows movement

Observe the environment around you

Includes outdoor/indoor areas

Observe how things work

Offers/provides a variety of resources, tools, choices

Observe results of experiments and redesign the experiment

Flexibility in options for recording/observing data (both digital and analog)

Observe how things react

Safe environment for observation

Observe data gathered/given cause/effect

When ANALYZING, students:



Look closely at evidence

Space to create and collect different types of evidence

Compare findings

Space that is safe when using tools to analyze

Ask questions

Space to exhibit findings/learnings and discuss/reflect

Determine if a solution works

Flexible spaces - Lights, inside/outside, flooring

Use appropriate tools

Space for exploring/experimenting, testing/changing

Space that is accessible for everyone (meets needs)

Space with access to different tools and a place to use them

What learning looks like considering DESIGN:



Designing looks like students designing and creating

Big space to draw/sketch a plan

Designing looks like collaboration and communication

Available technology to redesign and research

Designing with access to a variety of tools.

Organized area to know where to find available tools

Designing looks like students making and adapting plans

Designing looks like students being flexible

The experience to TEST looks like:



Learning looks like the application of a hypothesis

Space allows for experiments to take place

Learning looks like students examining variables

Space that has access to multiple materials

Learning looks like multiple attempts at data collection

Space to demonstrate data collection, processes and experimentation

Learning looks like scientists recording data

Space protected for data recording materials

Learning looks like adjusting materials to examine the variables

Space for finding ideas and outcomes

Learning should look enjoyable and fun

Space that’s open to visualize learners and learning from other groups

When IDENTIFYING A PROBLEM, learning looks like:



Asking questions

Space where all ideas and questions are valid and acknowledged

Looking for things that work

Space where “non-solutions” lead us to a solvable problem


Space where time and materials are available

Finding similarities/differences


Focusing/zooming In



To PREDICT, learning looks like:



Students having fun as a team

Students wearing lab coats, experts, professional

People collaborating with different ideas

Table groups with notebooks

Students on stools with notebooks and pencils writing down observations

Testing water or oil, cups

Testing hypothesis

Big mess on table

People Making Mistakes And Persevering

Table, liquids, stools, liquid, cups

Students perform experiments

Sinks, clipboards, tall tables, storage with doors, storage for lab coats

People observing

What learning looks like considering to PLAN:



Planning experiments

Space allows for experiments to take place

Planning how to make something, mixing substances

Part 3: Consolidation of discovery data into drivers and constraints.

At this time, we did not meet with the design team again. The TI team took all the data that was collected and determined the drivers and constraints.

  • Flexibility
  • Choice
  • Space
  • Budget
  • Room dimensions
  • Storage space
Part 4: Prototyping

We planned a third meeting with a smaller group of teachers. At this time, we provided teachers with the layout and the dimensions of the space. Basically it was just a rectangle that measured 10.6 m x 6.2 m. Teachers had the opportunity to provide feedback for the prototype of the lab. They also made a list of the materials and equipment they thought would be necessary to support teaching the Science standards.

With the help of Ms. Ime, one the teachers in the design team who has a background in architecture, we went about creating prototypes. We used the online application RoomStyler to have a 3D visual of what the space might look like. After many iterations we collected several layouts. It was time to take it back to the team to get more feedback. Actually, we posted the prototypes on the wall and asked the whole staff to stop by and look at the renderings. They could write down any comments, suggestions, or provide feedback. 


Based on this feedback and keeping the drivers in mind, we developed this final prototype:

For the last few details we met with the projects team to talk about providers and constructors. Finally, the school year ended with all plans in place. Summer vacations meant waiting time for us. I was anxious to return to school and be able to see the final results. Take a look, below is the finished room:

                          This room transformed from a classroom (Before)...         into a science lab (After).


Looking at the new science lab, we can see how the drivers are present in the finished space.
  • Flexibility: All furniture is mobile and agile. Carpet squares allow for flexible seating. Projector is not mounted, allowing for various display options.
  • Choice: Students have choice over where to work and where to sit. (Stools are still pending to be delivered). White walls are writable.
  • Space: Furniture can be moved and stacked to allow for changes in space arrangement. The back door leads to a terrace that extends the lab outdoors.
In the end what seemed like a daunting task resulted in a rewarding experience. I personally appreciate the invitation to become involved in this learning opportunity. We were faced with various obstacles along the way, but I feel the new science lab met our expectations. This lab has become a highly visited space, bustling with kids that are eager to be scientists!

