Category Archives: Education

Zorro Astuto Badging

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we have made some changes to our makerspace this year, one of them being to rebrand it as Zorro Astuto Studio.  Another major improvement we are implementing is a badging system for all students who create in Zorro Astuto.  Throughout grades 4-12 (all of the levels that attend our school on the Fox Tech Campus) students can earn badges when they reach certain criteria for each of three levels.  The criteria for Level 1 includes students getting a 100% on the relevant safety certification test and creating a project with that tool or software.  Levels 2 and 3 increase the expectations, and students who reach a Level 3 in any area will be prominently featured on our “Studio Masters” bulletin board, which is in the mall area outside our space.

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Once a student earns a badge, we laser-cut a physical one using special acrylic from Inventables.  We provide them with a small chain so they can hang it on their backpack.

In addition, we wanted to digitally manage the badges.  Our intention is to keep a running record for students as they move through grade levels.  We also want teachers to have a quick reference.  This will allow teachers, when students ask to use Zorro Astuto resources (like the 3d printer) for projects, to know if the student already has experience or will need to spend time learning a new tool or software.

I researched many digital badging systems and ultimately decided that the Flippity Badge Tracker would best serve our purpose.  Although it is does not have as many features as Mozilla Open Badges or others, it does have simplicity going for it.  With as many students as we have going through Zorro Astuto, we needed something that would work with multiple users and could be easily accessed by teachers across campus.

Tomorrow I will talk about who comes through Zorro Astuto, and the many ways we are trying to make it a place where all of our learners have multiple opportunities to create.

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Zorro Astuto Studio

My colleague, Kat Sauter, and I teach in what used to be the Cosmetology classroom at Fox Tech High School.  In the newly formed Advanced Learning Academy (this is its 4th year), our room has become known as “The Makerspace.”  Kat and I felt like this generic term, which has come to mean many things to many people, did not quite fit our learning environment.  We set about to rebrand it.

The building where we are housed was named after the principal who was a strong advocate for technical and vocational education, Louis Fox.  In honor of him and our shared beliefs in hands-on, place-based learning, we decided to call our space, “Zorro Astuto Studio.”  “Zorro” means “fox” in Spanish.  “Astuto” means “clever or crafty.”  We think it fits our program perfectly.

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After much blood, sweat, and possibly a few words of mild profanity, Kat and I got one room of the studio repainted before school started.  With the help of Kat’s sister-in-law, our larger room is almost done.  Students who used the space last year have been very complimentary about all of the changes we’ve made.  We  have several areas that showcase past student projects – such as 3d printed Fiesta medals, skateboards, and inspirational signs – but we are also trying to leave room for future ones as well.

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So, what’s happening in this transformed space?  Stay tuned to this blog, our Twitter account (@StudioZorro), and our Instagram (@StudioZorro) for more on how our students in grades 4-12 will be using this space to create!

Support for Diverse Readers and Speakers

There are many tools out there for students who struggle with reading.  There were several I gathered at TCEA 2019 this year, and I have been meaning to share a curated list.  Here is a quick rundown (a big thanks to Leslie Fisher, who demonstrated these in her multiple sessions):

  • Immersive Reader – Microsoft offers this free suite of reading aids through OneNote or directly through it’s Microsoft Edge browser.  If you install the extension on your browser, you can change the background, break words into syllables, search for certain parts of speech, focus on a line, access a picture dictionary, translate, and read text out loud.  Thanks to Leslie Fisher for demonstrating all of these features!
  • Rewordify – You can change complex text to simpler language by pasting it into the box on this page.  Even better, there are several free learning activities that you can customize and print that offer matching, quizzes, etc…
  • SMMRY – Get a summary of the text you paste into the box.
  • Google Docs Voice Typing – Just go to the Tools in Google Docs to access this feature and make sure you give access to the microphone.
  • Closed Captioning in Google Slides – Did you know that you can offer closed captioning as you present a Slides presentation?  Click here to get the instructions.
  • Microsoft Translator – Download this app to your phone or just use it in your browser to start a conversation with anyone anywhere.  Among its other features, you can use multiple microphones for a conversation, which can be translated into multiple languages at the same time!  You can also use the app to take pictures of text (typed, not handwritten) and translate it.

