Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's Not About the iPad ~ NETA 2014

After three years into this technology gig and months spent working to get devices in students’ hands, train and support teachers and administrators I have come to a conclusion.  It’s not about the iPad.  It’s about innovation and mindshift. This journey has evolved my role from “tech trainer” to “innovation coach”.  I observe classes, team teach, and guide teachers and students to do things differently.  To consider other ways to accomplish objectives, and to literally leave behind the old and embrace the new.  To break through ingrained barriers of teaching they way they have always taught.  We also push our teachers to “let go”.  We encourage them to hand off the responsibility to the students for their own learning with a guiding hand on the side.  
At a recent State Conference, NETA, we shared our philosophy and achievements with iPads in our school.  We used 4 “C’s”; create, connect, collaborate, and coach as our outline for the presentation.  Even though our title was “How We Roll in a C of iPads” very little of our talk focused on the device. Many educators understand how an iPad works.  They are aware of some of the more popular school apps.  Educators are ready to understand the power of the WHY when it comes to the iPad.
The iPad is simply the tool that facilitates this mind shift.  Through apps that increase creativity and ownership of learning (iTunesU, EE, Stick Around, Garageband, iMovie, and Google Drive) we are able to move to a model of engagement, creativity and ownership of learning.  The iPad frees the teacher to change up even the basic classroom elements like furniture.  We have teachers ditching the student desk and replacing it with a bean bag, a rolly chair, or a sofa.  The iPad provides access to online resources allowing for better research skills and efficient project completion.  The iPad provides a platform for multimedia projects instead of an essay.  Google Drive increases collaboration and provides opportunity for immediate feedback from teachers to students.  None of these things happen without the willingness of the teacher to shift their mind about instruction, objectives, and projects.
I am not saying that the iPad is the only tool that could help change the classroom, but I will contest that it is the best out there.  It continues to improve, is becoming easier to manage, and the wealth of iOS apps is unique to any other device.  

Written By:  Jenny Krzystowczyk

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beyond Bellevue: Mystery Skype Takes Students on a Geography Quest

Fifth graders in  Andy Gregory’s classroom raced in from recess eager to #mysteryskype. The greeters quickly slid into the seats in front of the computer awaiting the call while classmates all moved into groups based on their mystery skype jobs.  
The Greeters 

Minutes later, friendly faces greeted them and the #mysteryskype was on! The room was buzzing as Mr. Gregory’s students collaborated, shared information, developed questions, and logically reasoned to determine the mystery location.  Each class took turns asking yes / not questions. As the states were narrowed down, they worked with urgency to be the first class to guess. Who would be first?

    The Mystery Skype Begins

It was close, but our new friends in New York discovered our state first and erupted in cheers.  Afterwards, the students had a few minutes to share and compare their states and ask a few questions to one another.  Our students proudly shared about our state and listened intently as the students in New York told them about landmarks, attractions, and what life is like in New York.  It was a fun, inspiring learning experience.  Students are eager for the next #mysteryskype!  In the meantime, they will continue to hone their geography and questioning skills for the next week.

How does a mystery skype work?

#mysteryskype is a geography game that students play with other classrooms around the world. Classes take turns asking yes / no questions with the goal of discovering where the mystery class is from.  Based on the answers to the questions, students narrow down the possibilities.  When they think they know the locations, they guess!

Skills Utilized in a Mystery Skype:
Critical Thinking
Listening to others
Working together
Problem Solving

Lessons Learned

  • It is fun to work together.
  • Students did a great job asking specific questions. Good questions are key to narrowing down the possibilities.
  • Pair the logical reasoners and mappers together so it is easier for them to collaborate.
  • Arranging the desks in groups makes it easier for students to move around the room and for groups to work together.
  • Table tents on the tables make it easier and quicker for students to get into groups.
  • Perhaps add another job of summarizer, a person or people who share information about the school and state.

Would you like to join the fun? Check out the Q and A.
Q: How do I get started?
A: Find a classroom to partner with on Twitter or Google + Communities. On Twitter, pull up the hashtag #mysteryskype. You will discover thousands of educators ready to connect. You can also find classrooms on Google +. Search for the Mystery Hangout community and join. Start reading the posts and make a connection.

Q: What equipment is needed?
A: A computer, Internet connection, and projector. You will also need maps, plastic overlays, iPad (or camera) and dry erase markers.

Q:  Are there any resources to get started?

A:  Yes! Check out these handouts on the job and questions.
Mystery Skype Questions

Q: What does a Mystery Hangout look like?
A: Check out Natalie's video of a Mystery Hangout in Mrs. Evon's Class

Written by Ann Feldmann

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Our Own Innovative Bellevue East Students - Winning 2nd Place!!

Ann Feldmann and I has the pleasure of checking out some amazing tech inventions at yesterday's IT Innovation Cup Contest.  This competition hosted area high schools from around Omaha, including Bellevue East, Burke, Gross, and Creighton. Each group was challenged with creating a new assistive technology.  This was a challenged accepted by our very own Bellevue East students last September and the students committed themselves to this project. They worked diligently, researching, collaborating and creating, under the guidance of Mr. Derek Babb, mostly outside of the normal school day.

Students created a medication dispenser that sorts pills automatically.  The inspiration came from one of the students who had lived with a grandparent and witnessed the chore of sorting medicine each day.  The students overcame a number of technical challenges and did a fantastic job of creating a device, web site, mobile app, presentations and videos to demonstrate their invention.

CONGRATULATIONS!! Our Bellevue East students won 2nd place!   They won $750 to split among themselves and their work was highly regarded by the judges and public viewers at last night's event.  Way to go @ChieftainNation and Mr. Babb!
Written by Jenny Krzystowczyk