Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Our Interview with Farmer Brent

Let's Take a Trip to Mars-Soil Investigation PBL Project Continued...

My kids have been hard at work researching how to build a self-sustaining garden on Mars!  For their "Flipped HW" this week, they were tasked to interview a farmer or someone who was knowledgeable about soil and farming, and then report their findings to Edmodo.  To help them out, I reached out to my cousin, Brent, to see if he could come visit with my students this week.  He is a trained chef, a farmer, and a member of the Houston Rockets' Launch Crew! A jack of all trades!  He helps to run Donna's Farm in Fannett, Texas with my aunt and uncle, Donna and Steve.  He knows a thing or two about soil and farming!  

The students, as well as myself, learned so much about farming and soil!  The conversation about hydroponics and aquaponics was super interesting as well as the conversations about building and using greenhouses.  My kids were like little sponges, and took wonderful notes on all that he had to share!  I know that this experience will add so much to their PBL project, "Let's Take a Trip to Mars-Soil Investigation"!  We have also set up a back channel on Today's Meet with a local farmer in our area at P-6 Farms here in Montgomery, Texas.  We are looking forward to her answers!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Students Teaching Students

About 180 followers ago, we met Dr. Julie P. Jones.  She was our 200th follower on Twitter, and we decided to thank her!  Within no time at all, she responded! Not only did she respond, but she included a challenge that soon turned into another challenge!  

The students loved this, and enjoyed submitting their answers to her on Twitter!

It is amazing what happens when we tear down the four walls of our classroom. Last week, my homeroom students were able to join a Twitter chat with Dr. Jones and her students at Converse College in South Carolina.  One of my friends, Victoria, shared how we handle our classroom jobs.

Dr. Jones and I continued to stay connected on Twitter and Facebook, and just this week, she asked if my kids would visit with her kids...students at Converse College in South Carolina!  These students are teachers in training, and we were asked to share about our classroom management.  My students shared a few things with her students.  We talked about classroom rules, "You Matter", and "Love First, Teach Second".  It was a great experience!!  My students loved interacting with her students!!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Let's Take a Trip to Mars (Soil Investigation)

We started this project this past week, and the kids are loving it!  The Friday before we started it, I introduced the "hook".  A "hook" (in PBL) is something that gets the students really excited about what they are going to learn about. It could be a field trip, a Skype or GH (Google Hangout) session, or even guest speakers.  I decided to go with an edible experiment about the layers of soil. Who doesn't like yummy experiments!?  

This activity is included in Kristen Vibas' "Soil" file that can be found on TpT. The students loved learning about the different layers of soil with some of their favorite snacks!  

The following week, the students were placed in cooperative learning groups, and they were introduced to their task.  They were also assigned a job within their groups.  The jobs are project manager, communications manager, time and materials manager, workshop manager, and technology manager.  

Months ago, I reached out to Kevin Honeycutt and Ginger Lewman via Twitter to get some ideas about our upcoming unit in science, soil.  Kevin Honeycutt came up with the picture seen above, and I knew that I had to give this experience to my students!  We spent the first day working on "What Do We Know...What Do We Need To Know".  I expressed to them that their "needs to know" would help to drive any future workshops that we have with this project.  This is the first time that I have used workshops during a PBL project, and I am regretting that I have never used them before.  One of the "needs to know" that I knew I wanted to address was their interest in martian soil.  

At a recent conference, TCEA, I attended a session led by Jaime Donally, and she introduced me to Nearpod VR experiences.  I reached out to my Instructional Technology Director, and she got me a district account with Nearpod. I could not wait to develop a lesson!  The first workshop that I conducted with my workshop managers was a Nearpod lesson with VR experiences.  The students were going to get to experience Mars!!

And what an experience it was!!! The conversations that evolved from this experience were incredible.  You could see the excitement and authentic interest in the topic of Mars and soil.  With some of these conversations came questions that I did not have the answers for.  So what did we do?  We found the experts by using Twitter!  We reached out to Scott Kelly and Kevin Honeycutt!  Scott Kelly is currently on the International Space Station, and we are still hoping for a Twitter connection.  Mr. Honeycutt got us in touch with Cosmosphere, a Smithsonian-inspired museum dedicated to inspiring innovation through science education and honoring the history of space exploration.  This wonderful museum responded to our questions all day, and we are now working on getting a Skype or GH session with them!  We love the power of Twitter!!