I hope at least one or two of these tools is new and helpful to you!

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Embracing Change

This is Yeti, the 3-year-old bulldog we adopted last September.  As you can see, Yeti likes the laundry basket.  I kind of like it, too, because when Yeti falls asleep with his head propped up he doesn’t snore as loudly.  Win/win.

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Unfortunately, Yeti has some kind of leg injury still to be determined.  Despite his pain, he insists on climbing into the laundry basket.  He has also chewed one side of the basket down to sharp plastic points which make it very possible he will re-neuter himself if he isn’t careful.

My husband pointed out, as I bemoaned the lack of a perfect bed for a bulldog who likes high sides but needs a lower entrance that won’t slice off any appendages, that I do work in a Maker Space now.  And I have tools.  And I teach students how to solve problems using Design Thinking.

I guess you can tell where this is going.

We are beginning the last nine weeks of this school year – my first year in this secondary maker space.  It has been a year of a lot of learning, and I am about to do a whole lot more.  My students are selecting their own projects this nine weeks, and chances are I won’t have the slightest idea how to do any of them, much less my own project on designing and building a bed for a finicky bulldog.

But that’s how I roll.

All of the horrible teachers I had in my life had a couple of things in common – they were pretty sure of themselves and were terrified of change.  I don’t subscribe to the notion that teachers need to be experts or that rigidity improves learning.  It helps to know your topic, of course.  But it’s more important to have relationships with the students and to be willing to learn –  with them and from them.

So, we’re all going to be applying what we’ve learned this year.  The students will give me feedback, and I’ll do the same.  We will consult experts and try not to cry or give up when we make mistakes.  I will be chronicling my engineering design process just as I ask them to keep their own journals.

By the end of May, Yeti will probably still be sleeping in his dilapidated laundry basket.  Because that’s how stubborn bulldogs roll.

But no one will be able to say that I didn’t try.

#TCEA2019 – Flippity

Looking back on my blog posts, I see that I’ve never devoted one to Flippity even though I’ve used it for various reasons the last couple of years.  If you haven’t tried Flippity and you like user-friendly tech tools, you should definitely visit the site.  When I first started using it, it was basically an easy way to turn a Google Spreadsheet into flashcards.  Since then, it has added many more features – all for free.

Leslie Fisher reminded me to take another look at Flippity when she mentioned a few of the newer additions to the site.  There is a now a Timeline and a Typing Test.  You can also make a Scavenger Hunt (which is similar to a Digital Breakout, but much easier to create!).  I am eager to try the Badge Tracker for our Maker Space.  I also noticed that there is a Flippity Add-On for Chrome if you are interested.

Each activity offers you a template that you can copy to your Drive.  Follow the instructions on the template and/or the website by typing information into the correct cells.  Publish your spreadsheet, get the link, and the magic happens.

Don’t forget that your students can also create with Flippity.  Though most of the templates are not going to promote deep learning, they are great opportunities for students to practice skills in novel ways.

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screenshot from Flippity.net

 

Agamographs

My students have done agamographs in the past, but I always called them “pictures that show two perspectives.”  It’s nice to learn there is an official name for these that has fewer syllables.  There are many ways to integrate this art form into other subjects – showing cause and effect in science or literature, or different historical perspectives, for example.  To see great directions for making agamographs, check out this set from Babble Dabble Do.  You can see some beautiful examples made by middle school students here.  If you are ready to hop on trying this out, you might want to consider making agamograph Valentines.

Of course, if you Google “agamograph” you will find many more examples.  Apparently everyone on the internet knew what they were called except me 😉

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CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

How Learning Happens

The “How Learning Happens” series on Edutopia has a set of videos that show teachers in action as they model simple – but powerful – strategies for learners of all ages.  One of the more recent posts is, “Inviting Participation with Thumbs-Up Responses.”  This no-tech strategy where students show their thumbs-up/down answers at their belly instead of high up in the air helps learners to feel safe while giving the teacher instant formative feedback on their understanding of the lesson.  Having gone from teaching where my students practically fought each other to speak to me to an environment where I hear crickets after every question, I loved watching this caring teacher show us how to encourage students to engage without fear.  Student response apps are great, but sometimes we just need a quick way to gauge what our students are thinking.

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