education, ITRT, reflection

Pirate Day 2018

Arrrgh there, mateys! Welcome to Pirate Day 2018!

In our second year of promoting the pirate spirit of risk-taking, communication, and collaboration, I invited our gifted-talented teacher, Maureen Ambrose, to help me prepare the crew and transform our Innovation Lab into a sea of grand adventure. What a day we created!

We started planning in August, quickly realizing that Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept. 19) was not an option this year as it was a half-day in our school calendar with a district-wide teacher laptop rollout that afternoon. Before we even raised our flag, we had to choose another date.

After cross-referencing several calendars and focusing on our “why”, we realized we needed to offer this amazing learning experience on two days instead of one, providing additional opportunities for teachers and students to join in the fun. As luck would have it (or perhaps it was simply the shifting of the wind?), we discovered a month later that the date we chose was the same date as our school’s Author Visit, the third grade Ag Day, and school picture day! Egads!

Did we throw our hands up in the air and rip up our treasure map because of all the unforseen obstacles? ABSOLUTELY NOT! To quote Dave Burgess, the ultimate pirate captain himself, “It’s not supposed to be easy – it’s supposed to be worth it!”

Well, friends, let me tell you – IT. WAS. WORTH. IT!! We had an AMAZING two days filled with wide-eyed wonder, active anticipation, and student engagement was at an all-time high! If you are looking for an innovative way to focus on the 5 Cs while integrating technology and instructional content, keep reading to open this treasure box of insight and inspiration!

Planning

All great pirates know that half the joy in adventure is dreaming big. Maureen and I started our planning process by brainstorming dozens of activities we wanted to do, then whittled them down to align with our state standards, district goals, and grade level expectations. We knew we wanted to promote the concept of station rotations and we also wanted classroom teachers to be an integral part of the learning process (they needed to steer the ship, too!) In that mindset, we decided to plan a 40 minute adventure with three stations, students rotating to a new landing every ten minutes, leaving time for a five minute introduction and a five minute reflection before the next ship sailed the seas.

Since the needs of kindergarteners are much different than the needs of fifth graders, we knew we would have to provide a variety of activities, but our transition time for setting up/tearing down stations would be limited, so that led us to create two pirate days – one for K-2 students and another for 3-5 students.

We created a Google Sheets sign-up and changed the sharing settings so that anyone with the link could edit the sheet. We sent our email out to teachers inviting them to sign up for a designated time and were blown away when our sheet was nearly filled the first day! WOW!

Activities

Reflecting on Pirate Day 2017, we wanted to offer new pirate-themed activities for our students while continuing the “best of the best” from the year before. Since designing an unsinkable pirate ship was a huge hit in our Makerspace area last year, we kept that activity going, but with a few enhancements based on lessons learned.

The concept was simple: Using only one small sheet of aluminum foil, one popsicle stick, and masking tape, create a ship that could float and hold all the treasure (pennies) without sinking in the turbulent sea (a plastic tub of water.)

WAIT – did I just say water? In an Innovation lab with laptops and iPads and robots nearby? Yep! You read that correctly! See, we can do amazing things if we train our crew before we board the boat. It’s all part of the preparation!

Below are the key tips to remember should you try this with your pirate crew:

  1. Buy LOTS of absorbant paper towels. Those thin, brown sheets of sandpaper masquerading as paper towels in your dispensers by the sink will do nothing more but crinkle and curl, making more of a mess than you already had. It’s worth the expense of purchasing the good stuff, trust me! We used Viva Choose-a-Sheet paper towels and each small group was responsible for cleaning up their own station, even the kindergarteners!
  2. Cover your tables with cheap, plastic tablecloths. It cost us a whopping $2.00 to provide an easy-to-wipe surface for any water spills, then when Pirate Day was done we rolled up the table cloths and threw them away for easy clean up.
  3. Buy pop-up foil sheets. Did you know you can purchase 500 sheets of foil for less than two venti drinks at Starbucks? It’s true and worth every single penny. Productive pirates know that saving time reaps great rewards so buy the box and rock on with your day!
  4. Provide pennies, but skip the cute paper plates. I bought four rolls of pennies (for another $2.00) and divided them into four cute, pirate plates I found in the party section of Target. Great idea on the pennies – complete fail on the plates. By the third class, this pirate knew she had to find another way to store her treasure as the paper plates were completely destroyed from the water on the coins. Using styrofoam plates as a last-minute replacement saved my sanity and made it easy to drain extra water from treasure fished out from the bottom of the sea. If you are reading this now, make an even better choice and use a small plastic plate or shallow bowl instead.
  5. Make a Flipgrid grid and have your devices ready to capture the fun! Since Flipgrid changed their grid set-up, we now use Student Lists with our grids. Prior to Pirate Day, I created a grid that Maureen and I could use to create topics for the stations we wanted to capture. Take a peek here to see a sample of our ships and which designs were unsinkable!

Here are the new activities we offered for each of the Pirate Days:

(K-2) Pirate Ship Creation – Using Brain Flakes, students create a pirate ship using the colorful, interlocking discs. Then, pirates count the various colors used recording tally marks and/or numbers on their recording sheet. As an extra bonus, students can share their creations on a Flipgrid topic.

(K-2) Create a Pirate – Using free coloring sheets from Quiver Vision, we printed the pirate sheet from Book Week and allowed students to color their pirate. After coloring, students used the Quiver app on iPads to make their pirate come to life, talking to them in a unique augmented reality (AR) experience. We shared with teachers how they can access more coloring sheets to use as a fun center rotation in their classroom.

(3-5) Pirates of OZ (Ozobots) – Using Ozobot robots and pre-printed coding tracks, students designed their own path from ship to treasure, using color codes to guide their robot along the way. Students were encouraged to extend the tracks or draw new shapes using a black marker. Students were able to watch their Ozobot travel and redesign courses if needed should an Ozobot walk the plank right off the page.

(3-5) Talk Like a Pirate – Using a Seesaw activity template, students joined a Pirate Seesaw class, typed things a pirate might say using the suggestion sheets we provided for inspiration, then recorded themselves speaking their best pirate-ese! Best of all, they shared their talks on Seesaw so other students could listen and learn, too!

Reflections

We wanted to create the best pirate learning experience we could with total immersion. In addition to creating space for rotations with the flexible seating in our Innovation Lab, we added blue tablecloths to simulate water, decorated from one end of the room to the other and donned our favorite pirate attire, greeting all pirate crew members at the entrance. As music from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack blared from the speakers, we guided our pirates past the pirate ship into the galley for the introduction to our day.

