Tag Archives: education

Storybooth

Storybooth is a website that gives students voice in a unique way.  Students who are registered can record stories and submit them.  The Storybooth team chooses submissions to animate and produce as videos with the original narration on the site.  It reminds me a bit of the StoryCorps animated videos – just designed for a younger audience.

As an elementary teacher, I would probably not assign my class to record personal narratives on Storybooth.  Instead, I see myself using some of the videos as a resource for inspirational stories to show my students.  I would urge you to choose carefully, as there is a wide range of topics from cyberbullying to dealing with getting your period for the first time.  If you are a secondary teacher, or a parent or educator who knows a particular student who has a story to tell, however, you might consider encouraging that child to make a submission.  Having your story chosen to be animated is surely a very validating experience!

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Advice from Storybooth on story submission possibilities

Below is an example of one Storybooth video that I think would be valuable to show students of any age.  If you are doing a lesson on Growth Mindset, friendship, or empathy, “I Wish I Was Invisible” would fit right in.

For more videos, visit the Storybooth website, or you can also check my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Students.

Be the Last to Speak

Teachers talk too much.  Even though I am aware of that, I still find myself speaking more than I should in the classroom.  I think that I am better than I was 20-something years ago when I first started teaching – but I definitely want to improve in this area.  The great Simon Sinek (author, consultant, and motivational speaker) gives advice about this in the attached video.  Even though Sinek is speaking in a business context, many top educators like Jo Boaler would certainly agree that teachers should be included in the group of leaders who would benefit from this following this guideline.  Instead of complaining that our students are too lazy to problem-solve, we need to ask ourselves how often we actually give them the opportunity to do their own thinking.

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image of Simon Sinek from http://www.amc.af.mil

For more inspirational videos for teachers, here is my Pinterest Board.  I also have one for students (some videos are on both boards).

We Love Maps

“We Love Maps” was the most recent theme for the bi-annual Barbara Petchenik Children’s Map Competition. The contest is open to entries from children all over the world who are 15 years old or younger, and it really is amazing to see the creativity displayed in the wide range of winners chosen by judges at the International Cartographic Association’s annual meeting this month.  You really must click through the gallery of pictures to appreciate the artistry of these children, as well as the messages they chose to convey with their renderings.  Special shout-out to Champ Turner, from Austin, TX, for having his map chosen for the “Public Award” with the most votes.  With 34 different countries participating, it’s nice to see a winner from my home state!  To learn more about the competition (which only happens every 2 years, unfortunately!), click here.

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image from Pixabay (since I don’t have permission to reproduce the actual contest entries)

Make Everybody Feel Stunningly Robust

As I posted last week, our family has been on vacation.  This is how our relaxing trip began (at 6 am):

“The Uber is here!  OMG why isn’t everyone ready?  I told you it would be here at 6, and it’s here!  We need to wait outside.  Where is the key?  You can’t find the key?  Fine!  I’ll lock everything and go out the garage door.  Take my stuff.”

5 minutes later in the Uber, “Where is my black bag?”  Assured that if it was with my stuff it got put in the trunk.

15 minutes later at the airport, “You didn’t put my black bag in the Uber?!!!!!”  Apparently it was not with my stuff.

And that’s when the Uber driver reassured me that he could quickly bring me back to the house to retrieve the black bag that basically had everything in it we needed for the trip and have me back to the airport in plenty of time.  My husband smartly did not point out that we would not have had this extra time if he hadn’t insisted we get to the airport early.  He knew, I am sure, that I would have snapped back that I wouldn’t have left my black bag at the house if he hadn’t made me get up at such a ridiculous time.

You might think that this was a terrible way to begin a vacation and you would be right. However, what could have become an escalating crisis resulting in a missed plane and a potential divorce actually turned into an enlightening car ride that made me appreciative of all of the amazing people we meet during life’s journey.  So, I have decided to dedicate this post to all of the awesome people I encountered during our vacation, beginning with the Uber Driver who volunteered to drive 30 minutes alone with a hysterical woman who placed ridiculous value on a “black bag” which no one but the woman seemed to believe existed.

Anh, the Uber Driver – Anh heard “Proud to be an American” on the radio as we traveled back to my house and confided in me that the song always makes him cry.  He is so happy to be in our country and that his daughter is able to go to school here.  He choked up as he spoke about the people who have died for our freedom, and vented his anger at his former homeland where they apparently spend a good amount of the school day teaching students to hate Americans.  Anh is the epitome of American patriotism.

