This is Part 2 of my STEM Lab Story. If you have not read Part 1, you can find it HERE.
Let's head back to December of 2015 for a few minutes. That is when I decided to leave my tenured 5th grade teaching job in Vista and take a grant-funded "STEM Lab" job in Oceanside, working with K-8 students on a military base. Kinda crazy to leave so much security and take a risk with a new position. However, I needed a change and felt like I was hitting the ceiling in my self-contained 5th grade classroom, as far as STEM related activities and innovation. So, long story short, although it was a risk, it definitely worked out for me and my teaching career.
When I first arrived at Stuart Mesa Elementary, the STEM Lab wasn't even completed yet. I actually was able to watch Creative Learning Systems build the STEM Lab (SMART Lab), set up the islands, and unpack the materials. And, how lucky was I that the Lab came with all the technology and supplies!
Check out the Google Earth Photo sphere of my STEM Lab HERE.
Once the STEM Lab was installed, I went through a week of training with Creative Learning Systems, then had a few extra days of support from them. I spent about a month organizing and learning as much about the Lab as I could, before ever seeing students. That is one thing that really helped me to be successful with the Lab, taking time to create a plan and familiarize myself with the kits, software, hardware, etc. If you are just beginning a lab or slowly piecing one together, take as much time as possible to develop your plan for success!
Creative Learning Systems also provides a curriculum, which I spent time getting to know. Since I was at a K-8 school, I had to figure out a plan for K-5, as well as a plan for 6-8 (the STEM Lab was an enrichment option for them). I familiarized myself with the curriculum for all grade levels, and methodically mapped out what K-5 and 6-8 would work on in the STEM Lab.
In addition to learning as much as possible about the STEM Lab, I also developed quite a bit within the Google Apps for Education (G-Suite) to supplement the lessons and activities. This included a STEM journal, which I created in Google Slides. There was one journal for grades 3-5 and another one for 6-8. The journal was my way of holding students accountable for their work in the STEM Lab. Each day students had to take a picture of their work, and write a reflection on their activity. They recorded the things that worked, as well as their failures and plans for next time. I distributed and collected the STEM journals through Google Classroom.
Since it was January 2016 by the time I officially opened the lab (Read about the Grand Opening HERE), I developed a plan for the remainder of the 2015/2016 school year. The 6-8 grade students would work through 15 different activities (one at each desk/computer) with a partner, spending about 3 days on each one. Students in grades 3-5 would work through 5 activities (one at each island) with 6 students working on the same activity at once. They would also work with a partner and spend 4 days on each activity. My little ones in K-2 visited the STEM lab once a week, and would have a 45 minute activity, whole class. The teachers in grades K-5 stayed in the Lab with the students, which was extremely helpful!
That's it for Part 2 of the STEM Lab story. Keep looking out for Part 3 to come out soon!
Have a question? Leave a Comment Below! Thanks for Reading!!
As I've mentioned in previous Blog posts, I am an EdTech TOSA for three school sites. I try to stay at one site each day, to avoid losing time by traveling from school to school. As you can imagine, it can be a little bit hectic scheduling meetings and teacher support at three different schools. One of my favorite tools to keep me organized is Google Calendar. I love Google Calendar for the following 5 reasons:
I would love to hear about some of the ways you use Google Calendar in the comments below!
Professional development opportunities for teachers can usually go one of two ways. Teachers find value and are excited about the learning during the PD, or teachers are bored as they sit through a PD that they either do not need or have heard before. part of my role this school year is to plan PD that is meaningful for teachers at the three school that I support. Much of the PD will revolve around Project Lead the Way (our new science curriculum) and the transition to Google Apps.
This month I organized an EdTech Professional Development for teachers at my three sites. The PD took place in the afternoon of a minimum day, and provided three sessions with lots of variety for teachers to choose. My goal was to give teachers choice in their learning so that they can take what they need and apply it in the classroom immediately. Organizing an event like this can be overwhelming, especially if you are doing it alone. Below I will outline the steps that I took to plan my EdTech PD event.
I began by surveying the teachers about what they needed/wanted in a PD. I created a simple Google Form for teachers to fill out that would show me what sessions I needed to include. I asked the principals at all three sites to send out the Form for me, so that (hopefully) more teachers would fill it out. I gave teachers about 1.5 weeks to complete the form, sending out a reminder email (or two).
Part of the Form included a questions about presenting a session. This was my call for volunteers, or at least my way of seeing if anyone was interested in presenting/leading a session. There were about 8 teachers that volunteered to present a session or two. That was great! I contacted those teachers to confirm the sessions that they would be comfortable leading. I even reached out to a few district level coordinators to ask them to present too!