As spoke with students, Maureen pulled the classroom teacher to the side and gave her a quick run through of what she would do at her station. From there it was all-hands-on-deck as we began our activities, rotating every 10 minutes, thanks to Maureen’s reliable phone timer.

After the last rotation, we gathered the energized travelers back to the galley for a reflection of our learning experiences.

Resilience. Grit. Determination. Perseverance. We saw these characteristics in our students as they worked through the various challenges they encountered in their rotations. They discovered that masking tape loses its stickiness when it gets wet. They realized the importance of making colored dots the same width and length for coding. They shared their unique insights on what it meant to be a pirate learner, a risk-taker, a success.

We didn’t have a single discipline issue from any class on any day.

Our students were completely engaged in the tasks at hand and most didn’t want their time to end. We made learning empowering, relevant, and fun. In fact, our Pirate Day was so successful, we are going to repeat it again in the spring for the classes who couldn’t attend in the fall!

We hope our grand adventures on the high seas has inspired you to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. We look forward to sharing more themed days as we continue throughout the year!

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ITRT, kindness, reflection, travel

What If?

During the ISTE Conference in Chicago this past week, Katie Martin challenged us to answer the question, “What if?” I swirled around this question during her keynote, then posted my response on Twitter:

The power of ‘What if’ is the belief in hope and endless potential! #WhatIfISTE18

Later that evening, as my teammates and I traveled through the city, I pondered this concept of “What if” as I looked at those around me.

_______________

 

What if I complimented the person making my meal?

As a tourist in the city, I knew I would have to order a Chicago style hot dog before I left. Even thought I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs, I was intrigued by the combination of beef, onions, pickles, tomatoes, peppers, and mustard. While visiting Navy Pier, I stood in line at one of the many food stands to order this local fare.

As I waited for the cashier to give me change, I was struck by the precision of the cook who layered each ingredient over my hot dog. When my number was called and my meal provided, I was awestruck at the overlay of colors and textures between the edges of the poppy-seed bun.

After my meal, I returned to the counter to compliment the cook and saw she was creating an entire tray of Chicago Dogs and I was mesmerized once again by the care she placed in her handiwork. I told her how much I appreciated the time she took into creating these hot dogs, even referencing one of my Grandma Payne’s favorite quotes: “Food always tastes better if it looks pretty.”

I asked if I could take her picture, to which she agreed, and then asked if I could text her the image. I wanted her to see just how beautiful her work was from the view of a stranger. This is the photo I captured in the moment.

What if I complimented the person making my meal? Perhaps I might make someone else smile at the beauty of their creation.

_______________

What if I spoke to a stranger on the bus? 

My teammates and I ventured to Navy Pier by bus, enjoying the sights and sounds of the city. When it was time to head back, the weather had changed from warm, sunny skies to a drizzly, bleak rain. It made for a long evening of travel as we switched buses and waited at bus stops, but we huddled together and passed the time chatting and checking our Twitter feeds.
As we boarded our last bus for the evening, we sat near a young man who smiled, but was non-committed for conversation. My teammates and I were in a jovial mood despite the rain (we really are quite a happy bunch together!) and continued to reflect on our day with shared stories that made us laugh all over again.
At some point the young man shook his head and laughed at something we said, so we included him in our conversation. We asked him questions about the city, then giggled when he cracked a few sly jokes of his own. The banter between my team and him was lighthearted and fun, and it made for a great way to pass the time as the bus meandered from one block to the next.
We teased him about his tiger pants which started another round of laughter as one quip led to another, this stranger now a welcomed member of our traveling crew.
He caught my eye and asked if I liked wall art. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by the question, but I smiled and said, “Of course! I love all kinds of art! Street art, wall art, children’s art…” As I responded, he unwrapped the grey shirt in his lap to reveal a rolled-up paper cylinder held together by a rubber band.
As he removed the binds and unrolled the paper, I literally gasped at what I saw. It was a beautifully drawn face with amazing detail, right down to the perfectly drawn eyelashes.
“I made this,” he said. “Look close at the eyes. There’s a person inside.”
I leaned forward and gasped again as I saw the silhouette of a face in the small pupil of the left eye. It reminded me of the cover of Mandy Froehlich’s new book, The Fire Within, with a flame embedded deep inside.
“This is incredible!” I exclaimed as I peered again at his masterpiece.
Meet Julius. He’s 23 years old, lives in Chicago, and masterfully kept his artwork dry and safe from the rain using a plain, cotton shirt. He also received the nickname “Juice the Tiger Tamer” from our team who practically adopted him as one of our own.
I encouraged him to take photos of his work and showcase them on social media, then gave him my business card to stay in touch. This young man has potential for greatness and I told him just that. The smile on his face as we went our separate ways was priceless.
What if I spoke to a stranger on the bus? Perhaps I could inspire them to see the talent and greatness they already possess inside.
_______________

What if I gave away something of value?

When our conference time was complete, my teammates and I took the train back to the airport to head home. We each had purchased a 7 Day commuter transit card, but had only used four days. As we reached our final destination and exited the train terminal, all nine of us gave our transit cards to strangers waiting in line to purchase their own.
“Excuse me, do you need a card? It still has three days worth of credit.”
Oh, how I wish I could have captured the surprise and joy on the faces of those who received our transit cards. They were so excited! We saw expressions of awe and appreciation and one teammate even received a spontaneous hug for her kindness.
The entire exchange lasted less than one minute, but left us all with happy hearts.
What if I gave away something of value? Perhaps it might lighten the load of someone else who needs to be reminded that there is good in this world.
______________

What if I helped someone at the airport? 