Linda, Steven, and Nya at the Cellar Door Bookstore – Our travels began in Riverside, California where our daughter was competing in a tournament.  After a failed trip to Palm Springs (where it was literally 118 degrees), my husband and I despaired of doing anything but going to the local mall to watch movies.  (I don’t recommend 47 Meters Down if you are planning to ever swim in the ocean again.) . The Cellar Door Bookstore was a refreshing oasis in the middle of a blistering hot trip.  I adore independent bookstores, especially ones with resident dogs like Nya.  I bought a lovely book called, All These Wonders, which is stories from The Moth.  Linda and Steven were so friendly and full of advice that I seriously considered moving to Riverside just so I could work in their store.

Lisa at Game Seeker  – We finally got to migrate from southern California to Santa Barbara, where we discovered this delightful shop on State Street.  I love games, but usually end up buying them online.  However, Lisa reminded me why it is so important to patronize local stores like hers.  She is very knowledgeable and personable.  When she learned I had chosen the game Dog Pile for my classroom (gotta work on those spatial reasoning skills), she recommended something I had never heard of called Plus Plus, which she said would provide hours of building fun for my students.

Crystal at Stanford – My daughter and her friends wanted to tour Stanford while we were in California.  By the end of the tour, I was ready to auction off everything I own just so I could attend.  Crystal, our tour guide, was as enthusiastic about Stanford as Anh is about living in the United States.  She showed us her own Foldscope, a paper microscope that had been invented at Stanford, told us about all of the hands-on opportunities she has had since she began last fall, and passionately spoke about the dedication of her professors.  Crystal pointed out one science building on the tour where Stanford co-hosts a 24-hour live feed with MIT, stressing that Stanford believes in collaboration rather than competition.

What struck me about each of the people mentioned above was the enthusiasm and passion they brought to their work.  Through my interaction with each of them, I felt inspired and ready to embrace my life with more zest.

And so I leave you with an image and quote provided by Inspirobot, an artificial intelligence inspirational quote generator, that seems to perfectly deliver the message of this post.

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Nope.  Wrong one.

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Probably the reality check I need most of the time.  But still not the right one.

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This one hurts my head.

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Yep.  That’s it.

Wonder Workshop

It has been amazing to watch Wonder Workshop evolve since the days of Bo and Yana  (the original names of the Dash and Dot robots) 4 years ago.  The robots are incredibly engaging for elementary students, and the company has been extremely supportive of educators.  Dash and Dot appeal to students because it is easy to apply personalities to them.  Programming the robots becomes an exercise in imagination as well as logic.  The ability to augment the robots with bricks, such as Legos, increases the potential for storytelling and problem-solving.  In addition to all of this, there is flexibility in programming (in addition to the free Wonder Workshop apps, 3rd party apps like Tickle and Apple’s Swift Playground can be used), which means students from beginners to advanced can code these robots on pretty much any mobile device.

Wonder Workshop is constantly expanding its offerings.  I was excited to visit their booth at ISTE to see some of their new products.

The first thing I got to check out was their idea for using Dash to develop spatial reasoning. Using foam core cut-outs, a course had been laid out for Dash to navigate with a pattern of bricks attached to its head.  With careful programming, students can send Dash under each piece of foam core successfully by making sure its head is turned correctly at the right time.  Wonder Workshop hopes to provide the instructions for creating this course on its website soon.

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Some of the most exciting products that has just been added to the store are the challenge cards and curriculum subscription.  The curriculum offers 22 NGSS & Common Core aligned lessons for classroom integration.  The challenge cards are colorful, leveled activities that match Code.org’s Computer Science Fundamentals.  I personally think the best deal is the Getting Started Curriculum Pack for $99. (By the way, I do not work for Wonder Workshop, but have received some free products for review in the past.)

Wonder Workshop will be sponsoring another Wonder League Robotics Competition this year, but the structure will be different than previous years.  You can learn more here.

I’ve been told that Wonder Workshop has more surprises coming up in the fall, so you will definitely want to keep up with their announcements on Facebook or on Twitter (@WonderWorkshop).

We’re Already Late for our Adventure!

