Making Changes as an Apple Distinguished Educator

April 3,2017. The lunch bell rings and my students hurry to their lockers to grab their lunches and head to the lunch room. Some of the girls are hanging back because we are eating together today. I grab my phone and quickly check emails before heading down to grab my lunch. I stand there, shocked, tears start welling up in my eyes. One of my students notices and asks me, “Mrs. Gadzala, what is wrong?”. I reply, “Nothing is wrong, I can’t believe it! Remember our video for Apple? I got it!!”. The girls hug me and congratulate me. As I head down to grab my lunch, I am numb with disbelief. I will never forget that moment.

Apple Academy, Class of 2017 (Best class ever 😉) what an honor to spend meaningful time to collaborate, learn, share, and connect with this group of talented and innovative educators. The connections I made and stories I heard confirmed for me that we have a long way to go in education to get us moving forward. Here we are, The Class of 2017 and all the alumni before us, leading the way by being advocates, authors, ambassadors, and advisors. The group is growing, yet there are still so many educators resistant to the change that needs to take place in our classrooms. I am excited to be in a new position this school year that will allow me to focus on creating that change in many classrooms. I am going to start with my own, which is the library.

This fall I will be the new MRC Director and the facilitator of our new weCreate Studio. This new role will allow me to change the purpose of the library and the role in which I play. The library will be the new hub of the school community. It will be a space not only for students to come and check out books, but a place where THEY can be advocates, authors, ambassadors, and advisors with their peers. As I lead the way with my students, I will also be traveling through my journey with the staff and hopefully gaining passengers along the way.

The Academy gave me the tools, like minded peers, and inspiration to follow my heart and passion for what I believe is necessary in education today. Thank you Apple Education Team for believing in me and giving me the BEST 4 days of professional development I have ever experienced!

Now that…Is Positively Techie!

Memory Lane Takes on Technology

For me, taking a stroll down Memory Lane means digging through boxes of old photos.  Determining the date the photo was taken is easy as most of them have the date printed on the white border around the picture.  The coloring of the photos are  a bit off, some photos are bent, others have a sticky backside from being pulled out of an album.  Then I have my own children’s photos to stroll through.  My first born’s photos are similar to mine being in boxes or albums, the color and clarity much richer than the old photos from the 70’s.  But when I search for my third born’s photos, well that is a whole new story.  Her photos are all on my computer.  All digital.  Instead of being piles in a box, her photos are “piles” of digital photos in a folder on my desktop.  Some are organized by dated folders, but not many – that is a job for another day.  Realizing that this is how most people store their photos, I wanted to teach my students a way they could bring their memories to life.

This is the third year we are creating a digital memory book.  Each year, it gets better and better!  This project takes about 5 months to complete and a lot of the work happens at home, on the student’s own time.  By the end of fifth grade, our students will have a digital memory book that spans from birth to the end of fifth grade.  It is a keepsake that I think most parents will treasure for many years to come.

Each month, students are assigned a specific time period of their life.  They are asked to come to class by a specific date with photos from that time period on their iPads.  This letter is sent home each month to parents to make sure students are prepared on the date we have set aside to work on the books.  Along with the letter is the organization sheet the students fill out for each photo selected.

The first step is to create a title page for the first time period “birth to preschool”.  Students use Keynote to create this page and can include photos if they choose.  Once the slide is created, they screen shot it and then drop it into iMovie along with all of their photos from those early years.  The next step is to create music to be played during the title page.  Using Garageband, students can compose their own music or record themselves playing an instrument.  I tell them to think of the memory they are going to tell about and have the music reflect the mood and tone of that memory.  The last step is to write about a single memory from that time period using their knowledge from our recent memoir unit in writing.  Students record themselves reading their memory in iMovie.  This is great way for students to practice their fluency 🙂

Each time period should last about a minute with the whole memory book lasting about 7 minutes long.  When “books” are completed, we have a gallery walk and allow time for others to view the books.  The final step is transferring the memory books onto a flash drive for the students to take home and be able to treasure their elementary years for many years to come.

Now that…Is Positively Techie !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple PD…Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Anyone who knows me, knows I absolutely LOVE Apple products.  I wasn’t always an Apple girl. It all started when I returned to the classroom several years ago.  I had no choice but to use a Mac because that is what our school district used.  All of my computer experience consisted of Microsoft, so it took a while to get used to Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.  However once I did, I would never look back!  In the past 9 years that I have been back to work, Apple has developed amazing products to enhance student productivity and creativity.  They also display a strong commitment to education and supporting students and teachers.  Now, there is even MORE of a reason to love Apple, The Apple Teacher Program.

