Presentation Recap: Creating a Community of Exploration

If you’re anything like me, you come back from a Professional Learning workshop or conference just bubbling with ideas to try with your students, teammates, or school.  Just because you are excited and wanting to delve head-first into the new changes, does not mean that your students, teammates, or school environment will be as willing to experiment.

How, then, do you lead and encourage change that you know will make school much more enjoyable and meaningful for the members of your school community?

In “Creating a Community of Exploration”, one of my presentations from last week’s STEM-a-Palooza, I shared some tips and tricks to help other educators create and guide change so that others within their communities are willing to try new things alongside them.  Some of those tips included:

  • Book recommendations:
    • Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph. D.
    • Leading Change by John P. Kotter
    • Grit by Angela Duckworth
    • Peak by Anders Ericsson
  • Information on Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
  • Managing Change
  • Encouraging hard work (grit)
  • The importance of targeted practice

In essence, ensure that your community knows the following so that they feel safer with exploration:

  • The goal is to learn, not to get a specific grade/evaluation score,
  • Growth Mindset reflects one’s willingness to enhance one’s skills without being tied to the specific outcome, and that
  • Hard work and targeted practice are what ensure meaningful growth.

Start small.  The larger the group, the more challenging it can be to encourage and sustain a change in culture from one focused solely on the “end result” and not the learning process.  That said, if you work to get your teammates or students aboard with trying new things, failing, and trying new things again, you will be more likely to inspire others to do the same.

Feel free to check out the Canva presentation I used in this session and let me know your thoughts.

What are some things you would like to explore within your community?

Looking forward to seeing what you choose to explore this year!

-Ms. W.


STEM PLease!

Seriously, STEM is so much fun!  I just can’t seem to get enough of collaborating with teachers on STEM-y projects and I love delivering PL (Professional Learning) to share what I know with my colleagues.

Yesterday and today, I was honored to present to my fellow Cobb County educators (and many awesome educators from other districts here in Northern Georgia as part of STEM-a-Palooza 2016.  This three-day STEM bootcamp and PBL conference brought together presenters from the High Museum, Zoo Atlanta, as well as Cobb County School District, and many more.

I presented four different sessions:

  • Creating a Community of Exploration
    • Session Summary: Learn how to reset the culture of your classroom, team, and school to embrace exploration as a means for teaching and learning.
  • Cultivating Visual Literacy in the STEM Classroom (Co-presented with King Springs Elementary School STEM teacher Joannah Shoushtarian)
    • Session Summary: Learn how to construct student-driven lessons that integrate video production tools such as TouchCast as a means for developing digital and media literacy skills.
  • Genius Hour Quick and Dirty Tips
    • Session Summary: Do you want to try Genius Hour but don’t know where to start? In this session, learn how to present Genius Hour to your administration or staff and guide students (and their parents) through the process and expectations while maintaining a safety net so students feel comfortable in their exploration.
  • Harness the Power of Virtual Reality (Co-presented with Floyd Middle School 7th grade Science teacher Daniel Harbert)
    • Session Summary: Learn how to use and create virtual reality experiences to enhance classroom instruction.  Join us in exploring this new medium and come prepared to step into a new dimension in teaching and learning!

Over the next few days I will publish each session’s resources.  In the meantime, you can find them housed here.

Many thanks to the wonderful Dr. Sally Creel, STEM Supervisor for the Cobb County School District, for inviting me to participate in this event!

Back to the Future Day!

Back to the Future Logo

Days like today make me reminisce on all of the wild and wacky things I would do in my classroom.  There was the time I played the sound of a heartbeat as students entered the classroom.  Perplexed, they kept asking me, “Ms. Williams, what is that sound?  Is that a heartbeat?”  I kept playing it off, pretending that I heard nothing.  It was amazing watching them squirm and assert that they were not losing their marbles.  When I introduced them to our activity of the day, in which we read Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, it all made sense.  Back to the Future Day, the day in which Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly travels in time and discovers a wild future in Back to the Future Part II, is one that would have played so perfectly into classroom excitement.  Since I am no longer a day-to-day classroom teacher, here is what I would have done today if I were a teacher of the following subjects:

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math):
    • First and foremost, the HOVERBOARD! Imagine the students walking into a room with what looks to be a skateboard with no wheels sitting on the Back-to-the-Future-II-Hoverboardfloor.  It would have wires, magnets, and circuit boards attached to it haphazardly.  After having the students write one paragraph in their STEM notebooks (because, of course they would have notebooks), hypothesizing what it is that lay before them.  Then, I would provide a brief explanation…visually.  I would play a video clip of Marty McFly zipping through the future on his hoverboard before having the students divide up into groups.  Each group would explore the modern attempts made to create a hoveboard by Lexus, Omni, and Hendo.  Each group would first identify their overall thoughts, observed pros, and observed cons of the hoverboard they researched, they would then share their thoughts whole group.  The students would then compare and contrast the examples presented and use that to help them create their own brand of hoverboard.
  • Art:
    • If I were an Art teacher, I would use Back to the Future Day to explore the concept of modernity as it has been shown in art.  The classroom would be set up much like a gallery, but with iPads placed around the room, to showcase the work of artists from the 1950s to today.  After this gallery walk. the students would then watch a short scene from “Back to the Future Part II” and use that, plus one of the artists they observed in the in-class iPad gallery walk, to create their own work.  Their own work could be inspired by the artist they chose in the movie or it could be a rendering of how they imagine the future.
    • An alternate version of this lesson would employ some car design, where the students would learn about the DeLorean Motor Company, its rise, its demise, and its rise to iconic status.  They would then design their own cars that they think could also become iconic.
  • Social Studies:
    • Class would start with the students walking into the classroom decorated to look like it was the Wild West (or the mid-1800s).  With the student desks in groups, each group would feature a metal bucket with rolled up maps placed inside.  Of course, I would not answer a single question about the maps until the right time.
    • In the movie, Marty McFly does not change geographical locations as he and Doc Brown embark on their travels, but in time.  With this in mind, I would have the students watch a brief clip showing when Marty and Doc are transported to two distinct placements in time.  Thereafter, the students would be presented with maps of the school’s community.  They would work in groups to identify which maps were from today, which came from ten years ago, and which came from fifty or one hundred years ago.  They would make observations about these changes and pair this with their prior knowledge to identify potential reasons (other than population growth) for the changes in the community’s layout.
  • Language Arts:
    • I absolutely LOVED teaching English Language Arts because any of the lessons here could be used to teach literacy, grammar, audience, tone, etc., etc., etc.
  • Math:
    • Um, no ma’am.  Math is not in my wheelhouse.  That said, perhaps I would challenge the students to identify places within the film where math would have had to have been used.
  • Film Studies:
    • This film would pair so nicely with others that predict the future such as the “Terminator” films, any “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” film, “Mr. Nobody,” or even the so-called first science-fiction film “Metropolis.”  I would embark upon a whole unit or section of study on films that focus on the future.  The students would be invited to consider the historical context in which the films were made, the genre of films they explored, as well as the features they found made some versions of the future more believeable in some films than others.

Alas, I am no longer in the classroom on a daily basis, but I know many awesome educators who would be willing to create crazy connections to days like today.  If you are such a teacher, please do not hesitate to use the inspiration above to make some classroom magic happen!  If you do, please let me know and I would love to come to see it in action.  If you’re to afraid to do so, I’ll gladly come to your room to co-teach with you for a day (seriously).  While I cannot tell the future, I think its safe to say that ultimately a fun classroom is one where students love being and one in which we educators love working.

To quote the great Doc Brown, “your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.”

Until next time,

Ms. W.

NOAA and the Whales

Saturday was another day filled with learning, but this time, it was at the Georgia Aquarium.  The workshop I attended, entitled “How Do We Explore?” took a room full of educators on an exploration of how all standards (not just those on science) can be taught based on our oceans.  Believe it or not, our world’s oceans are still largely unexplored.  So NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has constructed a ship that is fully equipped with scientific instruments to test, analyze, explore the ocean.  All of the data they collect is beamed up through a satellite, which then distributes their findings almost
instantaneously over the internet.  New species of plants and animals are literally being discovered daily.  Beyond this, the Okeanos Explorer, this NOAA exploration vessel, is also working with multibeam sonar to map the ocean floor.

In this all-day workshop, my colleagues and I built a model that mimicked the multibeam sonar’s capabilities, constructed a hydraulic robot arm, and tested water for its temperature and pH to better understand how the Okeanos Explorer carries out its duties.  As an added perk, I was able to see the majestic Beluga Whales as well as the Whale Sharks suggests afterwards.  It was certainly a Saturday well spent.

Until next time,

Ms. W.