This is part 3 of my STEM Lab Story. If you have not read Part 1 and Part 2, please go back and read those first.
Kindergarten - Second Grade
I finished out the 2015/2016 school year in the STEM Lab, having students rotate through the various activities in the STEM (Smart) Lab. K-2 students visited me weekly in the STEM Lab for a 45 minute lesson. They used materials including K'Nex, Zometools, and Ozobots, and they used computer programs like code.org and Pixie. We also used consumable materials like cups, string, tongue depressors, etc. to build bridges and towers.
Third - Fifth Grade
Students in grades 3-5 rotated through 5 islands: K'Nex, Snap Circuits, Vernier Sensors, Code.org, and Lego WeDo. One class would visit for 4 days, within one week (M, T, Th, F) for 1 hour each day, then would not return to the lab for 4-5 weeks. This was the best way for students to have enough time to build with their materials, however, it still made sharing the materials and kits a little bit tricky. For example, the students in Class A would come in for an hour, then Class B would come in for an hour following them. Class A and Class B were sharing the same materials and kits, so the students often had to build, then deconstruct their work before leaving.
When working through an activity, students referred to the Creative Learning Systems curriculum for instructions. Some of the directions in the curriculum were difficult for students in grades 3-5 to comprehend, so I would scaffold and support during these activities. Students completed a slide within their STEM Lab journal each day that they worked in the Lab. This was built into the clean-up/closing procedure and quickly became routine. We also looked at exemplar journals so that students knew what was expected of them and their writing. The journals were completed in Google Slides, and distributed and collected through Google Classroom.
Middle School students in grades 6-8 worked their way through 15 different activities, using their Google Slides journal as a form of goal setting, planning, and reflection. The students used the Creative Learning Systems curriculum to guide them through their activities, and for the most part, students were able to follow along with the curriculum independently. Students always worked with a partner and focused not only on the task at hand, but also on the 4C's of 21st Century Learning.
At the end of the 2015/2016 school year, we held our first STEMfest event, where students in middle school were able to show off their work from the STEM lab to their families. I highly suggest organizing an opportunity for students to share their work with an audience (parents, classmates, experts, etc.). The students really felt the need to step up their presenting game when they knew that they would be sharing their work, and fielding questions, from an authentic audience.
Following the STEMfest of 2016, everybody was excited about STEM education at Stuart Mesa!! I spent the last few weeks of the school year, cleaning, organizing, inventorying, and reflecting on the STEM Lab. I came up with some pretty exciting plans for the STEM Lab for the 2016/2017 school year. Stay tuned for "STEM Lab Story: Part 4" to hear about changes and improvements I made to improve the STEM Lab for the following year!
When I first accepted a position in Oceanside, it was to facilitate a STEM Lab as an EdTech TOSA. It was the greatest job! I was able to inspire students to discover new things, facilitate meaningful learning experiences, and basically play with robots and K'Nex all day (Haha!). I've learned so much in these past three years and have really had the opportunity to refine my teaching practice. I've been able to discover and explore innovative teaching and practice integrating technology in the classroom for multiple grade levels.
My role as an EdTech TOSA in Oceanside has changed since beginning my position in Oceanside. I am no longer in the STEM Lab, but rather support teachers and students at three schools in Oceanside. I still get to support the work in the STEM Labs at these sites (my favorite thing), while also pushing in to classrooms to model tech-infused lessons and co-tech PLTW, our new engineering curriculum.
I think that I will eventually go back to the classroom, so that I can use all of my new-found ideas with a self-contained K-5 class. I'm also interested in exploring ways to infuse technology with all subjects areas - language arts, science, social studies, and math - and the best way to do that is as a classroom teacher.
For now, I'm loving my time working with classroom teachers and students to support their learning!
Follow my work on Twitter: @mrslovefleck
I recently wrote a guest Blog post for SDCUE. You can read about it below!
The #GoOpen movement has been recently sweeping the education community, as well as the twitterverse! The #GoOpen campaign was conceived by the US Department of Education in 2015. School districts that participate in the #GoOpen movement have committed to providing open educational resources (OERs) and materials for teachers and students to use. The campaign encourages districts to use open licensed educational materials to transform teaching and learning. Learn more about the #GoOPen campaign and the participating districts at the newamerica.org website.
