Monday, April 28, 2014

Creating Leaders

As the semester comes to a close I would like to reflect on my experience in CTELE Creating Technology Enhanced Learning Environments. That is a pretty full class title, and to be honest a very loaded statement. This semester we have been spending the majority of the time creating a PBL a Project based lesson/learning. I have talked a lot about this in previous posts, and have felt so inspired to someday incorporate project based learning into my future classrooms. I would like to show you a clear cut example of why PBL is important to use today. While on twitter today I came across this video posted by Leigh Zeitz Please watch and reflect on ways you could bring a PBL into your classroom.

Over the weekend I attended a Leader in Me conference. And the whole time I kept thinking how this model fits so perfectly with PBL. Students are given tools to become successful leaders in their schools by learning about the 7 habits. This program was designed to get students to practice 21st century skills, so that one day they can put their knowledge to better use. When I showed up to the conference a 9 year old boy greeted me at the door, shook my hand, and said welcome! How many 9 year old boys do you know that have the skills to do this?

In being an educational technology minor I hope to one day put all these great models to good use, so that my students can be successful. Will you join me in this great opportunity of creating successful students?

For more information on the Leader In Me program follow The Leader In Me on Twitter
And follow Anne Crossan another big name in The Leader In Me.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Important Essentials in Project Based Approaches.

My last post was a collaborative post with my team members about the PBL we created for a second grade geography class. I wanted to take some time now and put my personal thoughts out there about Project Based Learning. 
When I first heard of the idea I honestly thought...Great another way to do a lesson plan. Every professor/teacher in education has a new and different way for educators to write out lesson plans. Even if we don't agree with it we do it, because that's what is going to get us an A in a class or its what some supervisor wants.
After about 3 weeks of team collaboration I personally began to see that this is not just a lesson plan but a way to completely change our way of teaching. Of course it is hard, I mean it's new...but it is so awesome. Once you start going you begin to realize that in more ways than one you are already doing some of the 8 essential criteria for a PBL, now you need to turn it back to the students.
Here is a link to the 8 essentials for a PBL. I am not going to talk to you about how I used every one of them, as I have already done so in my previous posting. I am however going to talk about what I think is the most important aspect of a PBL.

So the most important essentials for a PBL im my personal opinion are important content, and student voice and choice! Of course you need important content...other wise these lessons are going to get you nowhere, and you will have no way of proving that your students are learning. So for every Project you need standards, objectives/goals. For however long it is you need content to back it up. Below is an example of our groups daily outline, and you will see that we have a daily standard/goal to backup our daily lessons. If you don't have these your administration is going to stand in front of you with his hands open, and a jaw dropped asking you "why does this matter" "How is this going to help you"

Day of Unit
Title of Lesson
Detail of lesson
Day 1
State Overview
Understand Physical characteristics.
Introduce geographical landmarks
Google Earth
Wiki Page
Send email to parents regarding wiki page.
Day 2
Begin to understand mapsl.
Understand the representations of major physical and human features on maps and globes.
Compare and contrast east and west coast.

Write flat Stanley letters
Google Earth and paper maps.
Begin Flat Stanley and look at wiki page.
Day 3
national cultures, and physical characteristics.
Flip-chart &
Magic School Bus video.
Students write down things they know about volcanoes/Hawaii
Day 4
Physical and cultural aspects.
Research on Dessert. Prepare questions to ask Arizona teacher.
Skype with Arizona teacher.
Science teacher connect through skype/adobe connect.
Day 5
Physical characteristics.
Magic School Bus & small Promethean activity

Day 6
Physical characteristics including physical features on a map.
You-tube Video, hands on activity with play dough.

Writing activity to assess knowledge of mountains after video. 
Day 7
Physical and cultural characteristics.
Visit farmland
Day 8
World Connections
Understand ways regional, ethnic, and national cultures influence individuals' daily lives.
Look at Flat Stanley responses and the wiki page.

Day 9
Work with others.

share ideas with an open mind.
Begin thinking of what landmarks they would like to research and learn more about.

Students collaborate and begin asking themselves questions of what they want to know.
Day 10
work with others

Building Inquiry
Day 11
Stay on task

Ask questions for clarification

Day 12
communicate with others

Day 13

I am sorry for the lengthiness of this more thing.
Student Voice and Choice. If you are not giving your students the opportunity to be innovative, you are failing them! Harsh I know...But they so badly need and want to take responsibility for their own choices, and learning. So next time you are working on a project let your student pick how they are going to create something, or how they are going to research something. We are there to give them the knowledge and tools to become successful, let them try, let them become successful.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Project Based Learning

How to do a PBL

As a creator of a PBL, my group and I can vouch and say that it was not easy. We spent many classes working on how we can lead up to a project that was going to be so important and meaningful for our students. 