New Teacher Welcome 2017-18

posted Jul 25, 2017, 2:17 PM by Brian Hamm

Welcome to ASFM,

We at the Tech Integration Department have compiled a collection of essential links, policies, and tools to help ease your transition into Blended Learning at ASFM of which this is our third year of transition to.We completely understand that getting settled in takes time and that you may be feeling overwhelmed by all that is being thrown at you at this time. Please do not feel pressured at all, you are new all year. We compiled these resources for when you are ready, please feel free to drop by your Tech Integration Office anytime when you need a helping hand.

ASFM Circle of Tools

Hyperlinked Tool


Accompanying resource/notes

Atlas Rubicon

N-12 Curriculum Documentation

Logging onto Atlas

Power Learning

N-12 Learning Management System (Blended Learning Platform)

ASFM Blended Learning Expectations

How to Use PowerLearning for Teachers (Resource)

ASFM Blended Learning Online Course (Resource)

Google Suite for Education

Productivity and creation tools

Google Mail

Google Drive


ASFM School-wide e-portfolio  and resources for teacher learning

Follow #ASFMLearns on Twitter for updates

Digital Teachers

Blended Learning support

Digital teachers are a great go to for help

Live Curious, Go Beyond 2018

Our Annual Tech and Innovation Conference Feb 16-17, 2018

Please add this date to your calendar

We are in the third year of Blended Learning at ASFM with the expectation that all units in all courses being Blended at this time. That being said, we understand that as new teachers you arrive with a variety understandings and experiences of what Blended Learning is and therefore invite you to take this year to explore what Blended Learning means for you at ASFM throughout this year. Again, you are new all year.

Your Tech Integration Team,

MAKER FAIRE- San Francisco by Katia Martinez

posted Jun 1, 2017, 10:22 AM by Brian Hamm

Honestly….I don’t know where to start! Experiencing the Maker Faire was an absolute delight! I learned about the importance of being MAKERS rather than CONSUMERS. At this faire, I met creators and doers, who inspired me to make our world a better place. The 
Maker Faire is not only for techies, but also for non-techies; it is a get together of all ages. Everyone was welcome: scientists, crafters, educators, tinkerers, engineers, musicians, artists, authors and much more. All of these makers come to the faire to show what they have created and share what they have learned. It didn’t really matter what they were able to do! What really impacted on us, was their passion and spirit in which they approached their projects. 

Here’s a list of some of my favorite Projects and Makers I visited:

1. The Try Studio: It’s all about peer to peer creative education. Try something. Teach someone. Repeat. They connect with one another, get their hands dirty and make things together. 

2. The Tape City: tape origami artwork created by people who like to have fun! I learned about TAPIGAMI, the art of applying imagination to tape. 

3. Magical Nathaniel: Magical Nathaniel is a professional magician and UC Berkeley math graduate who designs and builds his own magic illusions.

4. The Traveling Spectacular: this show offered live entertainment complete with grand illusions. 

5. Le Attrata: Le Attrata is a showpiece of metal and fire. The moths have been created to consume that which they are attracted to: light and heat.

6. The Pedal Powered Stage: Kids and adults were invited to use their muscle to power up a concert and bring live music to the faire. 

7. Piper, Inc. : Piper Computer Kit is a fully functioning computer that kids 8-14 build. 

8. Imperfect Produce: 
I recently read an article from TIME for Kids to my students called “Ugly But Tasty”. They learned that tons of fruits and vegetables go into the trash each year. There are people who are working to stop that from happening. They believe that if no one is perfect, why should we expect fruits and vegetables to be perfect? And what a surprise…. I met these Makers at the Faire!!! Imperfect Produce is on a mission to reduce food waste. 


9. The Robot Band: this band consists of five humanoid robots, from 40 to 80 cm high. They play electronic drums, metallophones, and bells. One of them is a singer with voice synthesis. 

10. The Big Ant : A creation and ‘traveling machine’ of “Les Machines”. The Big Ant is often described as a combination of an invention and a mechanical world. 

