PBL @ Shepardson STEM Elementary

creativespaceThis year Shepardson STEM elementary has added another facet to its approach to inquiry-based learning: Problem-Based-Learning. A team of primary, intermediate, and encore teachers attended a week of hands-on training with their partner school, STEM Launch in Denver to experience the concept first-hand. Now their efforts have circled back around to the classroom. Each grade level has identified a problem that pertains to their specific grade level standards and posed it to their students. Then each class spent six weeks investigating the problem, brainstorming solutions, and preparing to pitch their solutions to a panel of community experts with a stake in the solution. Here are the problems they’ve tackled this semester:

 school_logoKindergarten: learning to work together

First Grade: safety concerns in the drop-off/pick-up lanes

Second Grade: library design partnership with the Ft Collins Public Library (bond passed November)

Third Grade: looking at ways to mitigate the impact of the drought we’ve been experiencing

Fourth Grade: reducing the amount of waste produced at Houska Garage/Dellenbach Chevrolet/Lee’s Cyclery

Fifth Grade: problems related to energy consumption at the CSU Mountain Campus

 Shepardson PBL/STEM Highlights:

Students had the opportunity to meet with experts as they gathered information to make intelligent decisions. For example, Second Graders got a virtual tour of the Council Tree Public Library to see features of the latest design. They were able to ask questions to help them with their design ideas. The following week, the architects who had designed the library came to school and met with the students to explore the connection between imagination and design to create unique and welcoming spaces.

Problem based learning is providing relevance for what students are learning in school.

Why is it important to be able to communicate, to read, to solve problems, to collaborate?

An interview with Wayne Thornes, Assistant Principal, Shepardson STEM Elementary School

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AP Wayne Thornes

When students are working together to solve these authentic problems, engaged in working not just with their peers and teachers, but also with people throughout our community, they begin to make the connections between what they are learning and why that material is important to know.

PBL has provided a meaningful avenue for our wider community to become involved in our students’ education – not just as volunteers to support the teacher, but as experts sharing their own passions and knowledge with students.
We’ve just started PBL, but we’re already seeing the following benefits:
  • high levels of engagement from students
  • an increase in student confidence
  • higher levels of collaboration & cooperation
  • better communication skills
  • more real-life experiences for students/increased experiential learning
  • increased community engagement
It’s too soon to see this, but we’re hoping to see:
  • higher achievement
  • fewer disciplinary issues
  • fewer absences
One of our parents, after watching PBL happen (with kids that weren’t hers!) said: “I’ve been flying high knowing that our school is focused on problem based learning and that our six and seven-year-olds are seeking actionable solutions to real day-to-day puzzles. What better preparation can they have for growing up?”

Computer Science Education Week

#CSEdWeek #EdTech

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Computer Science Education Week starts off today (12/5 – 12/11) and PSD students and teachers will be exploring computer science concepts and activities.  Finding the right computer science activity for  students can be a challenge but thankfully there are many great resources available to get teachers and students coding.

Code.org® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and they have been a pioneer in promoting CSEdWeek.  hour-of-code-logoAlong with all of the tutorials, resources, and lessons that they have at their website, they have also posted several new tutorials on the Hour of Code website as well.  These tutorials are a great way to introduce computer science to students at any grade level.

According to Code.org computer science drives innovation throughout the US economy,  but only 33 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation. There are currently 517,393 open computing jobs nationwide. Last year, only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce.  Let’s work to get our students excited about computer science!

If you are interested in participating in CSEdWeek or would like to do an Hour of Code with your students, check out the resources that we have linked in this post.  You can also contact a PSD Ed Tech Facilitator to help with co-planning or co-teaching a fun and exciting lesson for #CSEdWeek!

Code.org – Tutorials, teachers resources and curriculum materials for teaching computer science in the classroom

Hour of Code – Custom made applets and tutorials for teachers and students to participate in the Hour of Code.  Tutorials are searchable by grade and ability level.

Scratch – From MIT, Scratch is a block based platform to get students of all ages coding.  Some of the coding tutorials on other websites are made with Scratch.  Check them out at the source!

Tynker – Another online platform with built in tutorials and applications that will get students excited about coding!

