Teen Tech Week 2014 Day 1: Crafting, Experimenting, and Learning by Doing with Embroidery Floss

Teen Tech Week Day 1, NHS Media Center

Teen Tech Week Day 1, NHS Media Center

We’re celebrating YALSA’s Teen Tech Week here at Norcross High and love this year’s DIY theme.   We’re doing a combination of high tech and low tech activities with students this week; students can sign up to come during their lunch/guided study period to participate in the activities while eating lunch and enjoying the company of their peers.

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On Monday, March 10, we spent three fun-filled hours creating friendship bracelets and tech cord and accessory covers with our students!  We provided some tutorial videos and print-outs of “how to” instructions, but together, we learned by doing.  Students shared their newly discovered tips and tricks as they experimented with different techniques and learned through experience.  Our teens loved having time during the day to relax, socialize, and create together, and we are thrilled that we can offer opportunities for playful learning during the day like this that can either spark interest or nurture existing ones.  The feedback was so positive that we now are working on incorporating a crafting area for students into our learning studio design for next year.

Resources for Day 1:

Twitter Chat + Socratic Circles

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A few weeks ago we co-facilitated write-around text on text conversations with Emily Russell’s Language Arts classes in the library.  The activity was such a hit with students and Ms. Russell that we decided to take our collaboration to the next level by combining a Twitter chat with Socratic circle discussions as the culminating conversation for the reading of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  I shared Ellen Hampton Filgo’s write-up of her experience as an embedded librarian via Twitter with Emily and Jennifer Lund, my co-librarian; we all felt this would be another great medium for “written” conversations.  Because she had been using Socratic circle discussions with her classes since August, Emily asked if we could combine the Twitter element with this method of class discussion. We all felt this would be a wonderful medium for incorporating a Twitter chat into the classroom.  After some date shuffling due to winter weather, we scheduled Friday, February 7 as the big day to debut this activity with our students.

We visited Emily’s classes the day before the chat to introduce the concept of a Twitter chat, share examples of real world Twitter chats, and then discussed Twitter chat manners/etiquette for constructive conversations.  We also reviewed the hashtags that Emily had developed for each class period since we wanted to capture each discussion with Storify.  Emily then reviewed Socratic circle protocols and explained how that would blend with the Twitter conversations.   Students prepared questions for the discussion by sharing their lines of inquiry via notecard with Emily, and these became the springboard of initial discussions to spark conversation and additional question the following day in class.

To accommodate students who did not have a smartphone or who did not comfortable using Twitter, we offered a couple of alternatives way of participating in the virtual discussion:

1.  Jennifer and I brought about 5 extra laptops to the room, and students could elect to use the laptops to Tweet with their own Twitter account.

2.  For students who did not want to use Twitter, we originally planned to have them pass us their questions via an index card.  However, we forgot that Emily has a set of mini-whiteboards that students use in class, so we had students write their initials and questions  or comments on the whiteboards.  When they were ready to “Tweet”, students held up their whiteboard, and either Jennifer or I acted as a scribe Tweeting their question or comment on their behalf along with their initials.

Emily had planned ahead of time which students would be in the initial inner circle; we posted this information on the whiteboard via a PowerPoint slide to help students get seated quickly.   Emily took  a few minutes to review the procedures for the day and to answer any last minute questions.  She also reminded students to show love for each other by helping classmates who might be struggling to jump into the conversation by asking them a direct question to give them a gentle entry point into the discussion.  Jennifer and I were in the room each period to actively participate in the Twitter chat to scribe Tweets for our “unplugged” students, to share resources of relevance to each class discussion in a responsive manner, and to interact with students in the back channel while photographing each class discussion.   I also wanted to project a real-time stream of Tweets so that all students could see the Twitter conversation in progress on the whiteboard.  Initially, I began by using TweetChat, but after one class, there seemed to be technical difficulties with the site, so I switched to tchat,io.  This alternative turned out to be a great choice, and I highly recommend it if you want a quick and easy way to follow a Twitter chat.

Much like the write-around text on text, there was an arc of energy building with the conversation both in the Socratic circles as well as the Twitter back channel.   Overall, each class felt energetic and engaged!  We were also excited that fellow Language Arts teacher and collaborative partner Darrell Cicchetti and two assistant principals came to observe what was happening—the adults were just as jazzed as the students!  One of the most interesting observations was to see students continuing to Tweet comments as they walked out the door.  Jennifer and I were busy the entire period for each class as “embedded librarians”, and in hindsight, it was definitely an advantage to have two of us to help facilitate the Twitter conversations and to help distribute laptops, answer student questions at the beginning of the period on how to follow the hash tag on their smartphones, and to act as scribes for our “unplugged” participants.