And last but not least, I must say that my favorite part of the Maker Faire was meeting Samara Mehta, a second-grade student who created “CODER BUNNYZ”, a board game to teach kids coding. This is how she started: “First, let me tell you how the seeds of CoderBunnyz were sown. One day, I finished playing board games with my parents, and when they got bored (actually, they just kept losing and didn’t want to play anymore), I went to the computer to do a little coding. I thought to myself, “today has been an amazingly cool day. I’ve done two of my most favorite things – coding and board games – and if I mix these two, I’m sure I could create something really cool.” After all, there are so many people who learn real estate ideas from Monopoly, and spelling from Scrabble. So I thought – why not teach other people how to code? I added my favorite animal – a bunny – to the name, and that’s where I got Coderbunnyz!” Her idea, not only inspired me, but her advice definitely sparked many girls and boys to explore, observe and ask questions. 

 I am a second-grade teacher and there are many things that I plan to do differently in my classroom next year. I plan on expanding my enthusiasm through the after school program The Eagle Academy, for students in fourth and fifth grades. I would also like to have an “Innovator Corner” in my classroom with things for children to tinker and create with. I believe we are all special in our own way, we all have skills within us, and we need to find out where that talent lies. Let’s give children more freedom to explore and investigate!

I am incredibly grateful to ASFM for giving me the opportunity to participate in the Maker Faire Bay Area, an experience that that will not only stay in my heart forever but one that will provide powerful ideas to bring innovation into my classroom for kids who are willing to make our community a better place.

Harvard Project Zero: Making, Innovating & Learning by Fernanda Ferrigno

posted May 22, 2017, 11:52 AM by Diana Salda–a

A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity of attending a Harvard Project Zero conference in Pittsburgh for a few days.  Harvard Project Zero was founded many years ago to study and improve education in the arts by a Harvard graduate school of education.  What they told us in the opening plenary was that throughout the years, this program has been expanding their perspectives to study a little bit more about understanding, thinking, creativity, nature of intelligence, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural thinking. Most of their projects take place at different schools and they are long, deep research projects that connect those specific schools with all the Harvard Project Zero team.

When I heard I was going to this profesional development, I started learning about it, and reading about the courses they were going to offer, since we had to choose and suscribe to them before getting there.  There were so many options, and a great variety of awesome subjects, that choosing ended up being a very difficult task.  A few weeks or days before leaving, we started receiving all the information of what was going to happen.  The conference was taking place in two different locations.  The first day we visited a very interesting and nice middle school called Quaker Valley.  This school had a variety of maker center workshops, decorated windows and hallways by students and a very interactive library.  We first began with an opening assembly at the gym, where David Perkins, a director of Project Zero, talked to us about "hacking the mind".  This opening speech was very interesting and innovative, that's when I knew the rest of the conferences were going to be very useful.  Professor Perkins mentioned some strategies that our brains can use to remember important things, or to learn things in different ways.  Also, on how to "hack" ourselves and how others "hack" us for different reasons.  We want our brain and our creativity to work outside its normal range, which means "hacking the mind".  He also mentioned, that just like the event's name, we always have to be making, innovating and learning whatever we can.

After the plenary, there were two more sessions I was attending, and then there was a plenary closure session for the day.  The 1st one I went to talked to us about two different foster homes, one with kids and another one with teenagers and young adults.  On both of the foster homes, they had a huge space for maker center tasks.  What they wanted to do when they came up with this idea, was to make kids and teens to feel safe and comfortable in their foster homes, and to make them feel engaged on something interesting, and not only reading or writing subjects from school.  They taught them how to work with different people, different strategies, and different techniques to create things.  Their goal was to help them feel empowered and successful with whatever they were creating, and they had the chance of taking what they had made to start making their own furniture for their soon to be new apartments, once they grew out of the foster home.  Listening and watching vídeos of how this project has been so successful and is still going on, made me realize how exposing kids and teenagers to innovating new resources can be so positive for them and will make them feel more confident and sure about themselves.  Thinking on how to apply it back at ASFM, specifically with 1st graders, I thought about having similar to STEM tasks, but with different goals, similar to the ones they talked about at Project Zero, making sure they are using their creativity and innovating skills.

