Category Archives: K-12

Joey’s Mental Health Recovery

Three years ago, I decided to host an online class that would encourage students to “make things” over the summer.  It was called, “Design a Theme Park,” and I invited some famous makers to help judge the different categories each week.

Joey Hudy was one of those makers.  Well-known for the video of his appearance at the White House Science Fair with President Obama, Joey was an inspiration to many of my budding “makers-in-training.”  I invited him to be a guest judge of the student-designed theme park rides.  Joey’s mother kindly responded for the teenager that he would be happy to do it.  I wish I had kept copies of his mother’s comments, because I remember that she was excited about any program that promoted maker-education and/or STEM, and her supportive words were very motivational.

Joey had a difficult time choosing a winner from my students’ projects. The day before he announced his decision, he posted this, “I’m sitting here getting to judge your awesome projects. I don’t really like picking winners, you are all winners. You all did exactly what I want kids to do..
Don’t be bored…make something!
Ok..the winners are..drum roll.”

Joey’s mantra of, “Don’t be bored…make something!” has lived on in my classroom since then.  I have been following him on Twitter over the years, and often chant those same words to my own students – particularly right before they are about to leave school for long vacations.  The enthusiasm of Joey (and his mom) have directly and indirectly affected my teaching style and educational priorities ever since the first time I viewed his marshmallow cannon demonstration.

Today, I saw a Tweet that announced sad news about Joey.  He is now 20 years old, and was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. In this “GoFundMe” post, Joey’s sister makes an impassioned plea for help with the staggering medical costs facing his family as they navigate the difficulties of identifying the appropriate treatment and care.

This post struck a chord with me for many reasons.  First of all, I benefited from the great kindness of Joey and his mother when they donated their time to my students as proponents of STEM and maker-education.

Secondly, I know, first-hand, the treacherous havoc that mental health issues can wreak on the sufferers and their families.  Over 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and PTSD.  This was not a surprise to me, as other family members had received similar diagnoses or exhibited symptoms that were never treated.  Therefore, I have great sympathy and empathy for Joey and his family.

I write this post for two reasons: to ask you to consider donating to the Hudy family to help cover Joey’s enormous medical expenses, and to also ask you to consider what our country and/or world can do to educate people about how to better identify and aid the people who suffer from mental illness.

I wish the best to Joey, Elizabeth, and the rest of the Hudy family.  Thank you for all of the contributions you have made so far to “making” this world a better place.  It’s time for the world to help you now.  With so many people behind you, I guarantee you will continue to be a positive force on this planet for many years to come.

We are All Connected!

As I try to communicate to all of my students, K-5, the importance of understanding diversity and our global interdependencies, this video strikes me as one way to remind them that we must think beyond our immediate surroundings.  I originally found this video, “We are All Connected,” on KidWorldCitizen.org.  There is a page on human rights lessons for kids, which includes the video as well as many other resources.  I will be adding this video to my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Students, where you can find many other motivational short films to use in your classroom.

we are all connected
image from: We are All Connected

Visualistan

Perhaps my interest in the infographics on “Common Mythconceptions” led me to Visualistan, which I bookmarked in my Pocket account awhile ago.  The specific infographic I thought might be useful for my students was, “How Long Did Famous Structures Take to Build?

How Long Did Famous Structures Take to Build? #infographic

Having time during this Spring Break, though, I found some others that might be of interest in educational settings. For example, if your students are doing animal research, you might want them to take a look at, “Travelling Speeds of Animals,” or “Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom.”

Travelling Speeds of Animals #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Another one that I find intriguing is, “Cultural Differences in Teaching Around the World.

Cultural Differences in Teaching Around the World #infographic

Like “Common Mythconceptions,” I would not recommend the entire site of Visualistan for elementary students, but single infographics from the site could certainly be used at all levels.  There are many real-life math applications and engaging topics, from “Lego Bedrooms,” to the “Evolution of Video Games.”  You could create your own questions, have students create questions, and eventually allow students to create their own infographics!

Global Day of Design 2017

Mark your calendar for May 2, 2017, this year’s Global Day of Design.  This project, spearheaded by educators A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, encourages classrooms all around the globe to participate in innovative thinking and creating during one 24-hour period.  According to Juliani, over 40,000 students participated in last year’s Global Day of Design, an impressive number that we could surely double this year.

Ideally, every day should be one that includes innovation for our students.  However, the reality is far from this.  Hopefully, just as Hour of Code has promoted awareness of the need for more computer science education, the Global Day of Design will encourage more educators to integrate Design Thinking into the curriculum.

Juliani’s post gives a link to register for the Global Day of Design, as well as many resources.  The official website for the project also has a registration link and the bonus of at least 12 free design challenges with the promise of more to come.

