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

Some Rational Ways to Celebrate an Irrational Number

Pi Day (3/14) always falls during our district’s Spring Break, so I try to celebrate it with my students the week before, if possible.  After looking back at my Pi Day posts from past years, I see that I can add a few updates, so here are some of the ways we honored it in my classroom this year:

Some other resources you may want to try that I haven’t mentioned before are:

The number of ways to celebrate the number seem to be almost as infinite as the number itself!

piday
image from: Amit Patel on Flickr

Never Have I Ever

Never have I ever…

Thought of using this game in a professional setting with colleagues (including our school’s principal).

I’m not going to elaborate on the usual context of, “Never Have I Ever.”  Suffice it to say that when my friend, Angelique Lackey (@lackeyangie), suggested we play it during our next Professional Learning Community discussion, I had a difficult time fitting my head around including this activity into what I have always defined as a “meeting.”

Angelique’s re-mix of the game did involve red Solo cups – but they contained gummy bears.  Her directions were simple: we would each share a personal professional development goal that we haven’t achieved yet, and anyone who had already accomplished it would eat a gummy bear.

I’m not sure if it was the presence of gummy bears or the absence of other refreshments that made this Never Have I Ever game experience more productive than my past ones.

By playing the game, a few of us vocalized goals that we had never shared with our colleagues.  For me, this made my own goals more resolute.  It also helped me to learn more about the other staff members.  In addition, I ended up adding some of their ideas to my ever-growing list of goals.

Another interesting by-product of this activity was discovering people who were eager to help us to achieve our goals.  For example, I mentioned that I had never taught a college class.  My principal instantly invited me to substitute for him one evening teaching undergrads.  And, just like that, a goal that has percolated in my head for more than a few years, is on the road to being accomplished.

To recreate the “Never Have I Ever” Professional Goal-Setting Experience™, I would recommend that you do it in a small group of no more than 8 people who have already developed relationships that support taking risks.  Prepare the group in advance so they can think about what they want to share.

And don’t forget the gummy bears.*

*According to Mrs. Lackey, the gummy bears should be organic.  If there is accidental (or intentional) ingestion of artificially colored gummy bears during this activity, we cannot be held responsible for any inappropriate behavior that occurs as a direct or indirect result of playing the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.

**Regardless of gummy bear ingestion, we cannot be held responsible for any inappropriate behavior that occurs as a direct or indirect result of playing the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.

***We haven’t really trademarked the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.  I just figured out how to access special characters in my blog and thought it would be fun to add the ™.

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I searched for “gummy bear meeting” and this is what I got.  Thanks, Pixabay.

Society for the Ethical Treatment of Leprechauns

A favorite project that seems to dwell in the memories of my gifted and talented students from year to year is the time they made Leprechaun Traps in Kindergarten.  It’s how I introduce our “Inventor Thinking” unit and ties in, of course, with St. Patrick’s Day.

As I introduced the project yesterday to my newest group of Kinder students, I was met with the usual enthusiasm. There was lots of excitement generated as they brainstormed ways to entice a leprechaun into their trap, and even more as they thought of ideas for ensnaring him.

And then one girl said,”What if I don’t want to trap the leprechaun?  What if I think that’s mean?”

For a moment I was speechless.  In all of my years of doing this project, none of my students have ever questioned if it was humane or not.

Interestingly, I am the person who carries spiders outdoors rather than smush them – and the person who grabbed a rat snake behind its head when it snuck into our house and flung it outside.  I yelled at my husband in the middle of the night when he grabbed a huge pair of hedge clippers to battle a rat that had snuck into the house.

The ethics of trapping leprechauns never once crossed my mind.

My friend over at Not Just Child’s Play, Joelle Trayers, provides examples like this one of ways to discuss ethics with Kindergarten students.  Yesterday was only my third meeting with my current Kinder class, so ethics had not entered into our class vocabulary yet.  However, I couldn’t miss the opportunity at this point.  After a slight pause, I said, “That’s a very good question.  What do the rest of you think?  Is it okay to trap the leprechauns or is it mean?”

Whether a coincidence or not, the issue was decided by gender.  The girls were firmly in defense of the leprechauns and the boys had no intention of being swayed from dreaming up diabolical ways to trap them.  (I have, several times, reminded the students we are “just pretending,” but that hasn’t deterred their strong feelings on the subject.)

The girls decided they are still making traps, but they are going to give the leprechauns a reward and an escape route instead of imprisoning them, especially since we will be gone for Spring Break.  The boys are more interested in how they can combine Legos with their cardboard boxes than they are about the fate of the leprechauns.

So, a word of warning to any leprechauns in the vicinity of our school in the upcoming weeks: Beware of complex Lego staircases that seem to lead to nowhere.  The boys outnumber the girls in my class, and I’m not really sure what they intend to do if you actually do fall into one of their clever contraptions.

Photo Mar 06, 8 58 47 AM

 

 

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

 

Begin at the End of the Rainbow

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I have been doing a few leprechaun activities with my students.  One that my 1st graders enjoy is to use the “Substitute” tool from S.C.A.M.P.E.R. to imagine what they would like to find at the end of the rainbow instead of a pot of gold.  This year, one student drew a puppy that solves Rubix Cubes.  That was definitely “out of the pot” thinking!  My 2nd graders “Adapted” a classroom to leprechauns, and included posters that instructed the leprechaun students, “How to Talk to Humans.”

The hands-down favorite St. Patrick’s Day activity for my students has always been the Leprechaun Traps.  I usually do this with my Kindergartners.  The other day, my 2nd graders were recalling the excitement of making the traps and speculating that “probably Mrs. Eichholz was the one who left the notes – not a leprechaun.”  🙂  I’m looking forward to introducing my newest group of Kinders to the Design Process and STEM as they invent their own leprechaun traps.

Breakout Edu has a couple of Leprechaun games on their Seasonal page. (Remember that you need to register for free in order to get the password that opens the full set of instructions.)

Technology Rocks. Seriously. has a grand collection of leprechaun activities that include digital and paper links.

And, as if that is not enough, the MilkandCookies blog offers a free download of St. Patrick’s Day logic and sudoku puzzles here.

I wish everyone the Luck of the Irish this March, and I hope you discover your own pot of gold in the near future.  (If it’s a puppy who can solve Rubix Cubes, please send him to my house because I’ve never been able to complete one without cheating.)

rainbow
image from: echaroo on Flickr

Great Minds Don't Think Alike!

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