At the end of day 1, we had another very interesting and helpful session by Ron Richard, author of "10 Things to say to your students every day" and some other books.  He began telling us about how the classroom culture affects every single thing about it.  So we need to be careful on what our classroom culture is and how everyone is managing it.  Culture, as he said, should be created right from the start.  Then, he talked to us about his book about the 10 things we should say to our students every day:
  1. Hello and goodbye
  2. What makes you say that? WMYST?
  3. Talk to me about what you are doing
  4. Here's where we are going with this
  5. Here's the thinking you'll need to do
  6. Let's debrief
  7. I've noticed
  8. We
  9. I'm sorry
  10. WOW!

Day 1 for me was so exciting and very enriching.  Everyone I had a chance to talk to, knew so much and had wonderful and innovating ideas.  That same day, I had the opportunity to create my ow fidget cube made out of wood and glued together by me.  Now it's part of my 1st grade classroom and my kids are so excited that I had the chance of building it.  Then, we were ready for day 2, which was taking place at a different location: Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and the Cathedral of Learning, which were beside each other, just in front of the University of Pittsburgh.

Day 2 began with a very enriching and interesting opening session, where instead of just talking to us about the project they were going to present to us, they had lots of people up on stage and they acted everything out in different ways.  That kept us so engaged and interested in the subject and they talked to us about a project called "Agency by design".  This project also talks about maker movement ideas and how there are different ways of creating and researching something.  In almost every research they had, they ended up with the parts, purpose, complexity strategy, to summarize everything.  They made us try this process with a random object you found in your backpack, bag, etc.  Thinking of the arts, purpose and complexity of a chapstick that I found in my purse was a little more complicated than I thought.  

And the other session that I loved and found very useful and innovating was one called "Maker-centered learning in an ELA (english, language arts) classroom.  Here, the Quaker Valley Middle School librarian taught us how to look at writing or reading as a complex system, and we all started with the "parts, purpose, complexity" strategy with a different text.  We had to read the text, break down a passage or a short part of the text, and find the tone.  After we had done that, we had to create a 3D model that represents the passage of the book and the tone, using all the materials you want from the maker center workshop.  After that has been created, students are supposed to present it to their classmates, by going "live" on the screen.  The teacher would give them and iPad and while someone reads the specific passage where you can detect the tone of the story, another person is moving the live video around the 3D model.  This makes the rest of the classroom get into the story and empathize with what's going on.  Take a look at this image and watch the video to get a better idea of what we did!  Everyone was so engaged, and I'm definitely trying this soon in my classroom and planning on making it a technique used in some lessons next year!

Overall, Harvard Project Zero was an awesome PD to attend to.  It's very enriching, innovating and interactive, you leave every session eager to learn more about every subject they talked about and ready to use everything you learned.  If I could, I would definitely go back to the same PD and try different sessions since they all seemed to be very good and enriching.  

Definitely Inspired

posted May 5, 2017, 8:19 AM by Douglas Frankish   [ updated May 5, 2017, 9:17 AM ]

A team of technology teachers from ASFM recently attended the FIRST Inspires, Robotics Competition, in St. Louis, Missouri. There was so much to experience and learn during this opportunity, it was difficult to decide where to start this reflection. The event was divided into three sections- an Innovation Faire, Conference/Workshop Sessions, and the Competition. This post will provide an overview of what occurred during each section, as well as my takeaways.

Innovation Faire
The Innovation Faire combined the feel of both an Expo and Maker Faire simultaneously. Different techie exhibitors were in attendance to show off their products- encouraging students, mentors, teachers, and spectators to step up and try them out. Lines were long at the Virtual Reality station, where you could (and I did!) experience what it is like to be a Power Ranger.  A buzz was also in full force at the Monsanto booth. Here, participants were provided with a battery, small motor, toothbrush, tape, and some pipe-cleaners to create a “Brush Bot” that would race down a strip of plastic. Builders were encouraged to keep their creations and improve upon them throughout the week. The Monsanto experience definitely provided me with ideas for different team building and maker activities to pursue with both students and teachers.