Besides the twitter hashtag #GoOpen, another great way to learn about OER is to attend a summit or conference that focuses on using open educational resources in the classroom. On April 13th, I had the privilege of attending the 2nd annual #GoOpen Summit in Oceanside, CA. The summit was a excellent opportunity to learn more about OERs and the various ways that local districts have been implementing these materials in to their curriculum.
To kick off the #GoOpen Summit a welcome keynote was given by event organizer, Erin English, Sara Trettin from the US Department of EdTech, and Kristina Ishmael, a Tech & Ed Policy Fellow from DC. The message from the welcome keynote was that OER is meant to disrupt how we view and use curriculum and learning materials to encourage equitable, personal learning experiences for all students. Some of the other benefits of #GoOpen is that it increases equity, keeps content relevant and timely, empowers teachers, supports collaboration, and enable reallocation of district funds.
Following the welcome keynote, participants at the #GoOpen Summit were able to attend various breakout sessions. I attended a session that was led by Carlsbad Unified superintendent, Dr. Ben Churchill, and assistant superintendent, Dr. Rob Nye. They shared the Carlsbad Unified journey into using OER, as well as the powerful message that implementing OER is much less about the materials, and much more about what we expect kids to be able to know and do. I also attended a very informative session by representatives from CK-12, a website that focuses on creating a personalized learning experience with customizable flexbooks. The best part about CK-12 is that it is completely free to use!
The closing keynote was given by Dr. Devin Vodicka, chief impact officer of alt school and former superintendent of Vista Unified. Dr. Vodicka focuses on creating a personalized learning experience for all students. He uses the analogy of traditional education being similar to riding a train, with a set destination and one way to get there. Personalized learning, however, is more like driving a car, with many route options and the ability to make turns based on the driver’s needs. His advice for jumping into the #GoOpen movement included: have a clear vision for learning; connect and collaborate; and start small to set the stage for big change.
The #GoOpen movement encourages teachers to create their own content, and seek out free, open-licensed educational materials, rather that relying on a textbook in the classroom. Teachers are the subject matter experts, and have already been seeking out these types of materials to be used in the classroom, whether they realize it or not (think - Google, Pinterest, Newsela, etc). The #GoOPen campaign supports districts in reallocating funds from purchasing textbooks and instead compensates teachers to find and create relevant and engaging content for students. The movement is an excellent strategy to support teachers as grade-level and content experts, rather than relying on outdated, expensive, and often irrelevant textbooks. Find out if your district is part of the #GoOpen movement today! Start searching for OER materials HERE.
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!
I have been an "Ed Tech TOSA" for the last two years, and it has been an incredible experience thus far. For those who are unfamiliar with the term TOSA, it stands for "Teacher On Special Assignment." So, basically I am a credentialed teacher, working for a school district; but, I do not have my own class full of students. The position is super flexible and really allows me to research and try new, innovative things, and encourage (and support) my fellow teachers to do the same.
The TOSA job description can vary greatly from district to district, and even from school to school. In my particular position, I work at three K-8 schools, all located on a military base. My position is funded through a grant from the Department of Defense, which is why I work at those specific schools. That same grant has been used at the three schools to purchase technology, STEM-related materials, and a brand new engineering curriculum. So, I get to provide support to teachers with implementing all of those resources in their classrooms.
I absolutely love this position because of the flexibility and opportunity for growth that it provides. I get to create my own schedule (to an extent), attend (and lead) amazing professional development opportunities, and collaborate with teachers in multiple grade levels and multiple school sites.
Although there are certain meetings and events that I must attend, I get to choose the school that I will be at each day and coordinate classroom visits as needed. Visiting a variety of classrooms and working with a range of teachers has been a valuable experience and has really fueled my love of teaching. Also, focusing on what the classroom teacher wants to learn or do in the classroom has pushed me to find creative solutions or tools to meet a variety of needs.
The professional development opportunities are another reason that I love being a TOSA. Not only do I get to attend amazing PDs, I also get to lead them. Prior to becoming a TOSA, I did not realize how much I would enjoy leading professional development for teachers. My biggest focus with leading PD, is to share something that will benefit teachers and improve their job in a positive way. Teachers have a lot on their plate (understatement) and adding "one more thing" to that plate is something that I never want to do. I'm always attempting to introduce a tool, technique, etc. that will support teachers in the work they are already doing.
