Tag: education (page 1 of 22)

What Do We Expect?

Source: https://images.app.goo.gl/MvHLqa4fqM3fBBZn9

As is true in many parts of the state, country, and planet, we in central Texas are facing immense uncertainty as the new year approaches in the midst of a global pandemic. We know that we won’t be starting face-to-face school until after September 7, and that our students will have at least 3 weeks of exclusively online learning. We know that schools got a crash course in online learning in the spring as this all hit with jarring suddenness. We know that a large percentage of the online learning that occurred was intended to prevent regression, rather than to achieve significant growth. We know that our leaders in Austin and Washington won’t accept that as sufficient this year, and we will need to teach new concepts, engage kids in higher levels of learning, and face the accountability monster once again. So, we know we have to raise our level of online teaching and learning.

In the spirit of helping our schools accomplish this, I have been working to put together standards for our online teachers. Think of these as virtual “walk-throughs” for administrators and as a self-check rubric for teachers. I’m sharing it not as some complete answer from an expert, but in hopes it might help other educators as they grapple with their own standards for this new, online reality. Note that red text is only significant to us, as it reflects applications our teachers have learned or are learning this summer. I welcome any comments, questions, or feedback!

Here is the link to the document, if you wish  to not have to scroll quite so much!

Game On! Getting Started in High School eSports

Gamer with controller

Source: https://tinyurl.com/t8w8g5c

Seeing the phenomenal, explosive growth in school participation or, at the very least, interest in student esports teams in the past year or so, I wanted to share our experiences as we try to get going in our inaugural year here in Seguin. I am not an expert by any measure, but I hope that makes what I learn even more valuable to other novices out there. I’ll add more posts as boxes are checked or achievements…well…achieved.

Step 1: Genesis

After doing my research and, particularly, speaking to an ed tech friend from north Texas, Kyle Berger,  I became convinced that our Matador students would benefit from participation in esports. Kyle, CTO for Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, shared his experiences starting a program and watching it explode in popularity. He also shared many, pany positive impacts on students. Among the benefits shared by Kyle and found in my researcher were:

  • Inclusivity. Esports offers the opportunity for students not traditionally participating in groups or larger school events, clubs, sports, etc. to be a part of a team.
  • Accountability. Our team members will be held accountable for attendance, grades, and discipline, just like students in other activities.
  • Opportunity. An increasing number of colleges are forming esports teams and paying up for top players. As colleges routinely demand $30-$70k from students each year, every bit of assistance helps.
  • Responsibility. Students will benefit from time spent practicing and collaborating ahead of matches. Most of this preparation, especially in the absence of an experienced coach/sponsor initially, will be the responsibility of the students themselves.

I approached our high school principal, superintendent, and other leadership about the idea. Somewhat to my surprise, there were only enthusiastic responses, and all saw the idea as providing a unique and exciting opportunity for our students.

Step 2: Getting the Ball Rolling

Gamers holding controllers

Source: https://tinyurl.com/wk4rhbv

Once approval was so quickly secured, I set about determining some of the basic things we would need, such as:

  • Budget. This was something of a shot in the dark, particularly as inexperienced as we were. I did some shopping around for leagues, checked prices, looked at hardware investments required, team supplies, such as jerseys, etc. We limited participation for our initial team to 20 kids, just for ease of management. This also kept the cost lower to begin. In total, I estimated no more than $2000-$2500 for our first year.  While some schools are building gaming rooms, with new, gaming PCs, gaming chairs, high-end headsets, etc., I wanted to equip our kids without going overboard at the start.
  • Coach/Sponsors. I got lucky here. To my surprise, a young technology teacher at our high school had started a gaming club the year before. In honesty, this was really just a time and place (his classroom after school on Fridays) for students who were into gaming to gather and play. He had a good core group of kids who were VERY jazzed at the idea of an actual team. He agreed instantly to be the coach, and I would offer help throughout the year.
  • Leagues. In Texas we do not yet have an official, state-sponsored esports league. I decided that our options were to either host our own, local events, probably inviting other area schools, or to join an existing league, such as HSEL or PlayVS. After comparing costs, available games, infrastructure requirements, etc., I opted for HSEL for our first season. This was based on the wider range of games for students to choose and the overall low cost and fairly simple technology requirements. Also, everything is online–no travel, and scheduling is up to matched teams, which is super convenient.
  • Hardware/Software. So, we are really learning more as we go along here. For now, we are using student devices (Nintendo Switch) and our existing iMacs. We use our wired network for online games, such as CS GO and Minecraft, and our wireless network for games that utilize student devices.  I did order some gaming headsets and gaming mice. Because this is a pilot, they weren’t high-end models, but our players seemed to really like them.