Super Connected 2016

Super Connected Conference

The Education Technology Team from Poudre School District, Weld RE-4 and Thompson Valley schools collaborated to present the 2nd, biannual, Super Connected Conference.  If you missed the conference in November you can join us for our second Super Connected Conference on February 4th, 2017 @ Fossil Ridge High School.  Check this link for more information.

Check out the posts from our #COSuperConnected hashtag from the conference.

Teachers were engaged by over 40 different session titles, a keynote speakers and LOTS Of prizes.  Some of the highlights from the Super Connected Conference were:

1) FRHS Robotics team showcased their t-shirt shooting robot and spoke about the process of building the robot from the ground up. Teachers were impressed by students efficacy and know-how.

2) Many presenters brought students to the table to help teachers learn about coding, robotics, Thinglink, and many exciting projects during lunch.

3) At the closing address, students participating in the Hack-a-thon and Designathon spoke to the audience about the things they were create to boost health and wellness for students in our community.

Tweets from the conference:

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Designathon

An event for students age 9-14 to solve challenges using the design thinking protocols.  Some highlights from Designathon include

  • Students brainstormed ideas for solving an important health and wellness problem facing our community.  Problems included lack of sleep, too much sugar, student wellness centers, anxiety around homework, and the transition between 5th and 6th grade and 8th and 9th grade.
  • Heidi Olinger from Pretty Brainy and Robin Steele of Colorado School of Mines helped to lead students through the design process.
  • Students were able to prototype their ideas using a variety of materials, including 3D printers with the help of Jamie Leben from Loveland CreatorSpace.
  • We are grateful to all of our incredible mentors from Otterbox, CSU, and FRCC, and our panel experts who evaluated the solutions – Deanna Scott, Stephen Krausse, and Kim McMonagle.

Learn more about the Designathon in February here.

Hackathon

The Hackathon engaged students aged 10-18 in developing solutions using coding. The solutions were to challenges in the mental health areas.  Students designed apps, websites and computer programs to help students with mental health issues.

We had 27 total students. Two groups from high school, two groups from middle school, and one group from elementary. The  students looked at problem sets themed around health and wellness. They worked in team to pick a problem and then design a solution. Three teams stayed for the entire time and compete at the final presentations that were open to parents, guardians, and friends. All three teams did amazing and received a standing ovation from the audience for all that they accomplished.

Languages students coded in throughout the event were:

  • HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Scratch (elementary)

Technology students used:

  • Brackets, Visual Studio Code, Pivot Animator, Github, Atom, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Premiere, Bluefish
  • Prezi, MS paint, Boscaieoil, Unity, visual studios

 The winners weimg_6095re: Gamify. Check out their winning presentation here

 Learn more about the Hackathon in February here.

 

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Attend or Present @ Super Connected in February, here are some details…

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Stop Motion Intensive @ Polaris

img_1695In late September, students from Polaris Expeditionary Learning School in grades 6-12 participate in week-long intensives. These intensives take students all over Colorado, the country and the city and involve various themes. One of the themes of the week was “Tinkering with Time” in which students wrote, filmed, and edited a stop motion movie similar to the Lego Movie or as some of us may remember, Gumby.

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What did the students do?

Students spent two days story boarding and designing their sets and setup for capturing images. Students spent Wednesday filming, some students taking almost 2000 pictures using iMotion or Hue HD webcams and Animation Studio.  Thursday was spent editing using district-provided subscriptions to WeVideo, Adobe Premier and iMotion. Most of the materials used were purchased from student fees, direct donations and mill-levy funded devices like iPads and WeVideo subscriptions from the Educational Technology department.

Students describe the experience…

Students culminated the week by watching their videos on the big screen at the Lyric Cinema in old town Fort Collins. Each student was asked to discuss what they learned, what they liked and what they would do differently in the future.

Colton: “proud of doing something different” (than a normal school day)

Damacio: “I enjoyed story boarding and preparing for the project most”

Miller: “if I could change one thing it would be to be more patient, subtle movements would have made a more fluid animation”

Joe Gawronski (Polaris principal) stated he “think(s) the best part is watching a sixth grader work with a sophomore.

Kevin Denton (Polaris science teacher) enjoyed “watching people push themselves. It was a really difficult, slow project and I am proud of everyone’s efforts.”

Where can I watch the final products?

Untitled drawing (22)Student videos were posted to a YouTube playlist that is available here.  Please feel free to leave comments for students.