Later that afternoon, as I walked down the airport terminal to stretch my legs, I saw a woman pushing a wheelchair with a younger woman inside. I assumed they were mother and daughter and started to look away when I noticed the woman in the wheelchair trying to recenter a rolling suitcase that had unexpectedly turned on its side.
“Let me get that for you,” I said as I rushed to her side with a smile. “Those luggage bags can be tough to pull sometimes.”
There was a slight protest at first, but I reassured her that I really did want to help and it wasn’t an inconvenience. I noticed the mom had her luggage cart wrapped around her arm so she could pull it while also holding the handle of the wheelchair.
“May I have that suitcase, too? I don’t mind.” The mom looked at me, first in shock, then appreciation, as she untangled herself from the constraints of the plastic and metal.
“We’re looking for a place to eat,” she replied and I offered to walk with them until they found a restaurant to dine. The airport was crowded without many options for seating, so I volunteered to scout out the chosen place for a wheelchair accessible table.
I saw a man about to sit at a long, low table, and asked if he was using the two additional chairs at his side. He hesitated, then said he was saving them for two friends. I explained that I was trying to find seating for a mom and daughter in a wheelchair and this table was a perfect height. Could they possibly sit at the end?
He agreed and as I turned to walk away and notify the mom, the most amazing thing happened. Another person sitting near had overheard our conversation and offered to scoot down so the man and his two friends could eat there, thus making the entire table available for the mom and daughter.
It was an incredible gesture of kindness! (I talk about this “kindness trifecta” in the book I’m writing, but it was such a joy to see it happen in person!) The mom wheeled her daughter to the table, then commented on the shirt I was wearing, a gift donated by The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
“You don’t just wear kindness. You ARE kindness”
I nearly teared up at her words.
She went on to describe why her daughter was in a wheelchair, explaining she had just received surgery to relieve the excruciating pain she had struggled with since the age of twelve.
Her daughter was 20 years old.
 
The only cure for her pain was a complete hysterectomy.
 
The weight of her words and the impact of “What if” could be seen on both their faces. It was a life-changing surgery complete with the range of emotions one might expect from a young woman being told she will never have children of her own in a traditional way.
Empathy and compassion flooded my heart as I looked at her daughter and spoke from the heart. “It’s ok the grieve the loss. Give yourself permission to be sad. Sometimes life is like that. We get tossed major curve balls that don’t make any sense at all and they mess up all the plans we thought our future would be. Your future will still be bright. You will still have joy. It will just look a little different than you thought before.”
The daughter nodded her head in agreement then shared her plan to eventually become a mom through a surrogate. The smile on her face when she talked of being a mom reflected my own heart as a mom of three kids (one of whom is almost her age.) In that exact moment, the world melted away and we were just three women, connected by kindness, sharing the wonders of motherhood.
Hope.
 
Potential.
 
Empowerment.
 
What if I helped someone at the airport? Perhaps it would remind me of all the things I have to be grateful for in my own life.
_______________
What if the world could see the ripple effect of their kindness?
What if others could know the impact of a smile, a kind word, a helping hand?
What if each person reading this story did one kind thing for someone else?
What if the world could be a gentler, kinder place to live?
I believe in the power of hope and endless potential. I also believe in the power of WE.
We have the power to plant that seed of kindness in someone else to grow and flourish.
We have the power to inspire others to create a course of positivity and hope.
We have the power to make a difference in the lives of others and change the world for good.
All it takes is one simple choice, one simple action.
What if?

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Change is an Opportunity

Last week I had the honor of leading the closing keynote for the Clarke Innovation Conference. As several of you know, I’ve had “Keynote Presenter” on my professional bucket list for quite some time, ever since I got a taste of keynoting at a local conference several years ago.

The topic of my keynote was embracing change, a subject that is near and dear to my heart. There is so much fear and trepidation that accompanies change, both of which I’ve had to overcome this year. From transforming learning spaces to transforming mindsets, I’ve ventured into uncharted territory without a compass, without a guide, without the guarantee of success.

It’s been a year of highs and lows.

In this year of embracing change I’ve discovered a lot about myself and in the process I’ve grown in ways I never thought possible. I’ve also learned that while change is often unpredictable, it also creates opportunities that might not have existed before.

Change is an opportunity… to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. My year has overflowed with incredible eureka moments, from figuring out how to app smash green screen videos to guiding teachers and students in using programs like Flipgrid, Seesaw, and G-Suite to showcase student learning. I’ve collaborated with amazing educators to dive into coding, themed days, and project based learning and discovered the true meaning of #bettertogether.

Change is an opportunity… to face your fears and triumph over tribulation. Several times this year I have fallen flat on my face in a lesson, a presentation, or a conversation. In each situation I had a choice to make excuses or learn from the experience and apply that learning to making myself a better person. While the fear lingers below the surface at times, I’ve discovered just how resilient I can be when I give myself, and others, a bit more grace and compassion.

Change is an opportunity… to value vulnerability and inspire others. It’s one thing to say “Failure is an opportunity to learn;” it’s quite another to discuss your failures with complete strangers as you process the learning experience. By connecting with other educators on Voxer and joining book study groups like #PathtoSerendipity, I’ve learned that I’m not alone when those trees block my view. There’s always another hiker who has climbed the same mountain with tips on how I can reach the summit, too!

Change is an opportunity… to discover your passions and your purpose. For the past six years I have traveled a path of sharing kindness with others, but not always in the public eye. This was the year I decided to “cannonball in” as Tara Martin describes and embraced my calling as a writer, a kindness cultivator, a champion for all things good. I brought my passion for kindness into the classroom, collaborating with teachers on kindness lessons and passion projects, then climbed even higher to welcome news crews into our learning space, knowing that every story that is told is one more seed of kindness planted in this world.

Change is an opportunity… to embrace new challenges and soar to new heights. Next year, my role as technology integrator will shift as I move to supporting two schools instead of one. While this change was met with paradoxical joyful sadness from those with whom I serve, it made me realize just how blessed I am to have strong, lasting relationships with my current staff and students. In the words of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

As we wrap up our final week of school, I reflect on all the different ways I have been impacted by change this year and I’m simply astounded.

I never knew I was this strong.

I never knew I was this determined.

I never knew I could be so brave.

Change has been, and always will be, a constant in our lives. How we choose to embrace change is what sets us apart from others. Will we walk safely on the trail below seeking shelter from the storms or will we hike to the summit to watch the sunrise of a new dawn appearing above?

I’m lacing my sneakers and choosing the hike. How about you? We have a whole summer to ponder the possibilities and shift our mindsets for growth. Won’t you join the journey with me, too?

In the words of George Couros, change is an opportunity to do something amazing! What are we waiting for? Let’s go!


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Leader By Action

Last week at our Region 1 Superintendent’s Professional Development Series, I had the privilege of hearing Tom Murray speak to district leaders in our surrounding area, highlighting the 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools from the book Learning Transformed that he co-wrote with Eric Sheninger. It’s always a joy to reconnect with Tom; he is approachable and genuine in his sentiments and a great presenter with an inspiring message to share. In fact, we were so excited to see him again that we crowded around to snap our customary “We are so happy to have you here!” selfie at the conclusion of his presentation:

One of the slides in his presentation lingered with me throughout the week and gave me pause: Am I a Leader by Title or a Leader by Action?