Step 3: Season 1

Our selected league, High School ESports League, has 3 seasons during the school year. It took awhile to get things set, so I opted to wait until the Winter Open to get our teams onboard. The process was fairly simple:

  • Register our team on the site and add our players. This can be done for no charge, and it immediately puts you on the league’s email list, which is a great way to stay on top of upcoming seasons and deadlines.
  • Determine how many players would be participating. Request an invoice from the league for that many seats (Note: players can play as many games as they want for just the price of 1 spot on the team). We have 15 players for our first season.
  • Once the quote/invoice was received, I submitted the request for a district PO. The turnaround here is fast, so this was in hand in a few days. I sent this off to the league, who added the requested number of seats.
  • Create game rosters. For some events, such as CS GO, rosters include 5 players. Others, such as Minecraft or Smash Bros are individual games, but all players are added to a single roster for the game.
  • When the season begins (January 17, in this case), HSEL sets up brackets and matchups. A dashboard on the site lists all of your players’/teams’ matchups for week 1.
  • Within 48 hours, teams or coaches use the dashboard to schedule their matches.
  • Teams or individuals contest their matches and record their results on the dashboards.
  • The process resets and repeats every Friday throughout the season.
Mario

Source: https://tinyurl.com/wss7bbp

There have already been some useful lessons learned:

  • For big teams, I can see scheduling being a real chore. If possible, players should do as much of their own scheduling as possible.
  • Devices such as the Nintendo Switch may or may not play well with every network. Leave plenty of time to work out any kinks. For example, ours took about 15 minutes to join our guest network and reach the internet, which made us miss a couple of matches.
  • The variety of match days/times is a little weird, as you don’t always have a room full of cheering/groaning team members. It would be cool if our match schedules synched up a little more.

Step 4: Next Level

There are a few things I will be looking at soon for our teams:

  • More formal, including getting official jerseys made, practice schedules, grade and attendance check procedures, etc.
  • Purchase consoles and monitors to allow console-only games to be played.
  • Hold occasional LAN party gaming events to just allow the players to hang out and enjoy something they already are passionate about.
  • Continue to explore league options. If we stay in HSEL, we will likely purchase an unlimited participation license for next year, which will include all seasons and unlimited player spots.

There are probably MANY things I am leaving off, but I hope this helps get the wheels turning. If you have questions, comments, suggestions, etc., please leave them in the comments. Thanks for reading!

What IS School For?

Our Matador Innovative Teaching Academy participants are winding up their first book study, discussing What School Could Be, by Ted Dintersmith. In the discussion materials on the book’s website, I came across this video, which I promptly sent out to our innovative teachers and our district leadership. It is a fundamental question that, frankly, we don’t really hash out like we should: What is school for? Watch the video and think about it. Talk with your colleagues, your students, your stakeholders, and see how tough it is to come up with a consensus on the topic. Share your answer in the comments, if you reach a conclusion!

Traits of the Greats

Now that we’re back in school, I’ve had the chance to engage in some great conversations with some really strong teachers, observe some wonderful classes, and even do a little teaching (still a blast!). These experiences have served once again to remind me that powerful learning is not the product of thousands of dollars of laptops, or ipads, or robots, or textbooks, or online curricula, or any of this stuff. What makes a great educator and remarkable classroom so exciting and motivating, and  the learning super-sticky begins with things we can’t submit a PO for:

  • Creativity – great teachers do fantastic, engaging things that meet kids where they are and take them where they haven’t even imagined they could be. These experiences can’t come from exclusively following a textbook or a prescribed curriculum (both can be valuable resources, though).
  • Humor – the ability to smile and laugh is almost universal among great educators (my junior high math teacher excluded). Laughing is good for the soul and the mind, releasing chemicals that actually help us learn. Teachers who “don’t smile until Christmas” probably have learners who learn nada until Christmas.
  • Humility – related to the above, this sometimes involves the ability to laugh at one’s self. It definitely involves being able to admit mistakes, to embrace that we don’t have ALL of the answers, and to allow kids to know more about things than even we do sometimes.
  • Flexibility – teach in the moment and be willing to shift gears are make a radical 180-degree turn if the situation calls. If the learners aren’t responding, it is easy to blame them or their cell phones or the full moon. Be willing to scrap the plans and go in another direction as students’ responses or interests dictate.
  • Empathy – perhaps the greatest skill a master teacher has is the ability to put themself into the shoes (and mind and heart) of the student. Understanding what experiences they have had, what motivates them, what challenges them–these are fundamental to creating learning experiences that “fit” the child.
  • Grit – the teacher who never gives up, no matter the arguments for such a path, is the one who changes everything. It is about believing that kid can learn that skill or concept and going to any length to get them there.
  • Trust – amazing ideas won’t come in an environment of fear or mistrust. Students (and teachers) should be willing to try crazy ideas and, potentially, fall on their faces as a result. This mandates a teacher who won’t pounce on every mistake .
  • Love – the belief that the kid is the most important person in the room, and you will do anything to help them be happy and successful. It is protective, it is nurturing, it disciplines, it serves. It may sound cliche, but it is the thing that makes the best teachers who they are.

