Sunday, August 3, 2014

Google Hangouts + iPads + Awesome Teachers/Learners/Communiuty = Innovative Project Based Learning

Children at Bellevue Elementary had a unique opportunity this summer to go on an innovative three week long global reading and writing learning adventure with Mrs. Evon (@mrsevon1) and Ms. Braasch (@brittanybraasch). Led by Ms. Jena Ball (@JenaiaMorane) , author co-founder of Critterkin LLC, (@critterkin), via Google Hangouts, students learned more about kindness and demonstrated mastery of learning in a variety of ways, including reading, writing, blogging, quilting, and even a one act play!

The three week project called “Lead with Your Heart,” was created by teaching partners Monica Evon (@mrsevon1) and Brittany Braasch (@brittanybraasch).  They designed a project based around the theme of kindness and compassion found in Jena Ball’s book, “Lead with your Heart”.  This project was built around Bellevue Public Schools Essential Objectives, which correlate to Nebraska State Standards:

LA 3.1 Students will learn and apply reading skills and strategies to comprehend text.
LA 3.2 Students will learn and apply writing skills and strategies to communicate.
LA 3.3 Students will learn and apply speaking and listening skills and strategies to communicate.

Here are the steps in this project based learning adventure along with some student samples, apps, and lessons learned along the way!

1.  Driving Question
The project centered upon the following guiding questions:
What is kindness?
What does it mean to be misunderstood?
How can you be kind to animals and others?


2.  The Entry Event 
The entry event for the project was a Google Hangout with Jena Ball, Marty Keltz (@martysnowpaw), and actor Jonathan Keltz. The Google Hangouts continued regularly throughout the project for reading, writing, drawing, and acting lessons.  

3.  Voice and Choice
Students were given a lot of voice and choice in their writing, illustrating, and acting.  For example, students each created a unique quilting square for the collaborative kindness quilt. Ms. Jena showed the students a variety of options on how to draw the individual features of the puppies.  Students were given a variety of patterns for the puppies in the fabric quilt.  They were able to choose the pattern and fabric for the dog, as well as the background fabric.  Each puppy is unique to the student.


Students wrote their own stories too!  Students loved the global aspect of publishing to kid blog where Ms. Jena commented on almost every post!


4.  Research / Activities to develop kindness

Students work on a variety of activities over the three week.

Writing via KidBlog (both as themselves, and as the dogs)
Creating a video and using Aurasma App to showcase student work
Reading Lead with Your Heart
Quilting (paper, fabric, and chalk)
Filling a heart with words that have to do with kindness (nice, love, thoughtful, considerate, etc.)
Drawing of dogs
Discussion of the chapters and any important concepts (prejudice, being misunderstood, kindness, etc.)
A visit with compassion - Dory the toothless dog visit
One act play of the last chapter of Lead With Your Heart  for parents and friends with Ms. Jena Ball joining via Google Hangout.



5.  Revision
The role of critical friends and interactive work is a key component to creating a project that is worthy of the world! A continual revision cycle is key to improving reading and writing.  Students posted their writing on and received comments and feedback from Ms. Jena Ball and Marty Keltz, as well as their teachers Mrs. Evon and Ms. Braasch.


6.  Public Audience
A key to project based learning is a public audience! This innovative project has two public components, kindness quilts to share with the community and a one act play to celebrate the learning adventure!  

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 8.28.44 AM.png


7.  Amplify

The quilt the kids created with the help of Mrs. Dana Doran and the paper quilt that scans to videos of them telling their stories via the @aurasma app are now on display at the Sarpy County Historical Museum in Bellevue, NE.  The quilts are a beautiful keepsake of their learning adventure and something to hang proudly in the school after it makes its rounds of museum visits!  I love how each child took part in the creation of the quilts.  It is awesome because they now feel that ownership and pride.  They will see it often and remember this wonderful learning experience this summer!

I loved hearing all the comments parents made as they used @auramsa app to scan the puppies on the paper quilt discover a video of his/her child reading the story they authored.  They remarked about how much their children loved coming to summer school, how their child overcame fear of dogs, how they love to write, how they are excited to read, and one even said they may send their child to school at Bellevue Elementary next year as a result of this wonderful experience!

“We’re thrilled to have the CritterKin quilts be a part of the quilts exhibit this year. Beyond their far-reaching impact in the classroom, the quilts offer a blend of one of America’s oldest traditions, alongside state of the art technology to provide a great educational experience,” said Ben Justman, Executive Director of the museum.  