I began my journey as an educator twenty-one years ago. Since that time, I’ve held many titles:

  • Second grade teacher
  • Third grade teacher
  • Fourth grade teacher
  • Differentiation Specialist
  • Instructional Technology Resource Teacher
Just last month I added another title to that list: Mechanicsville Elementary Teacher of the Year.
I’ve also held other titles throughout the past two decades:
  • Secretary
  • Assistant Manager
  • Small Business Owner
  • Singer
  • Writer
  • Blogger
  • Screencaster
  • Course Instructor
  • Webmaster
  • Key Communicator
  • Communication Secretary
  • Grade Level Chair
  • Committee Chair
  • Social Media Conference Chair
  • Conference Presenter
  • Keynote Presenter
  • Licensed Administrator
(and I can add author to that list soon thanks to Shelley and Dave Burgess!)
Then I reflect on my non-professional life and the titles I’ve held there:
  • Daughter
  • Cousin
  • Aunt
  • Sister
  • Wife
  • Mom
  • Friend
Each title has its own set of qualifiers and each is prominent in its own right. But does a title alone make me a leader to inspire others to learn more, dream more, become more?
In one word: No.
Leaders by Title rely on the history of their position to set the trajectory of their path. Their title affords certain privileges automatically and they work within these parameters. They usually have other people who fall under their realm of management and dutifully provide direction to set the course ahead. The work gets done, and often done well, but when the task is complete the work ends. Personal growth is not a priority from a task that is guided by a Leader by Title.
There are some Leaders by Title who take their position to the extreme and abuse the automatic rights given to their position. They invoke fear in others to get the work done or, even worse, dictate the mandates for work then take all the credit, never offering so much as a “thank you” to those who gave of their time, energy, and knowledge. These types of leaders are the ones who unknowingly undermine culture, making rifts that eventually split and divide.
Leaders by Action create their own legacy. While their role specifies the path, each day is defined by what they do and whom they serve. They are willing to get in the muck and the mire with others and redefine their role depending on circumstances that arise. They uplift. They inspire. They empower. They model true leadership for others and encourage them along the way. They celebrate the accomplishments of others and give credit where credit is due.
Yesterday I attended our district’s Arts & Science Festival, an annual celebration of the amazing work the students in our district create through the year. This event is a long-standing tradition in our community and for those who have lived here a long time, it becomes a family reunion of sorts. No matter where you walk, you will most likely see a familiar face smiling back.
This event would not be possible without the tireless dedication of many Leaders by Action. Dozens of teachers and administrators have spent the past few weeks compiling student projects, printing labels, creating personalized letters for parents, all in preparation for this event. Some spent late nights double-checking digital projects, making sure nothing was misspelled and all the links were active. Friday afternoon, those same volunteers delivered all the projects to one location, set up displays, taped artwork to walls, and created interactive areas for independent exploration.
From the hours of 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Leaders by Action arrived and volunteered their time (on a Saturday!) to do the work that most definitely didn’t align with their role as a Leader by Title.
They greeted guests at the door with a smile.
They distributed maps of the school and guided parents to student projects.
They arrived early to practice with students before their performances.
They walked the halls and interacted with guests.
They were visible. They were smiling. They showed us by their actions the joys of servant leadership.
Since my youngest son had a soccer game that morning and my oldest son had plans for the afternoon, we went to the Arts & Science Festival in the middle of the day. I was there as a mom, but as many of you know, we never quite lose our “teacher title” when out in public.
Both boys had projects displayed in the festival, so we meandered through the school, enjoying the work of other students as we walked. We were awestruck by the gallery of greatness displayed by so many students in our district.
As we made our way back to the main lobby, I saw one of my students running towards me. The smile on her face could light up a room and the surprise in her voice when she caught my eye was priceless. She embraced me in a hug and turned her head to call to her mom.
“Mommy! Look! It’s Mrs. Letter! She’s my kindness teacher!”
Kindness teacher.
 
It’s a title I never included in my list because, up until that moment, I hadn’t even considered it a possibility.
Kindness teacher. 
 
Leader by Action.
Me.
As we finished our embrace and she walked back to her mom, I heard her add as an afterthought, “Oh, and she teaches technology, too.”
Her final comment made me laugh out loud. It also made me realize what title I hold in this little girl’s heart. Being the “kindness teacher” ranked higher than my title of technology integrator, one I’ve proudly held for the past ten years.
WOW.
Let us all embrace the qualities of a Leader by Action and redefine our role to others. Don’t allow your title to limit your potential for greatness! Shine in your skills and inspire others with words and actions each day!
Each and every one of us can be a Leader by Action – dive in and lead the way!

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Innovation Lab Update

Several people have reached out to me on Twitter and Facebook inquiring about our Innovation Lab and its transformation. I realized, while I have spotlighted several activities throughout the year, I have yet to write an overview of our journey thus far.

I became a technology integrator ten years ago, assigned to an elementary school in the same district I attended as a child. I have been in the same room, in the same school, for all of this time. Over the years, it has been a huge struggle for me to get others to view this space as “our room” as my desk was in the back and the room was filled with heavy tables, chairs, and laptops. Because this was the room I was assigned, people viewed it as “Mrs. Letter’s Lab”, not a shared working space. When teachers wanted to collaborate with me, they brought their students to this space because it was easier than rolling a huge, metal cart across our open-campus school with sidewalk cracks and uneven terrain.

Every lesson used a laptop.

Every student sat in a chair.

Every chair faced the front of the room.

I died a slow death with each lesson I taught.



Ten years ago, “innovation” wasn’t the focus as it is now. I struggled to adjust to this new structure of instruction – wanting to support technology integration efforts of others in a space that never shifted, with a room design that was static and stagnant.

When I was a classroom teacher, my room was fluid. If I wanted small group work, we moved desks around and made it happen. When we had a camping day as a culmination for our “Where the Red Fern Grows” unit, we pushed the desks to the side, brought in pillows, sleeping bags, and flashlights, and told spooky stories while “roasting” Smores over our pretend campfire.