The Apple Teacher Program  is a program that helps teachers get the most out of Apple products.  Once you sign up with your Apple ID, you have a multitude of resources available to you.  The resources I found the most helpful are the iBooks dedicated to each Apple app.  There is an iBook for each productivity app as well as creative app for both iPad and Mac.

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What I love about this is you can learn about these products/apps at your own pace.  You can skip over what you already know, re-read what is confusing, or take it one skill at a time.  All while in the comfort of your own home.  After you’ve mastered each product/app , you can take a quick 5 question quiz to earn badges.  Once you pass all 8 quizzes, you get the Apple Teacher 2016 badge that you can proudly display.  Not only are there “Starter Guides” for the above Apple products, there are  many other iBooks that have been written for educators to help YOU learn tips and tricks for other apps you could use in your classroom.

Another amazing FREE PD Apple offers teachers is “First Tuesdays for Teachers“.

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In select areas, Apple stores offer PD on their apps and products, the first Tuesday of every month.  I attended my first one on November 1st, and it covered Keynote.  A Creative Team member from the Apple Store lead the session.  There were about 10 other educators there and the session lasted for and hour and a half.  The session was hands on and was very informative.  I highly recommend searching for a store near you and registering today!

One of our goals as educators is to inspire our students to become life long learners.  I strongly believe that leading by example is very powerful.  It is easy to get bogged down with school work and home life, but we need to take the time to grow as educators.  We need to take the time to learn new things.  We need to take the time to be a good role model to our students and show them that WE TOO are life long learners.

Now that…Is Positively Techie!

 

Putting MORE FLEX in Your Flexible Classroom!

It almost seems like the place is deserted….the floors are extra shiny, random pieces of furniture are stacked up in small piles here and there, the lockers are clean and empty.  However, you walk down the hall a little further and peek inside one of the classrooms and teachers inside are frantically setting up their rooms… creating cute bulletin board displays, hanging posters, placing books onto bookshelves, carefully writing student names on name plates,  arranging furniture, cutting out laminated letters, and admiring their new Flair pens 😉

This is one of my favorite times of year.  I LOVE the beginning of the school year.  I LOVE the anticipation of meeting my new students.   I LOVE setting up my classroom.  My home away from home.  The place that will become my new student’s home away from home.   I spent ALL summer thinking about the changes I wanted to make after living a full year in a flexible classroom space.   There  were so many positive things  that occured, but there are a few major changes that I am making this year in hopes to make my flexible classroom even better than last year!

  • No Teacher Desk/ Add More Furniture
    Our generous PTO awarded the 5th Grade Team with money to purchase more flexible furniture, I needed to make space because my dream was to have a couch :))  I chose to “ditch my desk” to gain that space for the couch.  I am lucky enough to have a wall of cabinets and I am not the “pack-rat” type, so I had plenty of open space to store my things in the drawers and cabinets along the wall.  I also feel I will be more connected with the students because I will always have to sit in their spaces with them.  It truly will be OUR space.  I also got some Ergo Stools and a dry erase table which I adjusted to standing height.
  • Create Specific Zones
    Last year I allowed the students to move ALL the furniture anywhere, anytime.  This year students will only be able to change their seat options.  I have developed specific “zones” that will remain in place all school year:

    • Whole Group/Class Meeting
    • Standing
    • Floor Sitting
    • Table Sitting
    • Quiet Area – I don’t want to be bothered
    • Guided Reading/Math – work with teacher in small group
    • weCreate Corner / Reading / I’m done with my work
  • Designate Number of Students per Zone
    I will be designated a specific number of students who can sit in each zone.

I am really excited to try my new ideas out this school year and as with anything I will constantly reflect and make changes along the way as needed!

Now that…Is Positively Techie!

I am super excited to introduce my guest writer, Bethany Martino :))  Bethany teaches 1st Grade at Madison School and started her journey implementing a Flexible Classroom last year too.  Since I teach 5th grade, I asked Bethany to share  her experience as a primary teacher so you can gain the primary perspective as well!  