Pencil, paper, copies of Lead with Your Heart by Jena Ball, Internet connection, fabric, scissors, crayons and colored pencils, iPads (if possible), time and patience

Apps Used:
Notability, Kidblog, Aurasma

1.  CritterKin website:
2.  Blog post by Mrs. Evon and Ms. Braasch
2. Kindness Quilt Story:
3. Blog post about the Quilt:
5. Student blogs about the project:

Lessons Learned:

Using a book like Lead with Your Heart is a great way to introduce topics like prejudice and kindness in a way for students to understand.

KidBlog is a wonderful way to improve writing skills because students are given an authentic audience.  When they notice that someone outside of their teacher or classmates (in this case, author Jena Ball) is reading their writing, students are more excited about writing.  This is a great way to discuss the importance of the editing and revision process.  After introducing KidBlog, it is nice to talk about commenting and providing constructive criticism to other writers.  You can also talk with students about WOW writing, meaning Worthy Of the Web.  

Freedom in the creation process added student ownership and passion for the project.
Teamwork and collaboration are essential!  Google Hangouts, Docs, and Calendar kept us all on track!

Each of us bring our own genius to the mix. In sharing all of our strengths, students benefit and the process of teaching and learning is joyful.


Written by Ann Feldmann (@annfeldmann1)


  1. It looks like the children learned a lot.... true digital natives.

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  3. It was my first time going to the Sarpy County Historical Museum and I wish I could have spent more time looking at all the quilts. I loved looking and listening to the students read about their dog they drew. What a neat project!

  4. What a great activity for using the app Aurasma! I can see many applications for this in my classroom: research projects, narrating favorite books, reading aloud writing, etc. Looking forward to it :)

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  6. What a great way for the students to tell their stories and have them all together as one.

  7. This is such a great collaboration. I am amazed at what we can do when we start to think outside the box and think bigger than us! Your project gives me good ideas about how I could use Aurasma in a meaningful way!

  8. Using Aurasma allowed students to be much more engaged in their learning and present themselves in a new way. The Kindness Quilt now can reach people outside the classroom.

  9. Sure enjoyed my visit to the Sarpy County Museum to see the kindness quilt. Loved seeing and hearing the children talk via Aurasma.

  10. I would have liked to spend more time in the museum although I've been there many times. The students seemed to enjoy the project. I'm sure they will remember their piece of information for quit some time.

  11. I enjoyed listening to the students' videos at the Sarpy County Museum. The Kindness Quilt allows the students to engage in the project and have ownership. The Aurasma app could be used for many curricular areas!!! Connecting globally engage in new and exciting ways!!!

  12. The students seemed to be really involved and serious about what they were doing. Two production issues that I would like to think about are looking into the camera and using a microphone to enhance audio volume.

  13. Awesome activity for the students to be a part of. It's great to see that the use of technology can be used to explore many different avenues and openings many doors for the students to see how their hard work can be put to great use and how other people can be introduced to it as well.

  14. It's amazing to hear how this project came to be and how it progressed from one Google Hangout. The level of engagement by the students shows in their completed project. How proud they must be to have their quilt in the museum!

  15. Enjoyed seeing the kids passion come out in the videos I saw. I had a few tech glitches getting going - but everything worked out in the end.

    I've been familiar with Aurasma for a couple of years and it is a very powerful App. I've been hesitant to do a project with it because of uncertainty about the commitment of time on the teacher end of things. While it seems simple, I often dive in head first into these things and find myself 10-20-30 hours later with a finished class product. I suppose with some TT4T assistance it might be something I could see myself doing.

  16. It still blows my mind to see how well young students adapt, understand, and work collaboratively in PBL! Students really focus, are actively involved, and find the whole learning process more meaningful when in comes to global learning!

  17. This is such a fun project! The kids have to be proud of the work they did, and they can share it with so many people!

  18. With the use of Aurasma, students that struggle with public speaking are able to practice those skills without having to talk in front of the entire class. Amazingly, they reach a much larger audience than they would have if they would of just presented in front of the own classroom. Amazing possibilities!

  19. Busiest day EVER at the Sarpy Country Museum??!!? It is so cool to see how a simple project can snowball into a global project. Without ever leaving their classroom, these students made a footprint out in the world!