Camping Day in Mrs. Letter’s Classroom (Memphis, TN – 2002)
I was that teacher. I did whatever it took to engage my students in learning and make my classroom the space that I wanted as a student. I would dress up as a pioneer. I would transform my students into museum tour guides. I created learning experiences that went beyond the textbook because I wanted to cultivate a love of learning in my students in the same way my 6th grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Dalton, did for me.
She had a plastic bubble.
In the middle of her room.
You could read, write, or draw in the bubble, but had to earn the right to go inside.
That’s all the incentive I needed to become a teacher.
But that was then and this is now. I changed roles from classroom teacher to technology integrator and this was my new reality. Four walls and a door. Twelve tables, twenty-four chairs. I taught my lessons, walking in and out of each row, monitoring laptop screens from the back, but I knew this wasn’t ideal for learning.
It wasn’t ideal for my students.
 
It wasn’t ideal for me.
 
Since a large part of my job is providing teachers with professional development, I wanted a space that could attend to their needs as well, in a cozy environment – not one with stark, white, cement walls and immobile furniture. I needed more. They needed more.
Two years ago I took a risk. I started a GoFundMe campaign to change up the back corner of Lab 1 so it was more appealing for teachers. Inspired by the #StarbucksMyRoom hashtag, I designed this space, dreaming big. Gone was my teacher desk – I wanted bar height tables and chairs! A coffee maker! A bookshelf with new, relevant books by up-and-coming authors (not the books that were written decades before and collecting dust in my garage.) Could I even get a sofa? Who puts a sofa in a computer lab?
Apparently me.
 
Bar height table and coffeemaker (My Zumba instructor later donated a Keurig to the Tiny Tech Cafe!)

 

The start of our Lending Library – always accepting donations!
Doesn’t everyone have a sofa in their computer lab?
With the financial support of friends, family, and community stakeholders, we opened our Tiny Tech Cafe September 6, 2016 and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Teachers were now stopping in to grab a cup of coffee or take a quick break in their day and almost always these resulted in conversations with one another.
My relationships with teachers grew as did my desire to make this happen for students, too.
Digital logo I designed for our Tiny Tech Cafe
I even painted our own Tiny Tech Cafe canvas!
In Spring of 2017, I applied for a Creative Classroom Grant with the Hanover Education Foundation to transform the remainder of the room, so that we could have flexible seating options and resources at our fingertips whenever we needed them. (Do you know how many times I had to run down the hall and ask someone if we could borrow pencils, paper, and clipboards as we worked with technology? We needed basic supplies in here, too!)
Our grant was fully funded (with matching funds from my school) and we were on our way! So exciting! Unfortunately it was a painstakingly slow process to get everything in place according to the vision and timeline. When school began in September, I was still waiting for bulletin boards to be removed, shelves to be added, and stools to be put together. There was no official “Welcome to Our Innovation Lab” grand opening because… well… it was, and is, a constant work in progress!
But we had portable tables and, for me, that was enough to start diving in!
Students enter “polling booths” to vote on SCA Officers
Students learning about hurricanes and Kind Coins from Jet Stream Jax in TX
As the year progressed, we started building out the room. We purchased a green screen app for our iPads and made arrangements to keep the iPads in the Innovation Lab so access was equitable and convenient. We even created a coloring poster and invited students, teachers, and parents to work together to make it come to life so a part of them would be displayed in our room.
Creating green screen winter haiku videos
Adults and children coloring during Open House

 

Our finished poster – “Create”
We put velcro tabs on the wall and added 12 x 12 Lego plates so the traditional “Lego Wall” could actually be dismantled into individual work stations using the Legos we inherited from a former Legos club.
Each green tile can be removed from the wall to use anywhere in the room.
Mrs. Tapper and I exploring Lego pattern building during our Mardi Gras Makerspace (Teacher PD)
We added a recording studio for students who were self-conscious about recording themselves. We added carpet. Pillows. I got a great end-of-season sale on patio furniture cushions and purchased 6 scoop bucket seats for $35 (which, by the way, are a hit for all students K-5, no matter what that weight limit says on the box!)
Our corner recording studio
Students can zip themselves inside the recording station to record!
Students working in small groups around the room in the scoop bucket seats
“If you build it, they will come.” I clung to this Field of Dreams mindset, hoping others might see the potential this space could have for ALL students, ALL teachers, ALL disciplines. I started shifting the types of lessons I offered with teachers, guiding them through problem-solving design processes and small group station rotations with students leading the way.
The Innovation Lab wasn’t just a shift of space; it was a mind shift as well.
In February, our bulletin boards were removed from the walls and shelves added in their place which completed our makerspace area. Now we could store our bags and crates of supplies into neatly labeled containers that were easy to reach.
Materials organized, labeled, easy-to-reach
Makerspace ready for use with shelves for project creations!
Our Innovation Lab has 100% flexibility in design, in purpose, even in scheduling. We created a website for our space and distributed magnets with the website URL to all teachers so at the click of a mouse they can add their name to a Google Sheets spreadsheet and reserve the lab for whatever need they have. They can also use this website to request supplies, borrow a book from our lending library, or be inspired by lesson ideas of others.
Innovation Lab Website with tabs for pages across the top

 

Our Innovation Lab banner displayed outside the door
I’m proud to see all the ways this space is being used. We’ve had theme days like Talk Like a Pirate Day with back-to-back lessons complete with station rotations. We’ve shared in collaborative learning experiences between classes as older students support the learning of younger students. We’ve coded robots, designed three dimensional shapes with 3D Doodler pens, and created public service announcement commercials about why you should Save the Bay.
Our students are at the helm of their learning experiences. They are teaching us how to create videos with iMovie and new uses for cardboard rolls and tape. They are solving real world problems and developing compassion and empathy in the process. They are offering suggestions on how to make things flow better and sharing their expertise with others. They are even taking ownership of JOY with Jubilant Outcries of Yes!
For those who are worried about the loss of testing space, have no fear. In less than five minutes time I can transition this learning space back into a traditional computer lab complete with twenty-four laptops, twenty-four chairs and six stationary tables. (Yes, I have actually timed myself to see how fast I could go!)
Now we have paper.
And pencils.
And clipboards.
And the moment that testing is complete, we can get back to learning the way learning is intended.
The way we need it to be.
 
