Fun

Circuits, Curiosity, and Inquiry: Physics and Team NHS Learning Studio

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Last Friday was an especially exciting day for all of us here in the NHS Learning Studio as we partnered with Physics teacher Joe Pepitone to create learning opportunities for inquiry and student exploration of circuits.    Below, Joe explains the seeds of this collaboration, reflections on the lab activities, and the impact of a team effort to create “centers” and “extension” circuit activities to extend and challenge the principles behind the primary circuit lab.  I encourage you to take the time to listen to Joe’s in-depth reflections on processes and insights from our experiences.

Overview of Our Day of Fun and Learning with Circuits

Joe began by explaining the paper circuit lab that was the starting point for students and the learning activity to demonstrate learning targets.

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Students then self-formed groups to do the first lab where the goal was to create a paper circuit that would result in the LED bulb lighting up.

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Once they had demonstrated they had created a working paper circuit with a working light bulb, students could then move through our two extension and enrichment centers facilitated by LSTC Logan Malm (a former science teacher) and Jennifer Lund (my fellow librarian).  Logan worked with students using the MakeyMakey kits while Jennifer helped students work with the squishy circuits (we had purchased our materials for these last year as part of our maker activities for Teen Tech Week 2014).  These “centers” were designed to provide students additional hands-on opportunities to further their exploration of circuits; these were both a big hit with students, and many were interested in doing more labs using these materials and visiting the media center to utilize them for fun.  We loved hearing them think aloud and problem solve together; many of them did not want to leave when the bell rang!

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We were even joined by several of our assistant principals and fellow science teachers—I think it was very powerful for our students to see adults learning side by side with them.

We are deeply appreciative to Joe as well as Logan for this kind of collaborative experience that ultimately benefited our students and elevated learning to a new level; as Joe reflected in the video earlier, having other partners to help facilitate an activity like this enables him as a teacher to meet students at points of need and for instruction to be differentiated.  These partnerships, fluidity in expertise and novice, co-learning, and energy are the very kinds of learning experiences Jen and I have envisioned for our library learning studio.  To see it blossom and to be part of the vision become reality is joyful and exciting.  We cannot wait to see what new partnerships might be inspired with other faculty and community members by this collaborative work!

See more of our photos and videos here.

Musical Book Tasting+Padlet: A Recipe for Participation

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Last week, Jennifer Lund and I tried a new variation on our musical book tasting activity we piloted in January.  Our LSTCs, Hope Black and Logan Malm, wrote a grant for a set of Chromebooks for teachers and students to use with a focus on cloud based applications and resources.  After consultation with ESOL teacher Dr. Melinda Byrne, we decided to have students post to a class Padlet wall for their book tasting activity using the Chromebooks rather than the traditional paper ticket we had used with other classes.   Because these classes were a little smaller than what we usually see and because these classes had used Padlet in the classroom, we felt this would be a meaningful opportunity to use the Chromebooks with students; we were also curious to see how public responses to books during the book tasting might impact student interest and engagement.

When students arrived, we helped them log into the Chromebooks and the student wireless network.  We then helped them navigate to the LibGuide for our book tasting and the Padlets we had created for each class section.   Finally, we reviewed the procedures for the book responses on the Padlet and incorporated the See Think Wonder structure since these classes utilized it frequently as part of Dr. Byrne’s classroom instruction.   Our initial example response was in paragraph format, but after our first class, we realized that numbering responses made more since to align with the response directions we provided students and we adjusted our examples for the subsequent classes accordingly.

We then jumped into the activity with the same structure as before.   We noticed two big differences with this variation of book tasting:

1.  Students seemed to take more care with their responses since they were visible to peers as opposed to private with the paper “tickets” we used.   I’m always intrigued by the private/public (both positive and negative) aspects of student responses.
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2.  Students seemed more focused on the reading during the “reading time” and not worried about trying to complete the responses.

Dr. Byrne shared these reflections on the activity with her four sections of classes:

This was such a fun day for our ESOL kids! Each student was able to “taste” a sample of several books during one class period and provide thoughts and comments about each book.

Padlet provides a great opportunity to publicly share the thoughts and ideas from EVERY student. Many times, reticent students are hesitant to speak aloud in class, but they are all comfortable responding electronically! This was a really unifying activity, and it allowed some our less vocal students to shine as brightly as those who are comfortable in the spotlight.

Incorporating the See-Think-Wonder MTV routine into the exploration process took the book tasting to a higher level.

The use of Chrome books was a fantastic way to ensure that all students were able to have a positive and engaging experience during the book tasting. Many of my students don’t have cell phones, so activities that incorporate individual cell phone responses alienate a portion of my student population. Using Chrome books allowed for full participation.

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One of the terrific elements of Padlet is the ability to export the responses in multiple formats; whether you are using the Padlet responses as a formative or summative assessment, the ability to archive student work is a tremendous asset, particularly if you are looking at student growth over time.