The students are working hard on learning more about what they need to create a self-sustaining garden for their 5-year stay on Mars.  This will do more for them than any worksheet about soil will ever do!  Stay tuned in!!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Decompose..Decompose (To the Tune of "Let it Go"!)!!

This is one of my favorite videos to show during our fraction unit!  The kids start off moaning and groaning when they realize that it is set to the tune of "Let it Go", but by the middle of the video they are singing loud and clear for all to hear!  They BEG to listen to it each day!

Here is a sneak peek of my kids singing along!

Speaking of fun videos, have you heard of Flocabulary?  My campus just started a free 60-day trial, and we cannot get enough of it!  My friend, Zoe, said, "Whoever made this site, is a genius!".  I could not agree more!  It is educational hip-hop that leads to increased achievement!  Check it out!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

TCEA-Totally Awesome Technology Conference!

I recently attended TCEA, in Austin, Texas.  Each time that I attend this conference, I leave rejuvenated and inspired.  This year did not disappoint!  I wanted to share some of the highlights of this trip, and to also shine a light on educators and innovators who inspire me daily!

We arrived in Austin on a Tuesday, and started our day at Le Cafe Crepe.  It was the perfect place to start our day!

I attended a few sessions on that day, but one session stood out for me!  The session was titled "The New, The Old, the NOT-so-Obselete", and it was led by Lauren Kallail and Brandon Hunter.  In this session, they introduced a tool called Touchcast.  With Touchcast, teachers are able to use broadcasting tools to present information.  It also fosters creativity and collaboration amongst the students.  Check out this video about Touchcast!  Can't wait to use it with my kids!

Wednesday brought an abundance of information and inspiration!  The first session that I attended was about project-based learning.  It was led by Wendy Dickerson.  I am in my second year as PBL facilitator, and this session gave me so many great ideas on organizing and supporting these lessons!  Here is the presentation link.  My biggest take-aways from this session, were the additions of workshops into the PBL topics/units and the "hook"!  We are starting a new PBL project tomorrow, and it is all about soil.  I will post the hook soon!  Kevin Honeycutt was a huge help in developing an idea for this topic!

Another session I attended, was lead by Janet Corder and Joan Gore, J2!  I never miss a session led by these two wonderfully hilarious educators!  This session was titled "BYOD Activities That Work".  One tool that was shared was Quizizz.  As soon as they introduced it, I emailed my staff, and shared it!  It is that good!  Quizizz is pretty similar to Kahoot, with a couple of exceptions. Students can work at their own pace, and the questions appear on their devices. It is awesome! Another cool one was Bingo Baker!  Check it out here!

Tammy Worcester Tang is another leader that I never miss!  She always shares the coolest tips and tricks!  She shared how you can use your lightening cable and Quicktime to share your iPad or iPhone screen!  Crazy how I never knew that you could do that!  Here is a quick tutorial on it!

Thursday was a day at TCEA that I was totally looking forward to!  I was finally going to get to meet and listen to George Couros.  I have been following him on Twitter since I met and connected with Kayla Delzer.  He truly is an inspiring and innovative educator with a heart for students and authentic learning experiences!

Every word...every single word inspired me!  Here are some of the quotes from that session that have stuck with me since.

"If students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them." @gcouros

"What would you want to spend the whole day learning in your own classroom?" @gcouros

"Are kids doing this because of school or in spite of school?" @gcouros

"Innovation often begins and ends with empathy." @gcouros

"We need to make the positives so loud that the negatives are almost impossible to hear." WOW, right!? @gcouros

And my absolute favorite-"Kids often defy expectations when you give them the opportunity." @gcouros

Doesn't all of that just make you want to change the world!?  Check out his book, The Innovator's Mindset.  I can't wait to read it!!

Another person that I could not wait to meet on this day was Jaime Donally.  I recently participated in #digcitathon and Edcamp Global, and she was a huge part in both!

Her session was about virtual reality!  VR is something that I have been excited about since Google Cardboard came out!  I have a class set, and the students love to take virtual field trips!

I had no idea that Nearpod had virtual experiences that you can add into the lessons!  So exciting!  She also talked about Augthat and Google Spotlight Stories.  I have plans to GH (Google Hangout) with the creator of Augthat this upcoming week!  So many great things shared in this session, and I was so excited to finally meet her!  Can't wait to reconnect soon!

TCEA is a conference that I look forward to each and every school year!  I hope to one day be able to present at it!!!  You should make plans to be there on February 6-10 next year!!