———————————————————
Connect with Tamara on Twitter (@tamaraletter) or email (tletter@hcps.us). We also welcome visitors, so please contact her to set up a date/time if interested in stopping by! A special thanks to Dave Burgess, George Couros, Katie MartinTom Murray and Kayla Delzer for their innovative ideas and inspiration that fueled the fire for change. We are definitely better together!
For more information our journey in creating this Innovation Lab, visit the blog posts below!
September 2017
 
October 2017
December 2017
February 2018
March 2018
Celebrating Seuss (Video Promo)

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education, grief, ITRT, kindness

Kindness Rocks for Parkland

 

There are times in life where we can’t begin to imagine the global impact of our actions. We are focused on our one moment in time, doing what we do, thinking, “That’s it! Mission accomplished. On to the next thing.”

We have no idea how far our seeds can scatter.

Two weeks ago we celebrated Random Acts of Kindness week (#RAKweek2018), a global celebration of kindness promoted by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. As part of our year-long “Passion for Kindness” initiative, we decided that Valentine’s Day would be a perfect day to dive into a new project – scattering seeds of kindness throughout our school to remind people that they matter.

We transformed our Innovation Lab into two work stations:

Kindness Posters/Hearts of Gratitude – Students could create kindness posters to display around the school or write notes of gratitude for staff members

Kindness Rocks – Students could paint inspiring messages on rocks to hide around campus to be discovered by others

Our planning caught the eye of our local news station, WTVR Channel 6 news, and Rob Cardwell visited our lesson to showcase it on their Building Better Minds segment. It was an exciting day for us as we have continually expressed to our students the importance of sharing their story with the world and using digital communication for good. Now we had an opportunity to make it happen for REAL!

We began our lesson by revisiting the progress on Jet Stream Jax’s Peaceful Hearts Playground, as our students had donated coins in the fall for the Kind Coins campaign to rebuild school playgrounds following the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. We zoomed in to the photos Barbara Gruener provided of their kindness rocks and peeked at her Flipgrid to see an example of the messages they painted on their rocks. We also talked a bit about how kindness rocks have been used in our local community with #rvarocks on Twitter and RVA Rocks Facebook Group.

The students spent the next forty minutes creating and collaborating; it was a delight to show our visitors how seamlessly we incorporate our state-mandated content of reading and writing with character development, social emotional learning (SEL) skills, and the 5C’s of successful life skills. Our rocks were set aside to dry and we made plans to hang our posters and share our hearts of gratitude later in the week.

 

 

 

That afternoon the world learned about the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Another school shooting.

Flashbacks to Sandy Hook.

#26acts.

Now there are 17 more.

I. Can’t. Believe. This. Is. Happening.

_____________________________________

As an educator, my sweet little world of kindness came to a crashing halt.

Again.

I wrote a bit about my feelings in my I Can post as the tragedy swirled in my brain. The next day it was business as usual in my elementary school, but I felt the weight of the horror pressed against me, a dark cloud suffocating the joy from the day before. I wanted to do something, anything, to share kindness with this school community who would be forever changed by the events on Valentine’s Day. But what on earth could we do to possibly help them?

Kindness rocks.

I brought the idea to Mrs. Madison and her students to see if they would be interested in donating their beautifully painted kindness rocks to another school that might need a little reminder of hope and love and joy. They readily agreed.

We did not talk about the tragedy at hand; but rather, we talked about the impact kindness has when it is scattered and shared with others. We imagined what it would be like for others to find our rocks and how they could keep the rock as a reminder of kindness or hide it again for someone else to find.

“Can we make more rocks, Mrs. Letter? So we can send them some AND keep some here?”

More rocks.

More paint.

Hope and love and joy.

 

_____________________________________


Say their names” was a constant whisper on my heart. I decided to make seventeen of our rocks memorial rocks, one for each of the lives lost on that day. As I added their names to my bullet journal, I lifted up a prayer for each of the families whose pain was greater than I could bear.

On the back of each kindness rock, I added their names then wrote encouraging messages on the remaining rocks. I captured each rock using Flipgrid (Code: 5ea50c) so anyone who finds a rock with #kind4MSD on the back could leave a video response in return.

 

 

My assistant principal, Mr. Davis, posted the Flipgrid on our school’s Facebook page, which caught the attention of my district. They, in turn, created a video compilation of the memorial rocks to post on our district social media sites.

MES Facebook Post

 

HCPS Facebook Post

The next morning, our rocks were mentioned on the news.

By a different news station than the one who had filmed our lesson the week before.

The seeds of kindness are scattering.

_____________________________________
 

In times of complete and utter helplessness, we often feel paralyzed, like there is nothing we can to do make a difference, no action we can provide that will make things better. I felt that immobilization for a solid week before I realized that all the tools I needed to show compassion were with me the entire time.

Kind words.

Kind actions.

A heart to comfort the pain of another.

We are sending out our kindness rocks to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this week in hopes that when they arrive, someone at the school will hide them around campus to be discovered by students and staff. We will check our #kind4MSD hashtag periodically to see if there are any updates or posts from others or perhaps it will spark more kindness rocks to be created and shared around the world!

Be the good.

Share in kindness.

Inspire others.

_____________________________________

On Tuesday, March 6, WRIC Channel 8 News in Richmond, Virginia, showcased our kindness rocks during their 6pm broadcast. On Wednesday, March 14, WTVR Channel 6 News showcased our kindness rocks during their Building Better Minds segment at 6am and 6pm.

Follow Tamara on Twitter or connect with her Passion for Kindness Facebook group to join in the fun of sharing kindness. Tamara is also writing a book about kindness with Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. to share her kindness journey with the world!

For more information on kindness rocks read this post by Rachel Moravec, visit #rvarocks on Twitter, or connect with RVA Rocks on Facebook.


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Olympic Makerspace – Part 2

As we prepare for the closing ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics, our students have been busy crafting their own designs and modifications to make the events safer, faster, and more enjoyable for all.

Four weeks ago, Ms. Banton and I introduced our Olympic Makerspace project to every fifth-grader in our school during their library time. We mapped out specific tasks for each week that included building background knowledge about the various sports, pondering the “I Wonder” questions that filled our minds, then narrowing down our thoughts to one driving question:

“How can I improve the Winter Olympics?”

Friends, let me tell you… we were BLOWN away by their ideas and suggestions. With over 100 students participating in this project, their passions shined through as they dug deep into researching their topics. In addition to learning more about the Winter Olympic games as a whole, they discovered specific nuances of each sport, like how the bars work to guide a bobsled and what makes the blade of a skate glide faster over ice.

Our students became researchers, not simply Googling a sport, but asking more questions and searching for more answers. “How do athletes keep warm on the snow and ice?” sparked deeper research into fabrics and costume/uniform designs. “Where do athletes stay during the Olympics?” transformed into a conversation about architecture and interior/exterior design. Students started analyzing photos and replaying YouTube videos to hone in on specific details they wanted to improve.