Once I had my results from the Form and had confirmed with my presenters, I began planning the session schedule. This part was a little tricky, since I wanted to keep presenters doing multiple sessions in the same classroom. I moved the sessions and presenters around like a puzzle until the pieces fit. I also created descriptions of the sessions, so that the attendees could choose the session that was right for them.
I shared (emailed) the Schedule and Description with the teachers who would be attending about 5 days before the event. I wanted them to start planning out their afternoon, so that they could make the most of their time.
A few days before the event, I confirmed the room numbers and double-checked the technology available in those rooms (projector, connections, desktop, etc.). I also worked with the administrator at the hosting site to purchase snacks (water bottles, trail mix, granola bars) and chocolate for the day of the PD. Once everything was planned and set up, I sent a final email out to teachers (the morning of the PD) with all of the attachments they would need - schedule, descriptions, kick off slides, self-paced learning slides. I spent the morning of the PD organizing the snacks, printing out signs and maps, getting Chromebooks ready for teacher checkout, and organizing last minute details. Then, all that was left was to wait for the teachers and the PD to begin!
Today was an incredible day of learning and collaborating with teachers and classified staff from OUSD. About 150 Oceanside staff members attended our "Going Google" Boot Camp, volunteering their own time (during summer break) to practice using the the tools in the G-Suite. I had such a great time teaching four sessions and helping those who are just starting out with the Google Apps. Presenting on the G-Suite is my favorite! I love when teachers start to realize ways that the Google Apps can simplify their work flow and increase productivity. I also like hearing about the various classroom applications that teachers think of. So much creativity! Check out #GOside on Twitter to see the excitement and learning that happened at our Boot Camp today!
Here are the presentations that I gave today. Feel free to use them as a resource and share them with colleagues.
Google Classroom is such an amazing tool, and as most of you know, I love teaching teachers how to use it. I was so excited to have the opportunity to present an "Introduction to Google Classroom" for beginners at this year's National CUE conference in Palm Springs, CA. My colleague and friend, Melissa Monroe, and I presented to a room full of educators who were excited to learn more about this powerful Google App. The entire hour long presentation was full of excellent questions and feedback from our audience. If you were part of that crowd, "Thank You" for attending and making our work so meaningful.
I am posting the presentation slide deck below. Please feel free to pass this along to any colleagues that could benefit from it.
I've recently discovered HyperDocs ... and I'm absolutely obsessed with them now! If you haven't heard of them before, a HyperDoc is basically a Google Doc with a ton of hyperlinks included. Student follow the directions of the HyperDoc, watching videos, reading articles, and accomplishing various tasks along the way. I really like using them with my Middle School students in the STEM Lab. HyperDocs make things easier because there are usually about 15 different things happening in the Lab with my Middle School students. I also really like them for Extra Credit assignments, since they can work through the HyperDoc independently.
One of the first HyperDocs that I used with my Middle School students was "Comic Life Digital Citizenship." This HyperDoc walked students through creating a Super Digital Citizen character that protects people online. It's based on a lesson from Common Sense Education, but also incorporates the Comic Life software that I use in my lab.
Check out this awesome student work!
A great resource for sharing HyperDocs is Teachers Give Teachers. This website has a massive amount of HyperDocs that you can easily add to your Google Drive, make a copy of, then modify however you need to. I just recently downloaded a "Getting to Know GAFE" HyperDoc that I'm excited to share with my Middle School students.
Try out a HyperDoc with your students today!
Here is an awesome video to get you excited about Google Classroom!
Google classroom is an amazing app that you already have access to! Through the Google Classroom, you are able to communicate with your students and post assignments for them to complete. Projects that students create in other apps (Thinglink, iMovie, Popplet, Educreations, etc.) can easily be uploaded to the Google Classroom for you to view and assess! You can even return student work if you would like editing done, then students can re-submit when ready. It makes grading student iPad work SOOO much easier!
Basic information about the Google Drive can be seen in this short video!
Think of the Google Drive as a digital file cabinet! Except ... it's way cooler than a file cabinet. In the Google Drive, you can upload Docs and PDFs that you already have saved on your computer. It is a "cloud" storage for you. In addition to uploading things, you can also create Documents (Google Docs), Presentations (Google Slides), Spreadsheets (Google Sheets), and Google Forms (check out my example below) directly in the Drive.
In my teaching experience, one of the greatest features of Google Drive, is that you can share documents with your colleagues with the click of a mouse. No more making a photocopies for your grade level team! You can just share the document in the Drive and they have access to it. Or better yet, you can share a grade level folder, and your colleagues can browse your "file cabinet" at their leisure.
Google Classroom and Google Drive go hand in hand (as well as docs, slides, and sheets). If this is something you would like more information about, please complete this Google Form!
All thoughts, opinions, reflections, and ideas are that of Heather Love-Fleck, and not the school district that employs her. She reserves the right to change her thoughts, opinions, reflections, and ideas at any time.