Please contact an EdTech facilitator if you are interested in recreating this experience with your students.

EcoWeek & EdTech | Science Probes in the Field…

EcoWeek & Science Probesimg_1652

Fifth grade students from across Poudre School District are using the tools of the professionals. EdTech has purchased kits to use when you attend EcoWeek.  EdTech has 4 kits (2 weather, 1 energy and 1 water) that can be used with students of all ages.

 

Each kit comes with customizable activities designed to reinforce the 5th grade science content standards.

 

 

 

Weather & Water kits address standards such as:

  • Analyze and interpret data identifying ways Earth’s surface is constantly changing through a variety of processes and forces such as plate tectonics, erosion, deposition, solar influences, climate, and human activity

Energy Kit will address standards such as:

  • Show that electricity in circuits requires a complete loop through which current can pass
  • Develop and communicate a scientific explanation addressing a question of local relevance about resources generated by the sun or Earth.

What we can do with students…

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The typical lesson flow is as follows

  1. Planning with EdTech to customize your activities
  2. EdTech will visit your site and set up a GPS/Science probe course in your schoolyard
  3. EdTech will travel to EcoWeek and set up the GPS and Science probe course
  4. EdTech can revisit data with students once back in your classroom, comparing the schoolyard and mountainous data sets.

How to reserve kits

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Follow these simple instructions to reserve using the PSD Curriculum/FOSS library system.

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Join other PSD Teachers at the International Society for Technology in Education Conference in Denver!

Attend ISTE2016 with PSD

An amazing opportunity to connect, be inspired and inspire others is coming to Denver Colorado this summer!  Join many other PSD educators and attend ISTE2016.  Choose from over 1,000 sessions to attend, connect with professionals, and ask questions of vendors.

Learn more by checking out the ISTE Conference website and grab the app for your iOS device or Android device here. In my experience the app is much easier to browse sessions and decide which day/sessions to attend.

Interested in Attending? Untitled drawing (22)

The PSD Educational Technology department is covering the cost of registration for two representatives from each school to attend 1 day of ISTE! If you are interested in this opportunity, please speak with your principal and ask them to contact Kim Lodge (490-3096) to submit names of those who will be attending ISTE2016. Check Avatar for professional development offerings for attending ISTE and contributing to a collaborative note-taking community.

co-largeflagColorado Represents Educational Technology

Teachers, EdTech Facilitators and administrators from across Poudre School District will be presenting unique ideas to the international community at ISTE2016. Look for presentations from Sarah Weeks, Tracey Winey, Kim McMonagle, Mike Foster and Heather Crosser at ISTE2016.

You’ll also want to check out the ISTE Playground which will showcase Colorado schools, including schools from Poudre School District. Contact Kim McMonagle if you are interested in curating a display with students that highlights digital age teaching and learning that is happening in your classroom. The ISTE Playground will take place on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 from 9am-1pm.  cr

As an added benefit to our Colorado attendees, Innovative Educators Colorado (InnEdCO) will be providing tickets to attend the Colorado Rockies vs. Toronto Blue Jays on June 28th, 2016.  Check out InnEdCO and follow them on Twitter: @InnEdCO.

 

Why I am Attending?

edtech fb picAs a member of the EdTech team for Poudre School District I am fortunate to attend conferences, learn and connect from some of the best minds in the country.  This conference will expose me to an international network of professionals, and I am interested in gaining that perspective.

Many of the sessions I plan to attend will revolve around a few themes.  Those themes include Project Based Learning (PBL); the use and creation of  virtual reality (VR) as well as science instruction and how technology can enhance instructional strategies and student achievement.

Lastly, I am attending to connect with fellow PSD educators and administrators.  I look forward to asking tough questions and challenging our current state of technology integration in classrooms.

Need more information?

Please contact the EdTech facilitator who partners with your school.  You can find that information on the contact page at edtech.psdschools.org.

Around the World in 30 Minutes

This spring, many PSD middle and high school students were afforded an innovative experience through Google Pioneer Expeditions. The immersive virtual realiIMG_0280ty (VR) technology creates a memorable experience to connect kids to their learning.

At Poudre High School, Jen Musci’s English students experienced the world of Syrian Refugee children. These students, having no first-hand experience with civil war, were shocked by what they saw. Students discussed the living conditions, education, even the facial expressions of the people they saw. Afterward, they completed an essay on the crisis in Syria, using their VR experience as a source of information.