                                                    Virtual Reality                                                       Brush Bot

It’s probably not a surprise that I spent most of my time at the LEGO Education playgrounds. Without being a competitor in the First Lego League, one could have an attempt at programing a LEGO MINDSTORM through the actual robotics course being used in the competition for the 2016-17 year. This provided me with a feel for what students would have been working toward all year- as well as a chance to ponder questioning techniques I might use to help provide guidance for students when faced with frustrations with the course. LEGO WeDo 2.0 sets were also out for exploration, they even handed out free bags of LEGO to create a Mini Milo, WeDo’s mascot. LEGO also showed off 3D printers made of the famous bricks, a functional telegraph and even a pinball machine. In my opinion, LEGO did a superb job of creating a hands on learning/maker experience.

LEGO Competition Field

I wasn’t sure how much attention the conference workshops were going to have with both the innovation faire and robotics competitions going on. However, it was pleasantly surprising to see students of all ages, as well as teachers, engaged in conference sessions. The stand out sessions I attended meshed between STEM, Maker Edu, LEGO Edu, and How to Create Your First Robotics team- all similar topics that ASFM is leading toward through our Strategic Innovative plan.

Throughout the sessions, students and teachers of all experiences and ages; asked questions, answered questions, and participated in valued discussion. Each voice was heard. It was incredible to see the amount of learning that shifted among generations.

After the hour long sessions, often run by teams who were also competing, session leaders were open to sharing ideas and connecting with teams (including those who were scoping things out for the first time). Multiple connections were made, as well as cards and emails shared. There was an inviting collaborative component to the overall experience.

The thing that stuck out the most to me during these sessions, was a 16 year old woman who overheard our group of teachers from Mexico contemplating the implementation of a First LEGO League team. Originally from India, she was now living in Michigan and was part of her First Robotics team’s outreach and mentoring branch. She initiated the conversation by asking if we needed any guidance or help to get started. She continued by stating that she’d love be part of a mentoring team to provide our students with support. Personally, as a junior in high school I cannot imagine approaching a group of adults, let alone offering my services to teachers and students in another country. Her confidence and willingness to help attests to the type of atmosphere found at the conference- as well as the benefits of the First Inspires programs.

At the St. Louis Championships, four levels of robotics were included:

Honesty, individual blog posts could be written about each group individually- and maybe that will happen eventually. However, this reflection will provide more of an overview between the First LEGO League Jr (FLLJR) and First LEGO League (FLL) as those are the sections I would primarily have affiliation with.

First LEGO League Jr. targets grades K-4 (6-10 years of age). Guided by an adult coach, teams look at using an innovative approach to solve a real-world problem- following an “Explore, Create, Share” structure. This year students explored an animal that lives in the same habitat as a honey bee, and were challenged to learn about the animal and its habitat. Teams then created a motorized LEGO model with WedDo to help demonstrate what they learned about this animal, along with a “Show Me” poster. Finally, teams shared their learning by participating in an Expo or hosting an event for school family and friends. Students in the FLLJR showcase in St. Louis- were highly engaged and excited to talk to spectators about their model and poster. Based on the products the teams produced, the FLLJR is a definitely a level that ASFM students could pursue. Our students currently have experience with the WeDo 2.0 LEGO set, and their research, reading and writing skills are on target for taking on the challenge.  

Example of FLLJR Show Me Poster

YouTube Video

FLLJR Motorized Model
First LEGO League includes students in grades 4-8 (ages 9-16). Again, guided by an adult coach, the FLL teams focus on three areas; the Robot Game, Core Values, and the Project. The Robot Game changes yearly- and has teams construct a robot with LEGO MINDSTORMS, which they program to autonomously move through a series of challenges to be completed in two and a half minutes. The Core Values is a physical representation (most often a poster) that shows analysis, research, and invention of a solution for that year’s project. And the Project is an innovative solution to a given problem. To arrive at an innovative solution, the process generally includes research, problem solving and engineering. The problem and solution are shared through a presentation to a panel of judges. This year’s challenge was to identify a problem where people and animals interact, and to design a solution that makes the interaction better for the animals, people, or both. During the Championships in St. Louis, when teams were not competing in the robotics portion of the event, they were stationed at their booth in the pit, presenting their core values poster. Students in both locations were highly engaged and able to articulate their process for programing their robot and their learning from the animal challenge. It was easy to see their commitment and belief in their team and project. Again, after witnessing both the robotics challenge and the core values components of the FLL- this is an endeavor our upper elementary students are definitely prepared for. Every student has exposure to LEGO MINDSTORMS, basic block coding in their technology class, and are continually evolving their skills of finding problems and solving them in their everyday life.