So what we needed to do was figure out an idea of what we could do for a possible social studies project for 2nd grade students. The basic background of our project was this:

We are taking 2 weeks to learn about states and their specific landmarks. Each day we are going to give basic information about a certain landmark and where it is located, state wise, and why it is where it is. For example, swamps are located down south in Louisiana because it is warm and wet which creates a swamp, etc. We will have fun videos, movies (Magic School Bus), interactive boards, field trips, and engaging activities to keep our kids excited and wanting to learn. By the end of the unit we are going to group the students in groups of 3 to get together and they are going to make a presentation on a state of THEIR CHOICE and the landmark that appears in that state. For example, Colorado has mountains, Hawaii has volcanoes, Iowa has corn fields, etc. They will also choose what type of presentation they will do. Our school is a 1 to 1 laptop school; they have access to computers at all times to work on. They can choose prezi, a power point presentation, a poster, anything they choose!

When planning a PBL you should follow the 8 Essentials For Project Based Learning guidelines. 

Below are the 8 Essentials and the information we used to incorporate them into our PBL.

1. Significant Content - For content we used our standards. We chose 2nd grade social studies so our standards were:

Geography is the study of the interaction between people and their environments. Geography therefore looks at the world through the concepts of location, place, human-environmental interaction, movement, and region.

- Understand the characteristics of regions--physical and cultural.

- Understand the representations of major physical and human features on maps and globes.

- Understand political, topographical and historical maps, aerial photos and maps.

- Understand ways regional, ethnic, and national cultures influence individuals' daily lives.
- Understand the characteristics of regions--physical and cultural.

2. Need to Know - For a need to know, the students had previously learned about some landmarks and how they were created in their science class but for a discussion we asked the students about past vacations they went on and if they knew what a landmark was, they would identify the land mark to us and tell us what it is. For example, a student went to South Dakota and the landmark they used was Mount Rushmore. By having this discussion, it let the students know that they would need to know what a landmark was in order to better understand what we were learning for the unit. 

3. A Driving Question - Our driving question was:
"What makes these states' features memorable so that we can set the states and their landmarks apart?"
The SO THAT part in the driving question is important because so the students can start thinking about why it's important. 

4. Student Voice and Choice - For our PBL, we let the students pick and choose their own state and landmark that they wanted to talk about and letting them teach themselves and lead their own way for this project. 

5. 21st Century Skills - For our PBL, our students were going to be collaborating with each other by making a project. They will be using their laptops to be researching information and interesting facts they want to present to their classmates. We will be pushing for them to use applications on their computers to create their projects. We also push them to be creative!

6. Inquiry and Innovation - Everyday, we had a mini lecture on a different geography topic. We used Promethean Planet and gathered all sorts of promethean activities for our students to learn from. We did a little switching things around and putting our own information in, but we had engaging activities for each topic. At the beginning, we would ask the students to brainstorm about, for example, volcanoes. We had a question board saying, "What do you know about volcanoes?" and the students will come up and write certain facts about what they know about volcanoes. They have the option to be creative and innovative with their thinking. This should be a start to our mini lecture. 

7. Feedback and Revision - As the students are wrapping up putting together their presentations, we will all get together and create a rubric for everyone to follow. We are going to let the students choose the criteria and the analyzation of their rubric. Once the rubric is created, the students can go back through their presentations and fix any mistakes or add in anything they need. 

8. Publicity Presented Product - Presentation Day! We are bringing in the other classes that are also doing this project in for the students' presentation. The audience should have questions for the presenters and the presenters should be able to answer them. 

If you need any additional help, posted below is the link to our written out schedule for our PBL. Check it out!

An awesome source for PBL information is Deb. She has awesome ideas for PBLs! -  @debloftsgard

We had a great group of collaborators for this project! We are all very passionate about education. 

Also, here are our email addresses if you have any questions.
Abby Miller -
Josh Inman -
Christa McCally -
Christina Ehlers -

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Chalk and Erasers...Say No More!

Tired of having your students fall asleep, or have a lack of motivation in your classroom? I am here to tell you that it is not you; it is the tools you are using. It's time to think outside the box, and while it takes a little time to plan and explore it is well worth it, and you will see great change in your students engagement. I am talking about ActivInspire/Promethean Planet.

When you follow the link above you enter a world of opportunities for your classroom. Promethean boards are becoming more and more common in the classroom and to be honest while they may look very intimidating, they are truly acting as a glorified mouse. You design flip charts that are in a sense the same as slideshows, but they involve interactive activities for your students to get up out of their desks and get involved in their learning. 

I recently just became familiar with using a Promethean board, and while I will admit it takes some getting used to, I also have to say it was the most beneficial part of my education. I know that it is something that I will be using everyday in my future classroom. 

Here is an example of how students are learning about cause and effect. Notice how easy it is for students to use these tools, and most importantly how engaging it is. 

                           This is another clip that shows how the tools we use are so important.

So the next time that you think that you can't do something because it looks intimidating just remember that after you play with the software a little bit, you will soon enter a big world of opportunities for your students to explore and learn.