A third reason that I am enjoying this position is the opportunity to collaborate with teachers in multiple grave levels and multiple school sites. When you are a classroom teacher, you spend the majority of your day in your own classroom with the same group of students, day in and day out. You do get to collaborate with your grade level team and attend staff meetings once or twice a month, but that is it! As a TOSA, I get to experience what is happening in so many classrooms and so many grade levels. It's awesome! I feel like these experiences have given me a better understanding of the learning progression from kindergarten through 8th grade. When I eventually move back in to a classroom teacher role, this will only help me deliver instruction to my class.
As an Ed Tech TOSA, I am gaining valuable experience and growing as an educator in ways that I never knew were possible. Yes, I will eventually go back into the classroom, but for now, I will be enjoying this role as a Teacher On Special Assignment.
This school year I am providing support to the teachers at three separate school sites. Because it is often difficult to meet the needs of all teachers quickly and efficiently, I began a new project this year, called "Tuesday's Two Minute EdTech Tips." Basically, I create a short, two minute video each week, highlighting a specific app or website that I think will be interesting to K-8 teachers. I then email the link and short description of the video to teachers each Tuesday.
The goal is to create videos that are super short, and provide a bite-sized introduction, so that teachers can decide whether or not the app is something they want to find out more about. Once they watch the two minute video, they can email me to set up a meeting where we can discuss the app, or I can introduce the app to both students and teacher at the same time.
So far, the feedback on the Two Minute EdTech Tips has been very positive. Teachers like that the videos are short, kind of like a two minute PD. They also like that I am available for following up on the video and supporting them in integrating the app with the learning objectives in their own classroom.
Take a minute and check out my most recent Two Minute EdTech Tip Videos, which focus on computer science and various coding apps that would be great for the Hour of Code!
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!
As summer break comes to a close, many teachers have already begun to think about the upcoming school year. Decorating classrooms, planning lessons, and searching for “first week of school” activities on Pinterest are a few things that teachers begin working on during the final weeks of vacation. If you will have technology (iPads, Chromebooks, etc.) in your classroom, you should also be thinking about how you will introduce those devices to your students. As a classroom teacher, I always liked to plan a “Boot Camp” during the first week of school to introduce my new students to the device that they would be using for the school year. The following post will include a few things to consider when introducing devices to your new class, as well as what I, personally, like to include in a device boot camp.
A Few Things to Consider
Before school begins, and you are planning your first week activities, consider the following questions regarding the devices that your students will be using. Even better, discuss these questions in your grade level planning time so that you and your teammates are on the same pages as far as expectations for devices.
What to Include in Your Device Boot Camp
During the first 1-2 weeks of the school year, I take my new students through a very detailed device boot camp. Here are some areas that I address during my device boot camp.
Include some fun “get to know you” type activities in the device boot camp. Let students practice using the device for fun, so that they become familiar with the apps that you will be using throughout the year. For example, take selfie and and type a few sentences about themselves, respond to a flipgrid prompt, post something in seesaw, create a Google slide deck as a class, etc. Start with one or two apps, then build from there. You could even do an “App of the Day” for the first couple weeks, to familiarize your students with the tools they will be using throughout the year.
Incorporating a device boot camp in your “first week of school” plans might seem overwhelming. However, in my experience, setting clear expectations with technology at the beginning of the year saves time later, and also sets students up for success. So, as you plan those team building activities, laminate homework folders, and create colorful name tags, I hope you will also plan for a device boot camp for the upcoming school year.
On May 24th, the Classroom of the Future Foundation held their annual Innovation in Education event, where teachers, schools, and districts from around San Diego were honored. The event was hosted at Sea World, with incredible food and drinks, raffle prizes, student displays, and a fabulous award ceremony. It was really exciting to hear about all of the innovative programs happening in and around San Diego county and to network with other like-minded educators.
I was extremely honored to be chosen by SDCUE as the (1st ever) Innovative TOSA, and received my award at this event.
This week I was informed that I had been selected as the 2017 SDCUE Innovative TOSA of the year! CUE stands for Computer Using Educator, and the SDCUE is the San Diego affiliate of the national CUE. I was encouraged to apply for this honor by the OUSD director of technology. I thought that it was probably a long shot, with all of the amazing educators in San Diego, but I applied anyways. I was extremely surprised and honored to be chosen for this award.
You can view my application video below!
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.