I am a person who is always looking for ways to freshen up my teaching and my classroom.  I was tired of how my classroom was set up– with desks in pods and all students sitting in little blue chairs that have to be uncomfortable. (I certainly wouldn’t want to sit in them all day long.) I knew something had to change.  I had heard about flexible classrooms but I had never seen one in person or knew a teacher who had transformed her classroom. I was also a little worried about how it would work in a first grade classroom with little bodies that are already active, easily distracted, and excited about everything . This could either be a complete disaster or an absolutely wonderful thing for my classroom and students. I crossed my fingers and made a plan.

Luckily, I work with some amazingly supportive colleagues who helped me turn this dream into a reality. I was able to get everything I needed from exploring our school basement and claiming unwanted items and our extremely generous PTO.

In my classroom, I have different options for workspaces and chairs. Students are able to select their ideal workspace as well as the chair that helps them focus and do their best work.

To begin transforming our classroom, the students and I talked about what would be changing and how we would use the new materials appropriately. The students were beyond thrilled and couldn’t wait to start using everything. When everything arrived, we used time to explore the new chairs.

I knew I couldn’t let first graders have free reign over the furniture or it would be complete chaos (and there would probably be a lot of arguments) so I gave the students some choice while I also was able to control it to an extent. We used Kahoot (an online quiz and survey website) to take a survey on our workspace and seating preferences. The students ranked the different options from 1-4 with 1 being their most preferred option. They did this for workspaces and seating. (To be honest, this process took longer than expected the first few times but the students picked up the process quickly and it became much more efficient each time we did it.) I took the results and assigned students a workspace (based on their preferences) and then a chair. In most cases, I was able to give each student their first or second choice. We continued to do this every two weeks so students could experience all of the different workspaces and chairs. I was impressed by how well my students were able to choose what worked best for them. They were all willing to give the different options a try and most found their favorites quickly. I found most students were able to focus on their work and finish it in the allotted time. This wasn’t always the case in past years. Most were able to start working right away. This wasn’t always the case in past years. The students also became aware of how they learn and work best. This wasn’t the case in past years.

As a teacher, I am so glad I made the switch. I feel like I am better able to meet my students’ needs. I’m a more flexible teacher because things are always changing in our classroom and we are able to move furniture and adapt to what is needed in our classroom for any given project or lesson. This is a switch that I am glad I made. I can’t imagine teaching in a traditional classroom again. If you’re on the fence about changing your classroom, do it. You won’t regret it and your students will LOVE it!
~Bethany Martino

Summer Learning Part 2: Coding with Ozobot Robots

This year our PTO purchased a set of ozobot robots as part of our new weCreate Studio.  I used ozobots in my Innovation Club and couldn’t wait to have the opportunity to have fifteen hours dedicated to using them :))  So, the next part of my day in summer school consisted of two coding classes.  I had a class with students entering 1st grade through 3rd grade and another class with students entering 4th grade through 6th grade.  Both classes had 18 students enrolled as I had 18 ozobots available.

Ozobots are mini robots that follow code from a variety of sources.  I love using ozobots because of their flexibility and differentiated approach to teach coding to students.  With ozobots, you begin by drawing a line on paper and watch the ozobot follow the line.  The next step is to add color codes to the line.  The ozobot reads the code and then follows that code.  Finally, the user logs into ozoblockly.com to write block codes for the ozobot to read.  Within the ozoblockly site, there are several different levels the user can utilize from beginner to advanced.

I used lessons from the ozobot website to guide my instruction.  My goal for the end of the session was to have the students create a maze and then write the code for the ozobot to complete the maze.  Below you can see the schedule I followed.

1st – 3rd Grade

4th – 7th Grade

Day 1 Explore the ozobot Explore the ozobot
Day 2-3 Basic Training Lesson 1 Basic Training Lesson 1
Day 4 Workshop 1 Basic Training Lesson 2
Day 5 Workshop 2 Basic Training Lesson 2 cont.
Day 6 Free Play with ozobot app AND “Draw coding” Free Play with ozobot app
Day 7-10 Ozoblockly Basic Training Lessons Ozoblockly Basic Training Lessons
Day 11 Deasign and draw maze Design and draw maze
Day 12-13 Finalize maze that ozobot can fit through Build maze
Day 14-15 Write the code for maze Write the code for maze

 

The ozobot website has so many resources that makes using this tool so incredibly easy, even if you have never coded before.  I highly recommend including ozobots in your Stem lab or classroom.  If funds are low, you can always try creating a project on DonorsChoose.org or even check your local library, they might have a set you can check out!

Now that…Is Positively Techie !