First LEGO League Pit: A Team's Core Values and Project from Tokyo

YouTube Video

After reflecting on the entire experience and dissecting where our current practices are at ASFM- our next steps at the elementary campus, are to create our first, First LEGO League team and potentially a LEGO League Jr. team for the 2017-2018 school year. This will be an exciting addition to the student extracurricular experience at ASFM, and an opportunity for students to have more exposure to the STEM field. I look forward to experiencing and reflecting/blogging about our process as this initiative unfolds!

Survey Says... Blended Learning

posted Apr 5, 2017, 12:30 PM by Douglas Frankish   [ updated Apr 6, 2017, 9:02 AM ]

Man Thinking Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Last week the Elementary Tech Integration team surveyed the staff regarding different examples of Blended Learning. In seven different scenarios, teachers were depicted using different types of technology in different ways. The survey was a simple Yes- this is an example of Blended Learning, or No- it is not. While we were glad to see about half of the staff had a solid understanding and correctly categorized the scenarios, that left approximately 60 of our teachers puzzled- a number we would like to improve.

The following afternoon at an all staff technology training, we reviewed the different case studies, provided the answers the staff had chosen- and then showed the "correct answer", including a brief explanation for why. There were some murmurs among teachers and clarifying questions about why an answer was/was not Blended Learning. Lingering questions even continued the next day. What we tried to convey, was that the case studies needed to be read in black and white. The person answering the question could not insinuate or infer more than what was in words for the particular scenario. Sure, by implementing best practices, a teacher would follow up and adjust his/her teaching based on the results from a formative assessment/response tool. However, if the the example did not state this, one could not assume this was the case. This helped resolve some confusion, but some teachers held firm in their belief, or disbelief, with the answers we provided. Regardless, teachers left this portion of the professional development afternoon thinking at a deeper level about the meaning of Blended Learning and their use of technology to support student learning experiences. 

Go ahead and click through the Google Slide presentation. How did you do answering these questions? (Questions begin on slide 7)

Tech TLC Tuesday March 28, 2017

The second section of the meeting included an adapted version of Family Feud- in order to review ASFM's six strands of Blended Learning. Two teaching teams were called to the front of the room to have a face-to-face challenge of identifying the strand of blended learning, based on a tool being used in yet another case study. Theme music, clapping, and cheering endured as the energy in the room increased and teachers became anxious to participate. The six strands were uncovered correctly and much quicker than anticipated (just one mistake was made)! However, due to the excitement and noise, not all of the questions could be heard by the audience, and in addition, some eager participants were aware of the answer prior to the question being read in its entirety. They chimed in, answered the question, and we moved on. Upon reflection, the tech team could have asked participants to wait for the question to be read before chiming in, or stated the question fully after the answer had been given. During the excitement of the moment, the possibility for improvement was overlooked and therefore, below I am including the six different questions and the correct answers for each. 

Family Feud Questions 2017

You can view the Google Slide presentation we used to accompany the Family Feud game. The slide is interactive/animated based on where you click- so it may seem a bit clunky for viewing purposes. (If you'd like to have a copy of our template, feel free to email me at douglas.frankish@asfm.edu.mx)

ASFM Family Feud

To culminate the afternoon, we asked teacher teams to reflect on Blended Learning by creating three different memes representing a struggle, success, and next step. The idea stemmed from a session from the Live Curious, Go Beyond conference (2017), where I learned about the "Not So Standardized Assessment" with Mary Wever and Candace Marcotte. Using an alternate (and fun) way to reflect on Blended Learning, teachers were also exposed to a type of assessment they may find valuable in their context. While we had varying levels of interpretation and comfort using a technology tool like this, there was 100% participation. You can review the memes in the slides below. 

ASFM Blended Learning Memes

Overall, the afternoon provided some time for teacher learning, exploring, creating, sharing, and reflecting- something so beneficial but often difficult to manage given the busy lives of teachers! Regardless, it's important to carve out and dedicate time to digging deeper and reflecting on our practices as educators. 

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