I was easily able to capture each class’s chat with Storify and embed those conversations into a LibGuide for this activity. You can also see photo sets for each class for the day on the LibGuide as well.

The following Monday, February 10, Emily collected student feedback—what she calls “glows” and “grows”—from students via notecards as we wanted student feedback and suggestions for the future from each class.  Jennifer took the notecards and compiled these highlights of student reflections:

  • Overwhelmingly, students enjoyed using Twitter (got lots of favorites, loves, fun).
  • “What I liked most about the Twitter chat was how we were able to be on our phones in class, but still related to school. Let’s do this more often!” -6th period student
  • “What I liked about the seminar was the way the class connected. It was fun because the tweeting allowed the class to be involved in an activity that they’re used to.” -2nd period
  • “Likes – being a part of the conversation without having to talk.” -2nd period
  • “The tweeting was also very academic because we were able to tweet when we weren’t in the inner circle. We should definitely do that again.” – 3rd period
  • “Shy people didn’t have to feel left out because they had the option of tweeting to earn points.” – 6th period
  • “People engaged inside and outside the circle.” – 6th period
  • “I liked the Twitter seminar because everyone was participating and no one was left out. I really did enjoy how when someone was in the inner circle the people that were in the outer circle were resounding to our conversation or giving opinions.” – 6th period
  • “I liked how the outer circle tweeted while the inner circle talked. It made sure that everyone was involved and gave everyone a chance to talk.” – -2nd period
  • “…everyone stated their opinions and disagreed in a respectful way.” – 2nd period
  • “Everybody was into it. It was really intense and good points were brought up. Everyone had something to say.” – 3rd period
  • “I felt that we were teachers on seeing each others’ insight of the Glass Castle. I would let people start off on a topic and let the conversations start.” – 3rd period
  • A few mentioned how fast-paced it was – some thought too fast.
  • “I didn’t like how fast we were moving from topic to topic. We also should have gotten more in depth with it.” – 6th period
  • “Super fun, fast paced; loved hearing and seeing everyones’s thoughts and comments.” – 3rd period
  • “Too fast. I feel like we rushed and there wasn’t enough time.” – 3rd period
  • “One thing I didn’t like was how fast-paced it was and it was kinda hard to read everybody’s tweets.” – 3rd period
  • “I basically loved and enjoyed everything from the desks were set up to how people were still tweeting after the bell rang.” 2nd period
  • “More seminars!” – 2nd period
  • “I would like to do it again. Maybe more than 1 a month. Usually we don’t talk a lot in class but Friday everybody wanted to talk and share their ideas.” – 2nd period

Overall, most of the “grows” comments were related to the oral discussion piece – wanting better questions or more time for discussion, people to speak louder.  We will also definitely think about how to address the concern about the pace of the discussion and strategies to help students adapt to that challenge.  A few were self-reflective in their communication skills; for example, “I will speak up next time” or “I will work on my discussion skills.”  The majority of students mentioned they liked that everyone participated, everyone was actively engaged, and getting to hear other people’s opinions/thoughts.

In closing, I think we all feel like this strategy was successful, and we are already looking forward to incorporating it into Emily’s classes again and hopefully encouraging other teachers in different content areas to try Twitter chats and Socratic circles as well.   Jennifer and I continue to be elated to participate as instructional partners and co-learners with our teacher and students in the library and in the classroom!  We sincerely appreciate our teachers and students being willing to try new strategies and to help us pilot these kinds of literacy practices together.

Literacies of Contemporary Civic Life Speaker Series-Metanarratives of Literacy Practices: Libraries as Sponsors of Literacies

I would like to thank friend and colleague Dr. Antero Garcia and the Colorado State University Department of English for the opportunity to participate in “The Literacies of Contemporary Civic Life” speaker series here in Fort Collins, Colorado.  I appreciate everyone who came out to hear the talk in person; we also captured video of the talk through a Google Hangout.   The joy in these experiences is not only having a chance to contribute to a conversation, but to also learn from others—my thinking has been pushed today through my interactions with the CSU English Department community as well as wonderful morning of discussion with fellow librarian Ally Garcia of the Clearview Library District.  I feel confident seed ideas that have been planted and nurtured today will find their way into future blog posts!