IMG_0339At Boltz Middle School, science teachers Ashley Rakiecki and Kathleen Scandary used Google Pioneer Expeditions to observe animal adaptations in the rain forests of Borneo. There were lots of “ooohs” and “aaahhhs” when students spotted a python lurking in the leaves. Students were tasked with finding other creatures hiding in the landscape, camouflaged by their adaptations.

Many experts predict that virtual reality is on it’s way to becoming a prominent feature in many modern classrooms. With the ability to be fully immersed in the content, students are better able to understand and retain what they are learningIMG_0384. VR creates a deeper, more meaningful lesson than an article or a video can provide; the students feel like they are there. Teachers have limitless ability to bolster their curriculum with these enriching VR experiences.

French students at Rocky Mountain High School toured the Palace of Versaille without ever leaving their seats. “Imagine how much money it cost to build this place,” one student exclaimed, peering up at a crystal chandelier through the Google Cardboard viewer. For many students, this is a learning experience that could not have happened without this revolutionary VR technology.
While Google Pioneer Expeditions wraps up the nationwide tour of their product, here in PSD, the EdTech team has begun gathering other VR tools. PSD TV has collaborated with EdTech to create 360video using GoPro cameras (look for them on YouTube soon!) iPods and POWIS viewers are available for checkout to teachers to use with students. Contact EdTech to learn more about the possibilities!

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Renewable Energy Data

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#edtech #edreform #renewableenergy

Students in elementary and middle school science classes across Poudre School District have been using Vernier Software & Technology probes and sensors. These sensors enable teachers and students to collect authentic data on computers for deep and detailed analysis. The data collected is accurate and better demonstrates to students how scientists perform and analyze similar experiments in the real world.

Students at Dunn, Bennett, and McGraw elementary schools are using GPS units to find weather investigation stations in the wilderness.  Students are collecting data and making conclusions based on that data. Rather than doing a lab that mimics being outside, studying weather, students are actually going out and collecting the data themselves.
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Middle School students at Lesher and Cache la Poudre have been investigating the factors that affect wind and solar power generation. The data they collected ranges from how the blade angle on a wind turbine can affect the energy output, to how the distance from a light source changes effectiveness of a solar panel. Teachers are making instructions interactive and easy to follow using Pear Deck, which allows for more open-ended inquiry investigations and student-driven learning.

If you are interested in checking out science probes and getting help with their use in your classroom contact the Ed Tech team. Elementary teachers it is no too late to sign up in Avatar for the Elementary Vernier training on Nov 9 (4th grade) and 10 (3rd and 5th grade).  IMG_0201 - Copy

Staircase Piano @ FCHS

Some music students at Fort Collins High School performed an original song in an original way earlier this month. Adam McBride, from the Ed Tech team, visited John Hermanson’s Beginning Music Theory classroom and helped them convert an entire staircase into a working piano. Using a Makey Makey circuit kit, a computer with some drum beats, and a strategy about who would play which part, the students used the staircase piano to play an original composition they had written for Mr. Hermanson’s IMG_0211class.

The students worked hard and collaborated throughout the composition process. They were able to apply some engineering skills to create an instrument they could all play at the same time. Congratulations to these students for creating a great piece of music, and sharing it with the world in a unique way!

Participate in the Hour of Code

#CSEdWeek #edtech #edapps

As part of Computer Science Education Week, December 8-14, you and your students can participate in the “Hour of Code”.  The Hour of Code is a one hour introduction to computer science.  It’s designed to make coding feel more accessible to anyone, at any age level, and teach the basics. Learning how to code can be a valuable resource in today’s information economy.

Here are some resources to get you started in participating in an Hour of Code the week of December 8th.

Khan Academy – Great tutorials already built in a platform that is familiar to teachers and students.

Code.org – Much of the site is already set up to make it easy to participate in an Hour of Code.  There are additional tutorials built in to continue learning into the future.

Codecademy – Scroll down to the “30 minute Goals” at the bottom of the page for some quick tutorials to get your students started.

These are just a few resources to get you started.  Feel free to contact anyone on the PSD Instructional Technology team to get more information or help setting up your own “Hour of Code”!