Here is to you, my fellow educator–thank you for all you do for all of our kids. May you have an amazing, impactful year filled with students’ wonder, marvel, surprise, and joy!

Hang Up? Crawfishing (a Little) on BYOD

For years, I have been an avid supporter and advocate of BYOD. Specifically, I have argued that students’ smartphones were powerful, pocket-sized computers with high-speed internet capable of connecting, creating, engaging. They were a fabulous solution to the very significant problems of digital divide. Schools lacking in computers or infrastructure would no longer be shackled by the technologies they lacked–just get out your pocket PCs, kids!

Lately, though, I must admit that I wonder about this idea and really have been questioning the validity of my beliefs. I more and more frequently encounter news stories and blog posts about schools or even entire countries abandoning their phone-friendly policies. Policy makers have decided the competition for students’ attention, the distractions, the discipline problems, the effects on student emotions were all too high of a price to pay for any positives the devices might promise. Surprisingly, their arguments against the devices in the classroom are starting to resonate a lot more with me.

Some experts, such as the folks at Common Sense Media, have determined that teens spend an average of 9 hours per day looking at a digital screen. I will testify that at least seems pretty accurate in my own household, even if I haven’t put a timer to it. Life is intently focused on a screen of some sort the vast majority of waking hours, riding in the car, sitting in their rooms, eating a snack, etc. The majority of the time, my kids, wife, and I are thumbing robotically through Instagram, watching YouTube or Netflix videos, checking Snapchat, or something similar.

I will say that the number and range of topics that my kids are learning about is sometimes really amazing. This is especially true for Reilly, my son, who watches videos on every topic under the sun. Also, I have much appreciation for the way that my kids are able to stay connected to their friends, particularly during the summer, as we live a half hour from most of them. I can completely understand my son’s penchant for gaming, as I enjoy an admittedly smaller variety of games almost as much. We ditched cable and satellite television a few years ago, too, so much of their phone time is a substitute for former television hours. All that to say I recognize there is considerable value, for sure.

On the other hand, though, it is unrealistic to deny that there are significant problems that come along with the devices’ constant presence. One that I think is most significant is the devices’ tendency to become the attention priority of the user. In other words, the user is so distracted by the device that he/she cannot maintain focus on anything or anyone else. Just try to count the number of times in a day when someone checks their phone while having a face-to-face interaction with someone. I’ve sure been guilty of it. Watch families/friends sitting together at restaurants. We see it (maybe take part) constantly–groups become zombies making idle chit-chat while staring at PewDiePie on their new iPhone or Galaxy. A 2018 study by Common Sense Media revealed more than half of teens acknowledged that phones distracted them in negative ways. Additional research by Common Sense shows that not only do a large number of kids check their social media feeds pretty much constantly, the negative outcomes (hateful comments, posts not being “liked” enough, etc.) more profoundly affect the kids already facing social/emotional problems.

For the teacher optimistic enough to try and use them in the classroom, a particular challenge I have heard about endlessly since basically the debut of the iPhone in 2007 is management. Even teachers who are still open-minded or enthusiastic about the possibilities struggle with ensuring that they are being used in purposeful, learning-focused ways. For a teacher who may not be experienced or especially skilled at general classroom management, this becomes an even bigger issue. I know that I and countless colleagues in the edtech world have attempted to share effective management strategies, but the dismal tales persist.

What’s the point to all of this then? Well, I suppose it is that I am probably less convinced of the power of student devices in the classroom than I was a decade ago, when my former superintendent abruptly declared our district to be a BYOD environment. Certainly, there have been some cool moments of real success, from creative student video productions to collaborative documents to engaging formal assessment and feedback apps and many more. I won’t begin to argue against those. I think, though, that more than a decade’s time passing should have ironed out many more of the wrinkles in the plan and the process. It hasn’t, and I still hear more negative feedback than positive (Okay, maybe complainers are just more…expressive.). I am currently running a Twitter survey to gauge my PLN’s feelings on student phones in the classroom and already seeing some interesting results.  My mind is far from made up, and reflection is critical to my own professional practice, so I’m going to keep mulling the pros and cons of this issue for awhile. As always, I would welcome and respect your thoughts and comments!