If you are interested in the ideas central to the talk, I encourage you to check out my ongoing series of blog posts from DMLcentral here; I will have a new blog post soon for this series that relates directly to some of the concepts in this talk.  Thanks to a historic winter storm that is battering Atlanta, my stay here is extended that will give me the chance to explore Fort Collins and relish some “found” writing time.

A Visit to the Lovett School Story Studio: Redesigning Learning Spaces, Rewriting Narratives of Learning

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the Lovett School Story Studio Project  in Atlanta, Georgia. This project, which I have been following since its inception a little over a year ago, began with these seed questions:

  • What might be a classroom of the future?
  • How can we design existing space to be more dynamic?
  • How might a space support different learning styles?
  • How can we be more intentional about this “third space”?

The original pilot (Phase I)  began with a secondary Language Arts teacher documenting the learning experiences of his classes and his journey as a teacher using a classroom redesigned to serve as a learning studio. (Please click here to view scenes of the original Story Studio classroom).  This experiment and prototype studio led to Phase II, “The Lovett Learning Ecology“, which is a cohort of nine teachers and two facilitators exploring the concept of teacher as designer with their students.  What learning ecology has evolved from the original prototype of the Story Studio?  In “The Role of Environment in Learning“, Lovett offers us this synopsis of the vision and work of the cohort:

If a classroom were no longer filled with immovable desks aligned in rows, could it become a space that invited–even required–student collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking? What if the front of the room disappeared and students owned the walls–writing, wondering, and questioning? What if the physical space could be transformed in seconds, flexing to support the moment’s work? What if lesson plans gave way to student learning experiences where the student, not just the teacher, designed the curriculum and the learning?

In conjunction with Cannon Design/The Third Teacher+, a school design consulting group in Chicago, and led by Laura Deisley and upper school dean of academic affairs, Marsha Little, the nine fellows have already engaged in significant professional development, as they focus on their role as designers–of curriculum, space, and student experiences. They’re teaching in renovated rooms with mobile desks, tables, and chairs; copious writable surfaces; and versatile technology.

As the traditional boundaries of room ownership and discipline-specific hallways fade, we’re already seeing innovative collaboration between teachers and a breaking down of boundaries that seemed etched in stone. Ultimately, our goal is simple and unchanged: offer the best possible learning experience to students as they become excellent collaborators, creators, critical thinkers, and communicators. We are excited to explore how that work might be more fully realized in the Model Classrooms as the year unfolds.

The six model classrooms whose physical spaces are crafted around these learning design drivers

  • Content:  what students know
  • Skills:  what students do
  • Mindsets:  how students think
  • Tools:  what students use to learn
  • People:  who students learn with
  • Environment:  where students learn

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Using the process of design thinking to ideate possibilities for what learning experiences framed around these design drivers might look like, the cohort and partner The Third Teacher of Cannon Design reconfigured the six model classrooms to reflect interest in these six scenarios for learning experiences:

  • Designing with Writable Surfaces
  • Designing for Inquiry
  • Designing with Micro Environments
  • Designing with Ubiquitous Technology
  • Designing with Flexibility and Agility
  • Designing for Learning Groups

My fellow Norcross High School librarian Jennifer Lund and I were interested in the Lovett model since their work aligned with our vision for not only redesigning our physical space and the kinds of learning experiences we want our library to facilitate, but to also help us recast our roles here as instructional partners more deeply embedded in the day to day work of teaching and learning with our faculty and students as we aspire to craft a more participatory culture of learning, a vision that also aligns with our school’s literacy plan.  Inspired by the work and vision of Brian Mathews at Virginia Tech and the model of Connected Learning, we envision the NHS library as a vibrant innovation hub of sorts to incubate, ignite and inspire larger change throughout our entire building, ultimately transforming learner experiences in a more seamless and cohesive way.   As part of our strategic plan for the revamping of our physical space, we have proposed housing a prototype space for teaching and learning where we work with faculty  and students to pilot, assess, model, and assess learning experiences.  We want to enable our teachers and students to take risks as learners, to reflect and learn with them, and to help then share and distribute those insights across multiple content areas for cross-pollination of innovative strategies.