 

 

In Week 3, students began designing their projects on paper, identifying what materials they would need to build their prototypes and sketching out models of their improvements. In Week 4, we set out all the materials and let the students GO!

Some students worked together in small groups. Others worked alone. All students were engaged and focused on their projects. They grappled with the logistics of how to make their visions come to life and when their prototypes didn’t quite work, they revised their plan and made adjustments to redesign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We used Seesaw as our tool of choice to capture students’ projects, which allowed them as much time as they needed to explain their projects. We literally handed them the iPad and they did the rest on their own!

 

 

 

This snowboard includes straws on the bottom for smooth traction and additional safety over bumps.

As we reflect on the success of this project, we are already swirling with ideas of how we can take this concept of making and apply it to other themes throughout the year. Having a dedicated space in our school with ready-to-use materials and flexible seating makes this style of innovation quick and easy for our students!

 

 

A new ramp complete with safety sled

 

A redesigned ice skate to provide more stability with the country’s colors!

 

Did you know you can learn about math with making? Lots of angles in this design!

If you would like more information on how we redesigned our traditional computer lab space into an Innovation lab or various ways we have used flexible seating, please view the links below! We hope our Olympic Makerspace projects inspire you and your students to dream big!

 

September 2017
October 2017
December 2017
December 2017
January 2017

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Olympic Makerspace – Part 1

One of my favorite things about being a technology integrator is collaborating with teachers as they stretch themselves out of their comfort zones to try something new. A few weeks ago I was chatting with our school librarian, Ms. Banton, who was swirling with some ideas about an Olympic-themed research project.

“How about we have the students do something with the research they learn? Could they use their research to make something better?” I asked.

That’s all it took.

Two sentences and lots of brainstorming later, we settled on a three week project to help fifth grade students students dive into the Olympics and take their research to the next level.

Setting the Stage

We introduced our unit by focusing on the power of “I Wonder” questions. The lesson began with the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics trailer to build anticipation and awareness of the various sports that compete at the Olympics. We also showed another video that highlighted the moment where the flag was passed from the prior country to the new, with more footage of the events.

What I love most about these videos is the way you are pulled in by the music. One student heard the opening strains and looked at me perplexed, asking “Is this supposed to be a sad video? Does something happen to him?” Then, as the music rises and the other instruments join in, the tone changes and students discover what the video truly represents: anticipation, preparation, exhilaration. It’s The Mozart Hook at it’s finest, capturing your attention and pulling you along for the ride. (For those of you wondering, “What’s the Mozart Hook?” check out p. 97 in Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess!)

I Wonder

Once we’ve set the stage for engagement, it’s time to empower the students to own the lesson. We displayed images for each sport and read the words aloud so they would know which sport went with the videos they had just seen. That’s when the magic of the moment began.

“What do you wonder about these sports? Think about the way they use their bodies. Their equipment. What does the setting look like? How does that contribute to making them safer? Faster? Better? What do you wonder?”

I would like to say that all students immediately put lead to paper and frantically scrawled out their ways to change the world, but they needed time to think.

See, we all need a bit of time to ponder.

Time to think.

Time to grapple.

Time to grow.

The magic is in the pondering.

We gave them an “I Wonder” sheet to jot down their questions and encouraged them to chat with others at their table. We know the power of collaboration and how one idea sparks another, so we wanted to provide students an opportunity to enhance their questions. After several minutes, we opened the discussion to the entire class, choosing a few ideas to add to our class recording sheet, which sparked even more pondering by others.

 

Their questions made us ponder, too!

  • I wonder how can we design the luge track to be safer?
  • I wonder why girl ice skaters wear skirts and how we can design a costume for girls who don’t like dresses?
  • I wonder why one sport wears goggles and another sport doesn’t?
  • I wonder how people stay in a bobsled?
Refine and Research

On the back of the page, students were asked to choose one of their “I Wonder” questions and create a research focus that would drive the creation of a product that could improve something already made or doesn’t exist yet.

Ms. Banton and I walked around the room, helping students refine their research question which we noted on their papers. Then students were given an opportunity to peruse and check out books for the remainder of class.

After repeating this lesson for each of the fifth grade classes in our school, it’s exciting to see all the different student interests related to the Winter Olympics. Next week we dive deep into research using print and electronic resources, then in Week 3, students will use materials from our Innovation Lab’s makerspace to design and create their innovations to share with the world!

How do YOU use passion projects and makerspace lessons in your curriculum? Do you have any projects you are working on for the Olympics? Share your ideas below so we can learn from one another!


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HCPS Digital Learning Initiative

Digital Learning Initiative Logo 2017.png
It’s an exciting time to be a middle school teacher in Hanover County Public Schools! As part of our Digital Learning Initiative, all middle school teachers received new laptops on Friday, the first milestone in our five year plan. Our team of thirteen joined forces with several teachers and administrators across the district to roll-out this initiative in all four middle schools on the same day at the same time.
It was so much fun to feel like Oprah, handing out laptops to everyone! (“You get a laptop! And you get a laptop! And you get a laptop!”) Packaging materials were collected to use in the CMS makerspace as teachers eagerly pulled out their laptops and logged on. We discussed the laptop agreement form and provided on-the-spot support via our ITRT Website, then broke into small group sessions to learn the basics of “Getting to Know Your Laptop.”
Amelia did an awesome job as our CMS team leader for laptop distribution!

 

Unpacking laptops and logging on

 

Time to explore!

 

CMS teachers gather before the breakout sessions.

Today we provided additional support as we led two hours of professional development sessions for these teachers, but we added a new twist to our PD: We offered a “Fast Pass” option for teachers who had mastered required learning.

As technology integrators and professional development specialists, one of the common refrains we hear is the need for differentiated PD. Just as we modify instruction for student needs in the classroom, we need to do the same for our teachers in their learning environments, too! After much brainstorming and hours of planning and tweaking, we finally implemented our very first “Fast Pass” lane for teachers to choose if they like.
So what is a “Fast Pass”? Based on the concept used at amusement parks, a “Fast Pass” allows you to enter a separate line to get where you want to go faster. By implementing a “Fast Pass” system, we validated the time teachers had invested to independently learn about their laptops, so that on their actual PD day, they could show what they know and reclaim some of that precious time back instead of wasting it listening to information they had already mastered.
 