In a related post, my colleague Sony Terborg recently wrote about the concept of “The Producer Mindset,” and also linked to the Global Day of Design.  Like Terborg, many forward-thinking educators agree that it is imperative that we move away from the factory-based system of education to instead provide students with opportunities to create and think for themselves.  Design Thinking is a great framework for educators to refer to when embarking on introducing innovation in the classroom, and I would recommend the Global Day of Design as just the beginning that will hopefully eventually lead to a new generation that is comfortable designing 365 days a year.

designthinking
image from: Dean Meyers on Flickr

Prodigy

This year I seem to have a group of students in each of my grade levels who are passionate about math.  Every time I pull out a math activity, they devour it with glee.  It has been a challenge for me to give these students assignments which maintain their excitement for “hard” math without discouraging them with work that is too difficult.  Their classroom teachers are facing the same dilemma.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to see what my 4th and 5th grade gifted students thought about Prodigy.  Prodigy is an online math game that is free.  (It is also available as an app.)  Teachers can add classrooms of students, and can manage the math topics students practice, as well as the levels at which each student plays.  I immediately assigned all of my students to topics above their current grade levels.  After introducing it in class, I gave them their individual passcodes, letters for their parents, and the caution that playing Prodigy was completely optional.  I also notified their homeroom teachers, and made it clear to the students and the teachers that it was completely up to the teachers to decide if the students could play the game in class.

My students say that the graphics are apparently reminiscent of that popular game, Pokemon.  The students create avatars and can battle each other by doing math problems. They can also earn different abilities as they progress through the game.

There is a paid option for Prodigy, where parents can buy memberships.  This allows the students to access a few more features than the free version.  I have one student who asked his parent for permission to get the membership so far; everyone else seems satisfied with the free game.

I like that I can see individual student reports with Prodigy and that I can differentiate for each child in my class.  I am also pleasantly surprised to see how excited the students are about playing the game.  In addition, the privacy aspect seems fairly good, as the avatars do not give away any student information.

Prodigy does not teach.  It is not a substitute for engaging classroom lessons that include higher order thinking skills.  I enjoy using it as a formative assessment as it gives me reports on the strengths and weaknesses of each of my students in the skills they are assigned, but I would be appalled by any teacher who used Prodigy as their only method of assessment or differentiation.

As long as my students continue to be excited about math, I will view Prodigy as one of the many tools at our disposal that supports their learning.  But I will also continue to provide them with real-life opportunities to use math in relevant ways.

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Your Logical Fallacy Is…

After jumping into a rabbit hole in the form of this article about a recent study showing positive effects related to teaching philosophy to children, I found a website that I wish I’d discovered at least 6 months ago.  Your Logical Fallacy Is… details the erroneous but persuasive arguments that many propagandists use, from politicians to advertisers.  The site makes it quite easy to “call someone out” by offering the tools to identify and share specific logical fallacies through social networks.  Just click on the icon for a particular logical fallacy on the home page, and it will take you to a page describing the fallacy along with an example.  Teachers might also be interested in the free, downloadable poster, which gives short summaries of each of the twenty-four fallacies defined on the site.

In this era of “false news” and an overabundance of information to sift through, teaching our students to think critically is vital.  It’s nice to see studies that suggest that teaching philosophy might improve student performance in areas such as reading and math, but neither of those skills are of much use to students who don’t know how to determine what is valid and what is a smokescreen.

(For more resources on using philosophy in the classroom, you can also read this post and this one.

Logical Fallacies 1
Gosh – I feel like I’ve heard this one recently… image from: Mark Klotz on Flickr

 

Schoogle Your Content with Hyperdocs – #TCEA17

“Schoogle Your Content with Hyperdocs” was a TCEA presentation given this year by my illustrious NEISD colleague, Laura Moore.  Laura, who is also the author of, “Rock the Lab” and “Learn Moore Stuff,” is a guru of technology integration.  She is also an excellent presenter, so I knew that attending her session at TCEA would reap many benefits. I was right.

Laura will be the first to tell you that she did not create the concept of Hyperdocs.  For that, we can thank the Hyperdoc Girls – Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill), Kelly Hilton (@kellyihilton), and Sarah Landis (@SarahLandis).  You can find out more about them here.

On Laura’s site, you will find a fantastic step-by-step introduction to Hyperdocs that leads teachers from the definition through pedagogical best practices, examples of Hyperdocs, templates, and steps for creating your own.  It’s a great way to scaffold a staff development on Hyperdocs.

Teachers looking for a simple definition of Hyperdocs might settle for, “Google Docs with links.”  But those teachers would be wrong.  There really is no one-line definition for Hyperdocs.  To learn what they are, and what they aren’t, you need to see this page.

Plenty of Hyperdocs have already been created by many talented people, so chances are that you can dive right into using them by looking at the examples provided here. There are even Hyperdocs to learn about Hyperdocs available.

I definitely can’t do Laura’s presentation justice in a quick blog post, so I hope that you will take a look at her presentation site to find out more about this interactive method for digital learning that will engage your students on many levels.

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