Because our vision paralleled the design drivers and physical design elements embodied in the six prototype classrooms at Lovett, we reached out to my friend and colleague Laura Deisley, the Director of Strategic Innovation at Lovett, to see if we could come for a visit and to have a conversation about their work.  I know from my previous collaboration with Laura through Reimagine Ed that she is someone passionate about learning, libraries, and inquiry.  Laura and Upper School Dean of Academic Affairs, Marsha Little, graciously accepted our request.  Our visit yesterday, accompanied by friend and colleague Holly Frilot, Media Instructional Coach for our school district, was nothing short of energizing.
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As I watched students actively participating in learning experiences and discovering how the shift in physical space shifted teachers’ pedagogical stances, I literally quivered with excitement and joy—seeing how such simple yet profound changes were yielding impact and transformative learning experiences for both teachers and students was such a tremendous joy.  In my previous experiences and now here at Norcross, I have sought to break down the artificial barriers that seem to separate libraries from their communities and create siloed learning experiences.  The Lovett model reminds me that this scale of change is possible, scale that is needed to help our school grow into a learning community that embraces shared ownership of learning and connects contexts of academic driven, interest powered, and peer/mentor supported learning.  Because the teachers float through the day from one model classroom to another, they do not have a teacher desk or other teacher-oriented paraphernalia plastered all over the room. Instead, the student handprint is embedded in each room with student created content; I find Lovett’s concept of learning spaces co-curated by students to be quite powerful and participatory as it invites collaboratively created content and honors fluidity in the roles of experts and novices by positioning teachers and students as co-teachers and co-learners.  The purposeful and contextualized application of technology, rooted in learner needs and sound instructional design, was also refreshing.  I heartily applaud the cohort’s willingness to engage in this kind of messy, organic work and to grow from the friction/cognitive dissonance that comes from being outside of one’s comfort zone.
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Hallmarks of these spaces included:

  • Variations in furniture styles and functions as well as heights for flexible seating and multiple types of collaborative work.  Soft seating as well as hard seating were incorporated into the rooms.
  • Writable surfaces:  tinted glass affixed to the wall, mobile whiteboards on wheels (a favorite of the students and staff), IdeaPaint walls, writable tabletops.  (note:  Laura advises that if you are in an older building that has had multiple layers of paint or less than ideal drywall, you might want to consider the glass surfaces or mobile whiteboards (6 feet in length is optimal) since ghosting and the durability of the paint could potentially be problematic.
  • “Zones” of rooms for smaller groups or paired conferencing.
  • Wireless infrastructure to support 1:1 computing and/or BYOD
  • No teacher desk taking up the space.
  • Students and teachers capture the student work each period with their cameras; Evernote is also a great app for capturing and sharing the content on the walls.
  • Strategic lecture designed to facilitate, rather than dominate, the conversation, conversation that is fueled by students being contributors and active participants.  Some teachers also time themselves to limit themselves to short chunks of lecture at a time.
  • Rooms feel clean yet cozy; they are quickly and easily transformed since the space is open and supports transitions and reconfigurations of seating/workspaces/students.
  • Time for individual reflection and work as well as active, collaborative time with small and whole group discussions/conversations for learning.

Experiencing this learning ecology firsthand affirms our belief that our library can be the Story Studio prototype learning space for Norcross High; we see it as a springboard to future work in developing and working with a cohorts here to scale the pilot and more explicitly situate our work in the context of our classrooms.  We are deeply appreciative that our principal, Mr. Will Bishop, supports this vision and the kind of work we want to do; we also appreciate the encouragement and feedback from assistant principal John Decarvalho and our LSTC (Local School Technology Coordinator) Dr. Victoria Dodd.  By being a catalyst for designing learning experiences with our teachers and students that will meet our learners at their point of need, we can expand the possibilities for our library as both a learning space and a change agent that creates more diverse entry points for all learners, helps young people leverage the knowledge across multiple learning boundaries, and honors multiple ways of learning.  We also see this an opportunity to more deliberately examine and expand the ways our library functions as a sponsor of literacy here at Norcross High.  Ultimately, we hope to crowdsource with our students and faculty our own “learning playbook” that we can share with others as we engage in conversations for rewriting and composing new narratives of learning for everyone who is part of our learning community.

A heartfelt thank you Laura, Marsha, the faculty, and students of Lovett for so generously sharing their wisdom and for giving us the opportunity to experience their learning ecology firsthand!

Resources of Interest:

New DML Post: Narratives and Metanarratives of Libraries as Sponsors of Literacies

I have authored a new post that is part of a larger ongoing series I’m composing and researching for DMLCentral.  In this second post, I do some additional foregrounding of inquiry and reflection that will inform research and exploration of how this concept plays out in different kinds of libraries and communities.  These concepts and the fieldwork I hope to do resonate deeply for me, and I hope they will for you, too.