It was a fantastic success!!
Look at all those happy teachers!

 

Casey led Fast Pass Station 1 – All About Chrome
Today’s two-hour session was divided into four sessions: Google Chrome, Be a Closet Organizer, Personalizing Your Laptop, and Windows 10 Basics. We distributed the Show What You Know sheets to teachers on Friday, so they could refer to it and decide for themselves if they needed face-to-face training or felt confident enough to showcase their skills Monday morning.
Each school was divided into four groups based off their last name to make the learning size manageable for our teams. Teachers who wanted traditional PD started in one location for twenty-five minutes, then rotated to the next session in a different room, completing four sessions in two hours.
Teachers who chose the “Fast Pass” option came to the cafeteria and gathered around their station number where they opened their laptops and literally showed us the steps of how they mastered each task.
ITRTs were assigned to one base school to provide face-to-face PD, but then paired with another middle school to provide Fast Pass validation during their training time. Two middle schools offered PD from 9-11 am and the other middle schools offered PD from 1-3 pm. It might seem a bit complicated with all the moving parts, but it actually worked seamlessly with each ITRT knowing their exact role in the process.
What struck me the most about the PD training today was the joy. Teachers were happy! Even as they grappled with multi-step tasks like installing printers from a school network, their kind words of appreciation and thank-yous brightened our day.
As our trainings came to a close, we had signed hundreds of Show What You Know sheets, repeated training modules dozens of times, and reached our Fitbit step goals for the day. Despite our feigned exhaustion in the photo below, we were actually quite giddy by the success of the day!
Four schools down this year, nineteen more to support next year! Our first district-wide teacher laptop rollout was GREAT!
Now to get back into the buildings and help our teachers learn how to use these devices to support their professional productivity and instructional learning for students!
 
Many thanks to ITRTs, district leaders, teachers in surrounding districts and educators in our Twitter PLN who shared their experiences to guide our development of this training model. We are better together and appreciate everyone’s input for making our laptop roll-out such a success!

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Innovation Transformation

I have a secret to confess.

Right here.

Right now.

I have no idea how this will all turn out and there are moments when I’m completely terrified by the thought of failure, but I’m willing to take a risk and make a change because I know it’s the right thing to do!

Last night, as I was scrolling through the #IMMOOC Twitter posts, I came across one by Alice Keeler that stopped me in my tracks:

It was only one sentence, but those words were confirmation that making a change in our room layout was not only a vision and hope, but essential for innovative learning.

For the past ten years our laptop lab has looked the same.

Twelve Tables. Six Rows.

Twenty-four chairs.Twenty-four laptops.

Headphones. Mice.

Stark, white walls.

Ten. 

Straight. 

Years.

Last year I took a stab at innovation and modified one-fourth of our lab space into a Tiny Tech Cafe, complete with sofa, bar stools, tables, refrigerator, and Keurig. We raised funds with a GoFundMe campaign and discovered the impact of community generosity that went above and beyond our expectations.

We added a tall bookshelf and created a lending library of current, trending educational books that teachers can read by choice, not requirement. We were humbled by the kindness of authors and publishers who provided books for us to share.

The Tiny Tech Cafe was created to encourage casual collaboration, a comfortable place where teachers could plan together, conference with students or just grab a quick cup of coffee during their day.

 

A special thanks to Dave Burgess for jump-starting our collection!

 

After one year of operation, the Tiny Tech Cafe was a huge success! I saw an increase of teachers “just stopping by,” which almost always led to deeper discussions about technology integration and professional development needs. We strengthened relationships as we chatted about this and that and I learned that sometimes the best way we can help one another is simply listening and engaging in conversation.

Now we’re taking that delightful medley of culture, communication, and collaboration and stretching it through all four quadrants of our traditional laptop lab to include students as well. With the generous support of the Hanover Education Foundation and Mechanicsville Elementary, we are creating an Innovation Transformation.

We are transforming our learning space. Instead of immobile tables outlined by battery power cords, we now have sturdy portable tables that fold in half for quick and easy setup and tear down. We have equitable access to common supplies so students can use whatever they need for learning without having to bring it themselves. We have bins to collect consumables so students can build, create, and innovate. We have Legos, a green-screen wall, and a recording studio. We are a constant work-in-progress as our space adapts for lessons and ideas yet to come.

 

 

 

We are transforming our seating. Instead of only offering hard, plastic, one-size-only chairs, we now have multiple seating options. Students can sit on the carpet with pillows or choose an over-sized cushion to sit on the floor. We have wobble seats, stools, a sofa and bar-height tables for standing. We are learning how to “let go” of making students sit in rows and embracing the freedom of providing students choice. We are realizing that there really is such a thing as organized chaos.

 

 

 

We are transforming our activities. Instead of using laptops for interactive games or “everybody use this website” lessons, we are discovering the joy in learning by providing students tools that showcase students’ creativity and innovative spirit. We are taking risks by having them teach us how to use green screen apps and design digital collages. We are offering activities that allow students to create and fail, then iterate with an improved design. We are using technology as a means to an end, not the end itself.

 

 

 

 

 

We are transforming our mindset. Instead of “going to the lab,” we are pondering new ways to use our space to fit our purpose. We are taking risks by doing things we’ve never done before, like allowing second graders to sit on a sofa with a laptop and encouraging fifth graders to share their design process with peers.

We are embracing our vulnerability in not being the experts, not knowing the end result, not having all the answers in our grasp. We are breaking through the #TeacherMyth that perfection is progress. (Thanks, Aaron Hogan!)

We are nervous.

We are terrified.

We are intrigued and paradoxically intimidated.

We are struggling to overcome the panic of “never having enough time” as we discover that time well spent is time recaptured.

We are part of a grassroots movement, with some teachers ready to dive in and others standing along the shore. No matter our proximity, we all want to be the best teachers possible for our students.

We just need some time to figure it all out while we are learning ourselves.

 

“The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros

 


We are transforming our perception of technology integration. Technology is simply a tool that allows us to strengthen our school culture, facilitate collaboration, and effectively communicate with others in ways we’ve never experienced before. We can use technology to showcase our creativity while also learning required information and curricular standards. We are shifting our views of “I can’t do technology” to understanding technology isn’t something you “do” in the first place.

The first four weeks of school are now complete. We’ve changed the month on our calendars and are taking small steps towards innovation by embracing our transformation:

With our learning space,

With our seating,

With our activities,

With our mindset.

Now it’s time to create!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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