Team 3D Design and Printing Challenges

Image source: https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/interview-dana-foster-3d-printing-education-18133/

3D printers have been the absolute rage in education and in maker spaces for a few years now.  While the printer itself is a magical and fascinating piece of science and technology, the price tag makes it imperative that we use the printers to engage students in activities that will help them grow more creative, adept at solving problems, and skilled at applying knowledge across the curriculum. In order to have a justifiable reason to pay $500, $900, $2000, or even more for a 3D printer, there needs to be a higher purpose, laser-focused on student learning. The following are just a few ideas that might stimulate your own, better plans to get kids engaged in design thinking and applying content knowledge as they work with design teams to create original 3D models.

  • All Together Now. Split class into teams who will design and print separate components of a single project. For example, teams might be producing the doors, roof, window, interior walls, or exterior walls of a model house. They might create components of a small toy, such as a car or action figure. The emphasis here is on effective communication between groups and precise calculations, as poorly planned or executed parts will not fit. This is very similar to actual manufacturing today, where components of the same object are often made on opposite sides of the globe.

    Not my favorite idea!!

  • A Better Mousetrap. Have students design a simple and effective humane mousetrap. Students will need to apply knowledge of biology and simple physics in order to lure, trap, and keep their quarry until it is relocated to a new home (Pro tip: Probably not a good idea to test by letting live mice loose in the classroom.)
  • Baby Shark Tank. Student teams design a simple, easily reproducible and customizable object to sell for a class fundraiser or to raise money for a charitable cause. Teams will pitch their idea to a committee of teachers, volunteers, or other students. Those chosen as best will be produced and sold for the designated cause. In addition to the technology and design skills being developed, through the planning and marketing of their idea, students will build math, speech, and writing skills.
  • Base-ic Math. Every math teacher has a set of base-10 blocks somewhere in their room. In this challenging activity, have students create blocks to represent different math systems, such as base-4, base-25, etc. This is a great way to really reinforce student understanding of a challenging math concept.
  • Even Better. Find an existing design and improve it. There are countless sites online where students can find and download free 3D designs. Have them use an existing design, such as a pencil holder, a drinking cup, or plastic toy, and work with their team to make it more practical, stronger, more aesthetically appealing, or just plain cooler. Daniel Pink’s chapter on Design in A Whole New Mind might be a good text to accompany this activity.
  • Now We’re Cookin’. Teams will design or re-engineer a utensil to perform a specific kitchen task. For example, students could create a stopper to keep opened canned soft drinks from losing their fizziness. They could create a chip bowl scoop that lets dining guests get chips without using their hands or without the frustration of using tongs (which just destroy the chips, am I right?). They could create a pepper corer that protects skin from jalapeño juice. Students could begin by interviewing parents, grandparents, or even professional cooks and asking what tasks frustrated them. They will get to practice effective communication, critical thinking, and creativity.
  • All Geared Up. Students will work together to create a machine that using no more than 4 gears to produce the highest gear ratio they can. In other words, turning 1 full turn of a gear produces as many turns as they can design of a final gear. This is the principle that makes one crank of a bicycle pedal spin  the back wheel several times. They could also try to turn their work into a useful object, such as an efficient fan, “motorized” toy, etc. This is a relatively easy to grasp challenge but has a lot of practical knowledge of simple machines and physics involved.

Hopefully, these are helpful as starting points for student design and will inspire you or your students to bigger and better applications. If you have ideas you would want to share, please include them in the comments, and I will put them into the post.

Make Your Words Visible: Lumen5

In need of a spark of creative energy, I checked out this great post by Kathleen Morris over on The Edublogger. I found a prompt that mentioned making a blog post into a video using a tool called Lumen5. This tool uses AI to create attractive videos by pairing and animating images or GIFs with pieces of text. The text can either be copied and pasted or pulled from a link. So, for example, a student could link to a blog post and create a very cool video in just a few seconds. In fact, Lumen5 lets users add a site or blog’s RSS feed to automatically create a new video whenever a new post or article is added. You can go in and pic specific design styles, change images/GIFs, choose music, etc. as needed, but it really does a pretty amazing job automatically.

Lumen5 does require membership to use, but you can currently join for free and create unlimited videos. Paid subscriptions allow for HD rendering and removes branding (in the form of a slide at the end of each show) from videos. Paid subscriptions also allow for the creation of collaborative teams, while free accounts do not.

I dug up a recent, quickie blog post and created the following in less than 15 minutes the first time I signed on:

I have to say that I really like the potential here. Like most folks, I will admit I am more likely to watch a catchy video than read a long treatise, at times. I like how this opens up both options. One tiny improvement that would be useful is the ability to embed videos in blog posts. While they can be automatically shared to multiple social media sites, I cannot find a way to embed beyond downloading a copy, uploading it to Youtube, and embedding the video from there.

Older posts

© 2020 The Moss-Free Stone

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Skip to toolbar