The only challenge we encountered was with the log-in process with the Chromebooks.  Because we are not a Google Education school at this time, we are not able to do the simple one-step process.   The alternate procedure for logging in students and connecting them to the student wireless network, while not difficult, does involve several mouseclicks than can be potentially confusing for students, especially those new to the Chromebooks.  Aside from that, the Chromebooks worked beautifully, and we’re excited to explore other ways to utilize these as mediums for learning with our teachers and students.  A heartfelt thank you to Dr. Byrne and all her students for such a terrific day—their enthusiasm is truly energizing!  We also are grateful to our colleagues Hope and Logan for helping us facilitate the activity and their support of learning in multiple formats.

Tools of the Trade: My Essentials for Teaching, Learning, Collaborating, and Sharing

I rarely write posts about tech tools in recent years, but I thought I would briefly share some of my “go to” resources that have become an integral part of my work since coming to Norcross High in August of 2013.  These apps and devices are essential to the work I’m doing related to teaching and learning, especially for capturing student work whether it is for archival purposes, assessment, collaborative work between classes, or to merely document learning activities and experiences in our work with teachers and students.  They also help me collect qualitative data, celebrate all aspects of student learning, and interact with both students and teachers.  I’ll also share our essential non-technology oriented tools that we can’t live without here in the NHS Library Learning Studio. These tools and mediums are also helping me document the ways we and our students are using writing and composing multiple kinds of “texts” for thinking, processing, and creating in the library.  

Scanner Pro App ($2.99)

I’m excited to have such a robust app, especially that runs on my older iPhone 4s.   Originally, I bought the Scanner Pro app a little over a year ago because our library copy machine was broken and I needed a fast way to capture and print student submitted book passages for the very first write-around we did with Darrell  Cicchetti in December 2013.   This app does surprisingly high quality resolution scans of any kind of document; I love that I can capture these scans as image files or as PDF files.  You can scan and edit multiple pages into one master document in color, black and white, or both; these features are  wonderful when you are needing to capture collections of student work by class.

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You can also edit files at any time and make adjustments such as rotating the scan to a portrait or landscape orientation very easily.

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You can also import photos quickly from any of your camera rolls on your iPhone:

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I initially was uploading the files to my Evernote account, but I quickly changed to sharing my scanned work to Google Drive.  The learning curve is gentle, and my scanned files always upload to my Google Drive account quickly. Once they are in Google Drive, I can download the files to my laptop (and then upload to my blog or a LibGuide) or share the files publicly using the share feature in Google Drive or upload quickly to my school SlideShare account as needed.

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You can name your files when uploading so that you can identify your files easily as well.

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I have come to rely heavily on this tool as we have been collecting more student samples of work and doing more work with learning artifacts from written conversation strategies (see my blog for many previous posts on this topic). On a personal note, this app was invaluable last fall when I was handling real estate business for my father after my mother passed away—I used it frequently to capture PDFs of documents for Dad’s new home loan and loved not being tethered to a traditional scanner.  Whether I’m using it for professional or personal reasons, ScannerPro allows me to capture scans in a nimble and seamless way.

Vine

Vine is another wonderful app I’ve been using with increasing regularity during the last year.  Like many of you, I use it to capture quick snapshots of daily life in the library and of different learning activities and processes; it’s easy to share the videos to your social media streams and to embed into a blog or LibGuide page.   It is simple to use and again, it works seamlessly on my older iPhone.

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I also love connecting with other librarians on Vine and seeing their creative uses of this app!

Nikon Coolpix S6500

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This is my personal camera that I bought on clearance last summer.  It features wifi connectivity and some fun built-in photo editing tools (see below):

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While I primarily use this camera to get higher resolution photos of activities and life in the library, I have also discovered it is great for videoing interviews with teachers and students as it captures high quality recordings that I can then upload to YouTube and then edit in YouTube.

My iPhone

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My iPhone is nearly always in my hand here at work.  Whether I’m Tweeting with a class (see hashtag #rustyq or see this post), capturing student work with Vine or Scanner Pro, taking photographs, texting with a teacher to conference quickly or touch base about an activity we’re doing together, or accessing documents via Google Drive, my iPhone is an essential piece of technology I use to document what learning looks like in the library.

Essential Non-Tech Tools

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If you’ve been reading my blog over the last year, you know that butcher paper, index cards, assorted sizes of post-it notes, markers, Sharpies, and dry-erase boards have increasingly become robust mediums for thinking, composing, sharing, and learning with our students here in the NHS Library Learning Studio.  These artifacts are the springboard for the rich work Jennifer Lund and I have been doing with students and teachers.  I am continually awed and inspired by the ways that these “unplugged” modes for learning generate critical thinking and rich conversations (written and verbal) with our students.

Your Turn

What are your essential go to tools you are using as part of your professional work with patrons or students, particularly ones that might not have been part of your daily work just a few years ago?