Anyone who attended Jennie Magiera’s (@msmagiera) keynote at ISTE 2017 will be forever changed by her inspirational address.  It is not officially posted yet, but you can view the whole presentation on this Periscope provided by @1to1Brian. (Jennie’s part begins about 25 minutes in, but the beginning is worth watching as well.)

Jennie focused on stories – the ones we tell and the ones we don’t tell.  She took us back to when she encountered one of her most inspirational teachers, Ms. Buckman, who started the school year by encouraging her students to look for her lost pet dinosaur, Jeff, and eventually exclaimed, “Look at the time.  We’re already late for our adventure!”

Can you imagine the excitement your students would have in a classroom like that?

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Jennie compares those of us who attempt to be innovative educators to the wizard Gandalf in The Hobbit – always trying to encourage the reticent to leave the safety of “what has always been” to embark on adventures.  But, she reminds us with an ancient story of a dragon, that those colleagues have other concerns – and they may need to resolve some pre-existing challenges before they can consider taking new risks.

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We don’t really know each other.  We don’t know our students, and we don’t know our peers.  Social media tends to reveal only the better parts of ourselves – unintentionally intimidating anyone who is fearful of making mistakes.  We need to be better at telling the whole story, and about discovering it in others.  Technology can be used to amplify the voices of those who feel like they are never heard or understood, and to reassure others that while adventure is worthwhile, it is usually difficult and sometimes spawns unpredictable negative consequences – that we can make it through with the support of others.

I am not as eloquent as Jennie, so I encourage you to watch the Periscope linked above (for which she received a standing ovation). My hope is that every school will show her presentation to its teachers before the beginning of the new school year.  They will be energized and motivated to look for untold stories that must be shared, develop deeper relationships with colleagues and students, and to undertake new adventures.

If you are looking for more Inspirational Videos for Teachers, check out this Pinterest Board.

Not a “Math Person”? Wrong!

When it comes to math and mindset, there are two #eduheroes I refer to on a regular basis:  Dr. Jo Boaler, who is a professor at Stanford and the genius behind the YouCubed website, and Alice Keeler, who many know to be a Google wizard but also has a published book called, Teaching Math with Google Apps: 50 G Suite Activities.  You can imagine my excitement, then, when I learned that they would be presenting a session together at ISTE. (Dr. Boaler joined us through Google Hangouts).

Dr. Boaler wrote the book, Mathematical Mindsets.  Not surprisingly, it includes a foreword by Carol Dweck, the leading expert on growth and fixed mindsets.  Dr. Boaler’s main points are that we need to value the different ways that people see math and have more class discussions about math – rather than repetitive questions on worksheets. According to her research, people become proficient in mathematics when their brains have the opportunity to make connections between visual and numerical representations – not because they are born “math people.”  The least effective way to teach math is through lecture, while the most effective is with Project and Problem Based Learning.

Both Boaler and Keeler agree that we need to dispel the myth that those who can do math quickly are better thinkers than those who reason through problems.  In fact, Boaler says, “I’m unimpressed that you worked through it quickly because that tells me that you are not thinking deeply.”

Another controversial topic we all agree on – homework.  Recent studies have shown that assigning elementary students homework is ineffective.  Boaler and Keeler (and I agree) both believe that this is true for all ages, particularly when the homework is a worksheet of repetitive practice.  A better way to think about math is to do an activity like the one below, where students think about one problem in multiple ways.

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When an audience member asked about the problem of spending time on conversing about math when there is a scope and sequence to follow, both Keeler and Boaler expressed the feeling that it is actually a waste of time to “plow through” topics despite lack of understanding.  In Boaler’s words, “Pacing guides are the worst evil in education.” Amen!

Keeler shared several “Googlized” adaptations of activities from Boaler’s Week of Inspirational Math, including a nice Slides template for the Four 4’s challenge which includes links to individual slides for students to explain their work.  You can find links to more of Keeler’s templates in her presentation here.

Overall, I was so energized by this session that I was tripping over my words when I debriefed with my colleagues that evening.  I had stayed later just to attend this session, and it was definitely worth my time.  Thank you, Alice Keeler and Jo Boaler!

I want to close this post by helping Alice Keeler to honor her book’s co-author, Diana Herrington, a passionate math teacher who recently passed.  You can read more about Diana and her influence on Alice Keeler here.   One of many great quotes from Diana Herrington on Twitter collected by Alice Keeler is, ““I teach students not math.”