How do you use ozobots in your classroom?  I’d love to know!

Summer Learning Part 1: Stop Motion Animation

 

Summer Learning Part 1: Stop Motion Animation

Summer Break is finally here for me.  I spent the last three weeks teaching four classes of summer school.  I taught stop motion animation, coding with ozobot robots (two different sections of age groups), and a circuit design class.  And let me tell you, not only did my students learn a lot, I leaned a ton as well.  I developed  classes to offer that I was not an expert in.

I did that on purpose. 

I am a believer that letting students see you take risks, see you NOT being an expert in everything, see you being a learner like they are, is a powerful tool as a teacher.

I first tried stop motion animation this past school year with my fifth graders.  I basically downloaded the app on their iPads and had them “figure it out”.  Their task was to create a visual to promote their “Shark Tank” invention. The students LOVED it, so I thought it would be a great enrichment class to offer for our District’s Summer Learning Program.  I took a different approach with my summer students than I did during the school year.  After all, I actually had time on my hands, 15 hours of dedicated time to let students explore, be creative, take risks, and create.  (Super exciting :))  Below is an outline of what I did for the three weeks:

Day 1-2
Day 3-4 Start working with group

  • Brainstorm ideas on possible story topics
  • Discuss Story writing – focus on Premise
  • Discuss Story Writing – focus on outline for story – 3 acts total – beginning, middle, end
Day 5
  • Storyboard/ write script
Day 6
  • Continue storyboarding/ script
  • Create characters
  • Start working on setting
Day 7
  • Continue working on setting
Day 8
  • Play around with app
Day 9-12
  • Take pictures/film
Day 13
  • Drop animation into iMovie
  • Record voice over
Day 14
  • Continue with voice over
  • Create theme music in Garage Band and drop into iMove
Day 15
  • Share movies with class and on YouTube

 

 

Student movies:

I modified lessons from the site: https://www.nfb.ca/stopmo/ .  You can find the lessons in PDF form here.  These lessons were extremely helpful for me to gain a starting point.  I would also recommend The StopMotion Handbook if you are interested in learning more about stop motion animation.

The outline above reflects how the three weeks played out. I definitely feel that the first days spent discussing animation and story writing are key to a successful end product.   I was surprised how many days it took for the students to “film”, some groups needed more time.  Also, some students left early on the third week, so they were not able to complete the voice overs and theme music. 

I was impressed with the movies that the students made.  Their creativity, risk taking, and teamwork was evident every single day during summer school. 

Now that….Is Positively Techie!

Feel free to share your resources and ideas for using Stop Motion Animation.  I would love to build on my resources :))

A Positively Techie School Year

The countdown of days is on the board, students are more chatty than usual, and the scent of a sweaty, almost sixth grader hits you when you walk in the room…

It’s coming quickly to an end.  A school year with my little family of fifth graders.  I have spent more waking hours with these kiddos than my own children and I love them all dearly.  I have learned all about their lives, I know their mannerisms, their little quirks, their strengths and their weaknesses.  I look forward to seeing them each and every day.  It is amazing how much a child grows and changes in ten months.  It’s amazing how educators grow and change in a school year…

The end of the school year means a time to reflect, a time to think about the next little family of students that will be coming my way in the fall.  What worked, what didn’t, what I can do better, what I will try new next year?  The questions, thoughts, and ideas keep swirling in my head.  As much as I don’t want this year to end, I can’t help but think about how I can be a better teacher, learner, facilitator, and leader next year.

The biggest change for me this school year was turning my classroom into a flexible learning space.  It by far was THE BEST idea I had all year!  The positive response from the parents, students, and other staff members was overwhelming. The students tell me how much easier it is for them to learn in my classroom because “they don’t feel confined”, “they are comfortable”, “they can focus on their learning and not on the fact that they are sitting where they don’t want to sit”.  The thing about my classroom is it’s not only about the furniture.  “Flexible” was more of our motto all year.  WE were flexible.  Students had the choice of where to sit any time of day.  They had to make the right choice everyday to ensure they got their work done.  To my amazement, the majority of the time, they made perfect choices for themselves!  I gave them the power to take some control of their learning and they used their power wisely.  Next year, I already have plans to make a few changes and add a few fun pieces of furniture (and hopefully ditch my desk – if I can find it a new home).

