learning

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.

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:

Connecting and Assessing Individualized Independent Reading with Paired Book Chats, Collaborative Thinking, and Big Group Share

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Last year, Jennifer Lund and I worked with a small group of Language Arts teachers to pilot an independent reading component to their courses.  This initiative focused on providing students a dedicated day a week (most selected Wednesday) to read any text of their choice for an entire class period.   We worked with teachers and students to provide targeted readers’ advisory, individualized and small group recommendations, and ideas and strategies for formative assessments; we also documented best practices and interviewed students about their learning experiences.  This year, all Language Arts teachers who teach Honors and College Prep courses are implementing the independent reading time component into their curriculum and class time.

We’re continuing last year’s efforts and striving to work with faculty more closely to implement creative and meaningful formative and summative assessments of students’ literacy experiences.  We know from other colleagues who teach Language Arts that teachers sometimes struggle to find ways to either help tie together so many different readings that are ongoing at any given time; others wonder how they might connect the independent reading students are doing to larger class thematic studies.

Sarah Rust was one of our Language Arts teachers who was interested in the written conversations strategies we introduced to staff early in 2014 and has been playing with her own variations of these strategies.  Today, her 2nd and 3rd period students met with us in our Learning Studio area (in progress!) to engage students in:

1.  Paired book chats about the books they are currently reading for independent reading (IR)

2.  Helping students connect their current individual readings to four larger ongoing class themes:  perceptions, justice, identity, and conformity.

3.  Bringing together students in small groups to share their thematic connections and collaboratively develop a broad statement about specific themes based on their texts and shared insights.

We’d like to share with you an overview of how the activity flowed today with her two classes this morning and some initial reflections/observations.  Yesterday, the students were asked to complete a short homework assignment in which they were asked to do some brief guided reflections to bring to class today as a springboard for conversation; she refers to this set of guiding questions as the Book Talk Prep Form.

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

After doing a quick check of student work as they arrived in the Learning Studio area (formerly Fiction as you may notice from our photos), Sarah first reviewed the procedures and tips for engaging in a paired book chat.  After making sure every student had a partner and giving students an opportunity to move themselves to a partner if needed, the discussions were on!   Many students referred back to both their book chat prep form as well as their texts (mostly print but some eBooks on phones).   While students were encouraged to focus on discussing with their partner, we noticed some students engaging in a larger group discussion at their tables.

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

After the first five minutes or so, Sarah paused the student conversations to remind them to slow down and encourage them to go more deeply into their discussions; she also provided some tips on talking about thematic connections and engaging in some higher level questions they might ponder as part of the conversation.  This scaffolding was helpful for those students who might have been less experienced with these types of book chats and who needed some gentle support.

After students had chatted roughly five additional minutes, we paused again to review instructions for the next phase of the activity.  Sarah distributed sticky notes and provided a short template to help students think about how their books related to one of the four larger thematic themes of class study (justice, perceptions, identity, and conformity).  Students had about five minutes to compose a rough working statement about how their book embodied one of those four themes; students discussed ideas with their partners and peers at their table and when needed, conferred with Sarah for clarification or a short think aloud with her to process their thoughts.

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

Once students completed their rough statements on the sticky notes, they then got up and moved to tables with large post it notes that served as “parking lots” for each of the four themes.  Because “identity” was a popular theme in both classes, we created a second parking lot for this theme on the fly.   Once students had grouped themselves by them and shared their sticky note statement in the “parking lot” on the jumbo post-it, each student shared his/her statement.

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

Interestingly enough, the 2nd period students all chose to stand as they talked while the 3rd period students immediately seated themselves at the table for the shared conversations.

We then asked students to come up with a collaboratively crafted statement about their interpretation of the theme based on their shared statements rooted in the individual readings/texts.    We chose to use our Steelcase Verb whiteboards and easels for students to record their group statement.

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

With the 2nd period, Sarah provided the recap of student statements…

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

 

…but for our 3rd period, we all decided to let students share their work from their tables and discuss the group statement they had crafted.  This second variation definitely had a better flow and student engagement in terms of their large group share aloud component—we love being co-learners in these experiences!

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

IR Book Chats and Collaborative Thinking About Themes

The student response was positive, and we loved having the opportunity to use our new learning space and furniture to support Ms. Rust and her students in these conversations about texts and inquiry.  We are looking forward to our continued collaboration with Sarah this year, and we’ll be incorporating this kind of work into an upcoming inquiry/research unit we’re doing later this fall with her classes.  We invite you to think about how you might use these strategies and structures for your own independent reading program or how you might adapt them for content area study!

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