Friday, March 23, 2018

The Augmented Reality Sandbox in Action

If you read our earlier blog post on our district’s Augmented Reality Sandbox, you likely have an idea of how the tool can enhance student learning through hands-on and experiential activities. As the sandbox has made its way to different buildings in the district this year, our creative teachers have added their own spin to how they use the sandbox to engage their students.

Amber Korn at Huber Ridge is one such teacher. Amber took full advantage of the sandbox’s time at Huber Ridge to deepen her 4th graders’ understanding of weathering and erosion. Working in stations, students built landforms, reproduced natural events, and observed the impact of weather on topography. While they greatly enjoyed building mountains, digging out lakes, and causing earthquakes, the most exciting part for many of the students was making it “rain” in the sandbox with virtual water. By making it rain, they were able to see the movement of the water and predict the impact water has on landforms. But Amber didn’t stop there! She brought the learning experience home through the use of higher-level thinking activities. Once everyone in the class was able to experience the sandbox, the students got together and connected what they had observed in the sandbox with what they had already learned about landforms, developing a more thorough understanding of the meaning and impacts of weathering and erosion. The class created a collaborative document detailing their understanding of these concepts and each student made their own artistic representation of the impact weathering and erosion have on Earth’s landforms. Through manipulating the content in multiple ways, Amber used the power of experiential learning to engage her students and bring her science unit alive in a new and exciting way that her students won’t soon forget.

Watch this video by UCLA to see how the AR Sandbox works.

The AR Sandbox has great potential for any grade level and subject, such as illustrating point of view, making inferences, solving multi-step problems, demonstrating cause and effect, creating sculptures that reflect contour lines, and even helping students process emotion, to name a few. Want to experience the AR Sandbox for yourself? Good news! The sandbox will be a part of Westerville Partners for Education’s Starry Night event on April 8th at Westerville North High School. Come and check it out!

If you would like to explore how to use the sandbox with your students, contact your Ed Tech Coach!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Capture the Flag


Hacking is a scary word that most people hope they never have to hear used in a conversation about them or their personal information. As we move to a more digital world we are constantly faced with cyber security issues to keep our digital information private. As the world increases the amount of information available digitally, the world also needs more people to keep that information secure.

This is why the Ohio National Guard has created the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee (OC3). This group has been tasked with increasing the number of people qualified to work in the field of cyber security. They are starting by creating a place for high school students to learn how. Inside the OC3 Cyber Range, students have a chance to play "Capture the Flag" in a virtual world. The goal is for kids to learn how to hack into a virtual system so that they can eventually become people who will defend against similar types of attacks in the real world. The hope is that cyber security clubs will be created in schools across the state in the near future.

Westerville North High School hosted a Capture the Flag event this week. The event brought cyber security experts from the military and private sector in to help students from around central Ohio hone their skills. The event took place in "The Shop" where a leader board tracked how effective the kids were "hacking" into different systems.

In addition to cyber security experts, the event was also attended by members of the Westerville City Schools District Office and members of the Ohio Department of Education (including the State Superintendent). This event created quite the media frenzy!

(By the way, a Westerville kid ended up winning. #JustSayin')

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spotlight on Blended Learning: The “Switzerland” Project

Switzerland is known for its mountains, chocolate, and neutrality. Recently, at Pointview Elementary, Mrs. Lester’s fourth grade ELA students were reminded of Switzerland’s notoriety in neutrality during an engaging lesson that focused on close reading for pros and cons and practicing civil discourse.  

The students began by reading an article assigned to them through Schoology from the Newsela website. The article focused on the pros and cons of self driving cars. (Newsela works well for finding resources like this as the articles can be narrowed by Lexile level and the topics are high interest and timely. You could also assign different articles depending on level to differentiate for all students.) First, the students read for understanding. Some used the “read-to feature from Google Read and Write. Teacher/Coach created annotations were written in the article ahead of time so that all students could read them and respond as they read. The students read a second time searching for pros and cons. They were asked to use the highlighting tools to save the pros and cons which they then transferred to their graphic organizer.

After a quick group discussion in which students compiled and expanded on the pros and cons they realized the importance of gathering solid evidence as it would be used to have a civil debate. The students would have the chance to role play three roles, “pro”, “con”, and “Switzerland”. Mrs. Lester, Mrs. Lacy, and Mrs. Mantinieks would model this type of civil discourse in a “fishbowl” scenario. As the teachers respectfully supported their assigned role, students took notes about what they were watching. They addressed the prompts of “What words did the speakers use to debate in a kind way?” and “What body language did the speakers use to debate in a kind way?” Students noted that “they used words like “please” and “thank you”, “they used calm voices and mentioned that they liked hearing new ideas”, and “they nodded their heads, smiled, and kept their hands to themselves”.

After the “fishbowl” the group debriefed what they saw and prepared to practice civil discourse themselves as they play each role. The students look forward to continuing this next week.

This lesson could be adapted in many ways and with many topics, with many grade levels. It provides opportunities to develop multiple skills such as close reading, writing a balanced opinion, and practicing friendly debate and conversation.

Educator Reflections: 

What would you repeat from the lesson?“They were SO engaged while reading-that was beautiful!”
What would you change for next time?
Next time “I would like to find a way to have the kiddos mark their citations so they know where they found the info.” 
The group also agreed it would be neat to add more choice for the students next time by having several topics with pros and cons from which they could choose.
How did the collaboration between the classroom teacher, curriculum specialist, and blended learning coach improve this lesson?
”Taking a little time to collaborate was an energizing experience. Together we made sure that the lesson was relevant for the kids and tied in to their prior knowledge. We took a leap together to try a new approach to engage a very social class. Having the technology integration specialist there put us at ease that we could work through any tech issues that might pop up. Having the three perspectives also leads to great post conference debrief conversations”. 

Coach Reflections: 

“I think it would be great to model a “mistake” in the fishbowl and show the “civil” way to handle when you or someone else makes a mistake”.

What a great lesson Mrs. Lester!

For more information on teaching civil discourse concepts check out the book, Engaging Children, which will be available April 9, 2018.

For help implementing any of these ideas in your classroom please contact your Ed Tech Team.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Unpacking the TPACK Model for lesson design

The education world has created many models of learning, from Bloom's Taxonomy to the P21 Framework, there are models that fit pretty much any theory of teaching and learning that has ever existed. Despite this, most models work to structure learning in the same way: a continuum of lower to higher level thinking. As teachers, these models can be useful for structuring lessons, but the focus on student learning doesn't always correlate well when trying to visualize good lesson design. The TPACK model attempts to bring together the most vital pieces of lesson design into one easy to follow graphic.
The TPACK model breaks a lesson into three parts: Content knowledge, Pedagogical knowledge, and Technological knowledge. While good lessons can be created with portions of this model, use of the entire trinity yields lessons that plan for the greatest student experiences. Unpacking TPACK can help in designing the best lessons possible. 

Content knowledge is a vital part of teaching. If the teacher is unsure of the subject matter, chances are that the students will not effectively learn about it.  The most direct application of content knowledge tends to be a lecture based class, a method that makes use of the teacher's knowledge to disseminate information to students. Taken without the other two facets of the TPACK model, a focus on content while excluding pedagogy and technology makes student centered instruction much more difficult. 

Second in the TPACK trinity is Pedagogical knowledge. Without understanding how students learn, it is difficult for a teacher to achieve any goals they may have. The traditional methods of education combine the pedagogical and content portions of this mode to create curricula. These may be student or teacher centered, and may or may not provide ways for all students to access and engage with content in ways that work best for them. 

Technological Knowledge:
Technological Knowledge represents the last of the three components of TPACK. it is also the newest. While new educational technologies have always existed (pencils anyone?) The speed and impact of current trends in educational technology make knowledge of technology and how to best implement it incredibly important to our teaching practice. Technology on it's own is a gimmick that will not create strong learning opportunities, but combined with strong pedagogy and content knowledge, it creates opportunities to personalize learning for all students. Prior to having good access to educational technology, teachers could customize learning for all students by creating tiered lessons, providing different resources, and alternate means of assessment, but in order to do this well, it required a large time investment. Today, learning technologies allow teachers to create banks of resources, assessments, and assignments that can be differentiated based on student need. It also enables greater collaboration and sharing of resources, expands methods of demonstrating knowledge, and provides opportunities to strengthen the effect that good pedagogy and content knowledge have. 
Want to know more about TPACK or work to build your skills in any of the three categories of TPACK?  Contact your friendly local ed-tech coach!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Personalization- The Growing Reality in Westerville City Schools

The Goal... to be an educational leader who collaborates with stakeholders to better personalize professional learning for your staff.  

The Goal... to be a adult learner who continuously grows in an environment of professional learning that is designed to meet your needs and with your input.

Sound out of reach?  It isn't- it is becoming a growing reality in Westerville City Schools.  Inspired by their own professional learning, like Leadership in Blended Learning, the Future Ready Institute, and knowledge about how adult learners grow best professionally, WCS is gradually replacing leader-centered staff meetings and other professional learning opportunities with a                                                       more personalized, customized and individualized approach.

Teachers leading staff meetings by sharing practices that are working in their classrooms? 

Teachers reflecting on what they need as a learner to improve instructional practice to benefit their students?

Building leaders reflecting on how to make learning opportunities more meaningful?

Building leadership teams working together to involve staff in how we can achieve these goals?

Yes- these things are all happening!  We are making amazing strides toward personalization very quickly.  

You may be asking yourself....How do we get started?  What are the steps to move in this direction?  How do we do this together, as a community of learners?  

We would like to share this Future Ready Personalized Professional Learning Self-Assessment which defines elements of personalized professional learning that many of us are working toward.  It's a tool to help grow our thinking and spur further conversations.  If you have any questions about personalization of professional learning, contact your Ed Tech Team.  We are supporting this work each and every day and can connect you with a growing group of educators who believe in the importance of this journey to personalize education- for everyone!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Schoology's Big Blue Button Feature is Now Called Schoology Conferences

Looking for a professional solution for video conferencing within Schoology? Schoology Conferences provides real-time sharing of audio, video, slides, chat, and screens. Schoology Conferences enables schools and organizations to deliver a high quality learning experience to remote students.
You can use this app to schedule video conferences with your students and take advantage of these great features:
  • Interactive Whiteboard
  • Integrated VoIP
  • Presentation Mode
  • Video Conferencing
Check it out in the app store.
BigBlueButton is now Schoology Conferences

Friday, January 19, 2018

Clint Eastwood and the Road to Individualized Professional Development.

At Genoa Middle School, staff meetings look a little different this year. Principal Mike Hinze and Assistant Principal Chris Poynter are redefining professional development for teachers. The goal? To address the disconnect between how we best learn and how pd sessions are conducted. In most measures of teacher quality, the ability to differentiate and individualize learning are a major focus for evaluation, yet most teachers attend pd sessions that are presented in a one size fits all approach. We hope to document the journey that Genoa is making to a new style of professional development through this blog.

Initial Steps: 

Redefining pd takes some brainstorming to wrap one's mind around. As with any major shift in curriculum and teaching style, thought needs to be put into the process so that resources can be gathered and roadblocks can be anticipated. Genoa's first step was to lay out the structure that would be followed to individualize teacher development. Since all teachers are required to go through the OTES process, the goal setting piece of teacher evaluation would be used to generate goals for individualized pd as well. To serve as a check on progress, there would be some sort of deliverable or progress check at specific intervals during a pd cycle. Teachers would also be responsible for tracking their time and progress and reporting out at these progress checks. At the end of the cycle, share outs would take place to ensure that all staff members benefit from the learning that each teacher is doing.  Time frames for these sessions and more details will be developed as the cycles are proposed and developed by teachers. Possible topics were brainstormed and a library of resources for possible topics was begun using existing pd courses in Schoology, book studies, websites, and through leveraging district departments that are responsible for the areas that these topics might cover.

Involving Staff: 
The next step in the individualized pd process was to involve teachers, get feedback, and wipe the pd slate clean. A staff meeting was held where building culture around pd was discussed. Very quickly it became evident that staff members wanted more voice and choice in the content of pd sessions.  An activity where staff identified The Good, the Bad and, and the Ugly, was conducted and results were tabulated. Good pd (worthwhile and relevant) was identified as well as bad (not great, but salvageable) and ugly (stay far far away from this).

See? Clint Eastwood made an appearance!

Interestingly, there was mixed feedback about many of the pd sessions of past years. The most common items in all three categories were very similar. This pointed to the need for pd to be individualized so that, according to Chris Poynter, "teachers can grow exactly where they need, and have interest, in a way that best benefits teaching and learning for the students of Genoa Middle School"

The next staff meeting reviewed the feedback from the Clint Eastwood Exercise
 and formulated the next steps in the process: The Expectation

The Expectation: 
Teachers have been asked to choose a topic that is needed and interesting that pertains to their classroom practice. They will generate a challenging, attainable, and measurable goal for their growth.  From here, they will develop a learning plan as well decide how to demonstrate the impact on students. The goal is to complete this by the end of this school year in order to hit the ground running next year. Teachers used a forum to submit topic ideas for PD and talk about the different possibilities that these offered. 
The forum generated an expansive list of options as well as strong rationales as the the value of these topics including Social Emotional Learning, Technology, models of teaching like stations, PBL,  or centers, writing, and student culture. Teachers can form groups or work individually to find the topics that are most important to them and their teaching. 

Future Steps: 
Staff members will be developing their plans through the rest of this year and begin implementing them next year. The successes and difficulties of this process will be an important part of demonstrating the value of the different proposals and how they align with teacher's goals for their professional growth.  Stay tuned for more information on the development of the requirements for deliverables, how reflections and feedback will be incorporated, and other details!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Showcase: On the Journey to Personalizing Learning

Beth Eddy, a chemistry teacher at Westerville South High School, has been interested in creating customized learning opportunities for her students throughout her career. In the videos below, Beth talks about her journey to create these opportunities and shows how she has harnessed the power of technology to expand upon her efforts. Beth does not view herself as a "techie" teacher, but her passion for helping her students build ownership in their learning and approach the content in ways that make sense to them has driven her to make creative use of the digital tools available to her. In the first video, Beth takes you through her process, talking about how she came to creating a learning environment that allows students to learn at different paces and through different methods, and discussing some of the challenges and successes that she has had along the way. 

In the next video, Beth takes you on a tour of her Schoology course. You will see how she has set up her course, what Schoology tools she uses to deliver varied content to her students, and how her course design encourages students to reflect on who they are as learners and how they can be successful in her class. 

The way that Beth has designed her course allows her students to take part in classroom activities when they are ready, helps them reflect upon their understanding throughout the learning process, and encourages them to truly master the material. And she isn't done yet! Beth is continually reflecting upon her own practice, trying out new ideas, strategies, and tools to further engage her students and individualize their learning. As Beth points out, success is a messy business, but the messiness makes it all the more rewarding.

Interested in learning more about how you can develop ways to customize learning opportunities for your students? Contact your Ed Tech Coach today!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Digital Learning Day 2018 is Coming!

Digital Learning Day (DLDay) 2018 is just over a month away on February 22. This year, the goal is to highlight even more examples of how great teaching paired with technology can improve student outcomes. 

Help us get there with these two easy steps:
  1. Add your #DLDay 2018 event to the official DLDay map.
  2. Send the tweet below tagging @OfficialDLDay to have your celebration highlighted on Twitter.
    Twitter Logo Click to Tweet: We're on the @OfficialDLDay map for Digital Learning Day 2018! Are you? Add your event next to ours: #DLDay
Check out the #DLDay hashtag on Twitter to see events like yours, meet fellow educators participating in DLDay, and build your professional learning network.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Augmented Reality Sandbox

Westerville City Schools have a new educational tool available to use in classrooms — the Augmented Reality Sandbox.

If you attended Starry Night last Spring you may have seen the Augmented Reality Sandbox in action. The Westerville Partners for Education, with the help of Westerville North High students, created the ARS and it has been visiting Westerville Schools. The ARS has impacted student instruction at Fouse and Hawthorne so far, with future dates at Hanby, Pointview, and Huber Ridge.

The ARS is a dynamic, hands on tool to address learning objectives such as landform identification, the effects of forces on landforms, contour lines, topographic maps, erosion, weathering, and watersheds, just to name a few.

Basics- What is an Augmented Reality Sandbox?

The ARS uses a projector, Kinect video gaming camera and a computer running the specific program. The camera continuously reads a 3D image that tells the computer where the surface of the sand is at any time. The computer takes this depth of information and adds contour lines and color depth coding. When the sand is moved the projected image is updated. Lowest areas are projected as simulated water.

Students are able to make hills, mountains, islands, plateaus, rivers, and even add human elements like small structures and dams by moving the sand with their hands or small scoops. Students can simulate rain entering the watershed by making a “rain cloud” with their hands. It is also possible to make “waves” using a small ball or a piece of cardboard. Users can also add a greater quantity of “water” or “drain” the ARS with different keystrokes.

One of the most captivating qualities of the ARS is the hands on component. Students discover many concepts quickly and make fabulous connections on their own. There are lots of structured ideas hitting on everything from gravity to topographic maps to the surface of the moon and impact from meteors to art concepts.

Students also benefit from experiencing a new way to solve problems and a real life example of using code to create genuine projects and activities like the creators of the ARS.

For lesson plans, integration ideas, or to host the ARS  please contact your Ed Tech Coach!

#WCSWhereUBelong, #WestervilleWay, #augmentedreality