I was able to teach all the fifth graders during a designated “tech time”.  I worked with students on projects dedicated to Social Studies, Science, and Language Arts as well as a few techie lessons to build their technology tool kit.  We had Mystery Skypes, wrote blogs, and worked on many projects including a few of my favorites the “Shark Tank” project, a Mother’s Day video, and a digital memory book. Our local Apple Store in Oak Brook, IL. sent out two members of their Creative Team to lead workshops to teach the students about the Apple apps on their iPads. The team came out several times throughout the school year and helped the students create a digital memory book.  This “book” is a memoir of their life from birth through fifth grade.  It includes photos, video, student created background music, and a voice over of the students telling their stories and memories for each year of their life.  These are truly going to be memorable keepsakes for years to come!

Mother’s Day Project

Towards the end of the year I started an Innovation Club and began the creation of the weCreate Lab at our school.  I met with K-2 graders and 3-4 graders to introduce them to technology tools that will be available to them next year in the weCreate Lab.  My favorite item is the ozobot robots.  I LOVE how ANYONE who can draw a line can make the robot move from one place to another.  I am also loving the fact that students build on their expertise and eventually code on the computer to lead their robot from one place to the next.  I spent a few sessions with Snap Circuits and littleBits.  The students easily caught on and understood how everyday items get their power through circuits.  I gave students challenges to make the light dim, make the fan turn on, and turn a light different colors.  It was rewarding to see how the students, even Kindergartners, kept trying and didn’t give up until they figured it out.  The excitement and joy they showed when they finally met the challenge was awesome!  The last couple of sessions we will be exploring the Makey Makey Kits.  Students this year got a taste of the new technology tools available to them, but next year, we will really be able to dig in and go through the whole design thinking process.

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I want my students to be risk takers, therefore I hold myself to that same standard. Each year I try new things. Either I expand on what I’m already doing or I try something completely new. A couple of new ideas didn’t work out quite as I planned.  This year I tried The Global Read Aloud for the first time.  The Global Read Aloud is a global phenomenon created by the amazing Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp.   Books are chosen each year and classrooms around the globe read the same book and connect to discuss the book through Edmodo, blogging, Skype, etc.  I set up 2 classes for my class to connect with and we actually did connect with one class.  It was not easy to get all of the assigned chapters read each week and the class that we actually did connect with didn’t participate much.  I love the idea behind The Global Read Aloud, but I also feel that in order for it to work both classes need to really commit to participating fully.

Next year I want to improve on so many things.  I want to schedule more Mystery Skypes.  After the first Mystery Skype I ever did, I never wanted to give another map worksheet.  The amount of authentic geography learning that happens during a Mystery Skype is astounding!  Everything I know and have used on Mystery Skype I got from another amazing educator Paul Solarz @PaulSolarz.  I planned on participating in blogging challenges with my students, but I didn’t.  That will definitely be on my goal sheet for next year.  I also want to learn and use Google Classroom to it’s fullest potential.  It was a helpful tool to send out and collect assignments however I know it could be used for so much more!  I follow Alice Keeler on Twitter @alicekeeler.  She is THE ONE to turn to if you want to know anything Google.   I will be researching all things Google as well as work on getting my Google Certified Educator Levels 1 and 2 this summer.

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Of course I have some new things up my sleeve that I can’t wait to try next year. I am super excited for Breakout EDU to arrive.  This is a game that promotes collaboration, teamwork, problem solving, the list goes on.  The goal is to unlock the box in a specific amount of time.  There are several different scenarios with clues to a mystery that needs to be solved.  You work together to solve the mysteries and unlock the box.  I want to start the year off with a Breakout EDU game at one of our Institute Days.  This way, the staff can see first hand how students can build bonds through the collaboration and teamwork involved in opening the box.  A PERFECT back to school activity!!

I am looking forward to connecting Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards to activities in the weCreate Lab and designing some novel engineering activities. I also signed up to receive the Idea Box  from the James Dyson Foundation.  I am excited to learn more about Hyperdocs and create some for the upcoming school year.  I want to tip my toe into gamification and figure out what it is all about. I am sure there are things I don’t even know I want to learn about.  The summer days are a great time to learn more about amazing ways to integrate technology into the classroom.   How are YOU growing as an educator this summer?  Is there something you want to learn more about?

I am looking forward to spending time with my “real” family, sleeping a little bit later in the morning, lounging by the pool, and going for long, quiet walks.  But I will also be thinking, designing, creating, learning, and doing everything I can to be…well – better.  

Now that… Is Positively Techie!