 

 

Processing Texts, Ideas, and New Understandings with Twitter Chats + Socratic Seminar

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Jennifer Lund and I had the opportunity to partner this month with IB Theory of Knowledge teachers Dan Byrne and Dr. James Glenn.  Our instructional design challenge was to think about how we might help student process the first chapters of an advanced text, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why, by Dr. Richard Nisbett.  Inspired by our previous efforts with Socratic circles and Twitter chat with Emily Russell’s Language Arts classes, we all agreed this medium would help us meet our student learning targets.  After two short meetings and one extended planning session, Dan and James organized three student groups (Groups A, B, and C)  that combined students from both of their sections since our learning activities would take place during a period on a “block” in which both sections had the opportunity to meet together.  Dan and James designed the three groups to help us facilitate inner/outer circle groups for a Socratic seminar over the readings that would also incorporate participation through a Twitter chat.   Jennifer and I developed the discussion hashtag, the Twitter Chat etiquette mini-lesson, and the logistics for organizing our space in the library learning studio to accommodate such a large group.  Jennifer and I also served as co-facilitators during the chat by participating in the Twitter discussion, providing technical assistance to students, and helping students with the logistics of following the chat.  We also captured an archive of the Tweets with Storify and photos of the #toknisbett chat.

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The student response to the activity exceeded all of our expectations, and we were delighted that student reacted so positively to the experience in their “grows and glows” reflections!  Students enjoyed hearing multiple perspectives and opportunities to participate in the discussion, the Twitter stream, the organization of the 70 minute activity, and the physical space and setup for our Twitter chat/Socratic circle discussion.  They overwhelmingly loved having the opportunity for organic and free-flowing discussion; many expressed a desire to have a longer period of time for inner circle talk.

In response to student feedback, we’ll think about how to better incorporate the Twitter stream into the face to face discussion as well as help students interact more in the virtual learning space; we’ll also help students think through strategies for helping “quiet” students speak up more and how they can support those who might feel awkward jumping into the face to face discussion.

In the video below, Dan and James share their perspective on our collaboration process, their reflections on the learning activity, and their thoughts on how this mode of learning benefited students.  I invite you to take time to watch the video as they share their rich and nuanced perspective:

We are already planning our next variation of a Twitter chat and Socratic circle that will incorporate our write around text on text strategies and a gallery walk to help students generate the talking points and questions for the next discussion.  We will also continue to think about how these strategies help us elevate writing/composing processes and literacies as part of inquiry and visible thinking. We would love to hear how others are using Twitter chats and Socratic seminars or something similar to help students take an inquiry stance on a text and/or topic!

Written Conversation Strategies PD with Our NHS Faculty

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My fellow librarian Jennifer Lund and I were delighted yesterday to have the opportunity to do an hour PD session on Harvey Daniels’ written conversation strategies with our NHS Faculty.  Roughly 25 teachers, our principal, and one of our assistant principals attended the session; the mix of different departments, including Modern Languages, Science, Math, Language Arts, ESOL, Special Education, Social Studies, and Health and Physical Education, created a wonderful energy as all of our participants were truly engaged and enthusiastic!   This session was just one of many tasty offerings on our “Connect and Engage” staff development menu jointly offered by the Media and Technology Team with our awesome colleagues Logan Malm and Hope Black (our building Local School Technology Coordinators (LSTCs).

We kicked off the session by doing an actual write around text on text activity around the current hot topic of Ebola.  Our texts for annotating and discussing included:

  • Print copies of news articles
  • A PBS NewsHour video teachers could watch
  • Infographics
  • Photographs
  • A curated Storify from the Cleveland Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com
  • Charts

After reviewing the protocols for the first part of the activity, our faculty dove right into quietly annotating the different “texts” and responding to their peers’ comments and questions.

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After roughly 12 minutes of quiet writing, we then invited teachers select a table and to sit with at 2-3 other people.  Teachers were invited to look over the content (the texts and the responses from their peers) at their table and to discuss what stood out to them.  We then gave each group one of our Verb easels and asked them to summarize what they saw, thought, and wondered as well as questions they had about the content at their table.

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We then invited each group to do a brief large group share out:

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We took some time to answer questions about what we had just done from teachers, including some incredibly thoughtful questions about differentiating for different learner needs and ideas for scaffolding the activity.   We then did a short presentation of about 20 minutes to outline best practices, tips and strategies, and profiles of how we had utilized this learning structure with two of our faculty.

We were thrilled to get immediate positive feedback yesterday and have already signed up one teacher to come to the library next week to try the strategy!  Our day has been made today by several emails from participants sharing how much they enjoyed the session and how they are planning to implement the strategy in their classes soon.   We all look forward to seeing what collaborative partnerships may grow from this session and thinking about new ways to support our teachers and students through this learning structure!  We also want to extend a heartfelt  thank you to our colleagues Hope and Logan as well as our administration for supporting us and for their encouragement.

Below are our slides for the entire session: