Monday, July 17, 2017

Immersive Technology Accelerates Learning in Science


Minnetonka science teachers use a variety of technology tools to enhance understanding, feedback, collaboration, and make learning engaging for students. Starting 15 years ago when interactive whiteboards were first used in our classrooms, our science teachers have been using all types of technology tools, software, websites, simulations, and more to accelerate learning. Now with 1:1 iPads for all of our grade 5-12 students, students each have continual access to these great tools and resources every day.  

As you will see in the video, high school science teacher Jenica Dummer uses ClassKick to interact with her students and provide them with immediate feedback. She can see and check their work in real time. Even the quietest students can ask the teacher a question electronically. In addition to ClassKick, Minnetonka teachers use other formative assessment technology tools such as PearDeck, Kahoot and Quizlet Live.
Also highlighted in the video is chemistry teacher Sean Holmes. Sean uses technology with iPads to help his students understand concepts and learn more thoroughly. As shown, students use Schoology, our learning management system, to frequently take quizzes and as a learning hub for accessing files and turning in assignments. High school science students use Vernier probe ware to capture data on their iPads. Students use the iPad's camera to take time lapse video and use Notability to annotate their lab notes with digital ink. They also use Google Docs and Sheets regularly for their work to communicate and collaborate with one another.

Back when I was a middle school science teacher almost 20 years ago, I was fortunate to have four student laptops and some probe ware. Digital cameras required a floppy disk and our school had a couple available for check out. During my final year in the classroom, I had an interactive white board and projector. There was certainly a lot more time spent and work involved to access and share files back then. Today's tools have made things so much more seamless and efficient, which result in increased opportunities for learning and understanding!
You can learn more about our 1:1 program, iPads, and use of technology for learning in the related posts below:

Monday, July 10, 2017

Paperless Hall Passes in School: There's a (Student Made) App For That


Visit mPass Website
Last year, one of our middle school teachers had an idea for a paperless hall pass. Since all of her students had iPads in our 1:1 program, she figured it would easier to use an app instead of paper. There are a lot of problems with paper passes, including the ability to easily track and manage how often students are using passes in each of their classes throughout a day (and for some, even attempting to take advantage of the system). Students used to have a page in their paper assignment planners for hall passes, but since that was eliminated and had gone digital, a new solution was needed. 

Seventh-grader Omar, center, developed the mPass iPad app.
Also pictured (l-r) Pete Dymit, MME Principal; Minnetonka Director of IT,
Mike Dronen; and Dave Eisenmann, Director of Instructional Technology
Another teacher, Michelle Brunik, heard about this idea and shared it with a former student, Omar, who was inspired to create it. He had used MIT's App Inventor back in sixth grade in her STEM class where he learned the program's easy to use drag and drop interface and made Android apps. Omar was part of a Coding Club after school and worked with an older student, Jacob, who helped him transfer the idea from an Android prototype to an iOS app using Swift and XCode. The students used the online lessons in Treehouse to learn Swift.

After the initial prototype, Omar found that the original code was not suitable enough for what was needed. So he started from scratch using Swift, Xcode and then integrated Firebase (which he learned on his own) to the mix to develop the app as it is today. He worked with members of our Technology Department to use XCode and publish the hall pass app to JAMF, the Mobile Device Management system for our iPads. 

Omar then presented the hall pass, called mPass, to all the teachers at his school at a staff meeting. Teachers tried it out for a week before rolling it out to all students. They figured out the number of passes that would be issued per quarter, the length of time allotted per pass, whether or not students using the pass would take or leave their iPad on their desk (showing the pass being used and time left to be gone), as well as decided on their rules for what happens if a student stays too long (the teacher can pull another pass). It was used successfully by 1,100 students this past spring and will be used again this coming school year.

Now with digital hall passes, teachers have data on how often kids are leaving class and can see this total by individual. It helps better track students, time limits, and eliminates the confusion of the unknown. Later this past spring, Omar surveyed teachers and students to get feedback and suggestions for features to add. Although students like the idea of a digital hall pass created by one of their own classmates, not all students like the accountability; they preferred the old method that made it easier to sneak out of class!


You can learn more about this project in the video above (starting at 59 seconds) or on Omar's website. mPass will soon be in the Apple App Store for commercial use for other schools for the upcoming school year. Check it out!

To learn more about Minnetonka coding program, Tonka Codes, please see these related articles below:

Monday, July 3, 2017

Immersive Technology Accelerates Learning in World Language Classes


Technology is used to enhance and accelerate learning in Minnetonka classrooms. Our world language classrooms are just one of the many places where this is evident daily. Whether you are in our Chinese or Spanish immersion classrooms beginning in kindergarten or in our middle or high school elective world language classes, technology is used to help students better learn languages. 1:1 iPads for all of our grade 5-12 students help make this happen.

As you will see in the video about Immersive Technology in Minnetonka World Language Classes, students use their iPads for all sorts of learning activities. Students record oral exams which frees up days of class time, increasing time and opportunities for students to learn even more. Teachers have also found that their students rehearse their speaking exercises more ahead of time, too. Students collaborate and communicate with one another using tools like Google Docs. They write and annotate scripts using Notability. Students act and film projects using video and tools like iMovie, Adobe Spark and DoInk Green Screen. These are all skills that are part of the Minnetonka Framework for Teaching and Learning to deepen learning, making it more meaningful and engaging. I sure wish I had been able to use these tools back in my German world language textbook based classes! Es wäre so viel besser gewesen!
You can learn more about our 1:1 program, iPads, and use of technology for learning in the related posts below:

Monday, June 26, 2017

Avoid Over Parenting: Four Lessons Learned from Gist--The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids


Last week I had the opportunity to hear an interview at my church with Dr. Tim Johanson, a child pediatrician. Tim is the co-author of Gist, a book on parenting, which he wrote with a child psychologist. You can watch the full interview here. Dr. Johanson spoke about the stress and pressures that parents feel today to be perfect and identified four problem areas that can lead to over parenting kids: over involvement, over affirmation, over indulgence, and over protection. I found the information shared to be very valuable and think that any parent, grandparent or educator who works with kids (and therefore indirectly their parents) would find the interview and book helpful. Though not directly addressed, many of his tips tie directly to parenting issues around kids and technology.

Tim's first suggestion was to not be an over involved parent, micromanaging your kids' lives. This can lead to parental exhaustion and your kids feeling a lack of autonomy and oppression. He suggested only going to 3/4 of your kids' games, events, and concerts, etc. rather. Let them experience things on their own rather than always be there at each event. Allow them tell you how something went and relate it through their own lens versus you always being present. 

The second tip shared was to not over affirm your kids, which can lead to the creation of a false self. As a result, kids don't develop an accurate ability to self assess which could even lead to depression. Tim suggested being honest, in his words, "they will eventually find out... Don't tell your kids they are gifted are exceptional when they aren't." A phrase he used was that "when gifted becomes expected average becomes defective." 

Being cautious about over indulgence was the third tip shared. He said a parent's job is to prepare our kids for life. Don't give in to parental pressure to get everything for your kid and instead ask yourself, "Will this grow them in ways to make them life ready?" Don't create a sense of entitlement or give in to pressure from other parents to get everything for your children.

The fourth and final tip that Tim shared was to not over protect our kids. I was familiar with the term helicopter parent--a parent who swoops in and takes care of problems for their kids instead of letting them learn from their mistakes. A new term he shared was a snowplow parent--one who basically clears the path of all problems so their kid won't ever experience them. Parents are overprotective because they don't want life to be difficult for their kids, but Tim suggested that this should be a mindset change for parents. We need to see adversities as a way for our kids to grow.

As Tim mentioned in the beginning of his interview, our children don't come with instruction manuals. Often times we certainly wish they did! I find hearing advice and expertise from other parents who share their wisdom and knowledge from their experience raising children to be so beneficial. I think you will too, I would encourage you to watch the full interview.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

40+ Elementary iPad Integration Examples


We just finished the second year of 1:1 iPads with our fifth grade students. We began our 
1:1 program six years ago at our high school and expanded it gradually to include all students in grades 5-12. We have instructional technology support teachers for elementary, middle, and high school who are key to providing our teachers with training and support and making our program a success. The staff in these positions sometimes return to full time teaching or move into different roles and we have new teacher-leaders begin working in this role.

Our elementary coach will be new next year, so as a way to help this new coach become familiar with what has been happening in fifth grade classrooms with iPads, our current tech coach, Andrea Hoffmann, had each teacher made a page in an eBook this spring about a favorite iPad use, lesson, or goal achieved (PDF version). All of these pages were compiled and shared among all the teachers and then given to the new instructional technology coach. The book contains all sorts of ideas for using iPads for instruction and learning, from formative assessment to green screening, Book Creator to Explain Everything. It offers a great snapshot into fifth grade classrooms at all six of our elementary schools. 

You can learn more about our 1:1 program, iPads, and use of technology for learning in the related posts below:

Monday, June 12, 2017

School's Out But Teachers' Learning Doesn't Stop: Summer Professional Development in Minnetonka


As in past summers, now that the students have left we have numerous options for Minnetonka teachers' professional development. Hundreds of our teachers will spend time in classes and trainings we offer beginning this week, continuing in July and into August right up until school begins. We have both face to face and online training options. Annually over 400 Minnetonka teachers take technology professional development classes during the summer months in addition to the other curriculum trainings and courses offered. Summer is a prime time for teacher training to occur. Our summer program has grown considerably over the past 12 years--back in 2005 we only had eight technology related classes!


Over the next three months there are technology classes related to iPads, Schoology, computer coding, digital health and wellness, maker spaces, Google, research/fake news and more. In addition to technology classes, there are also many non-technology sessions offered such as classes on assessment, engagement, special needs, and our teaching and learning framework. We also offer extensive training sessions in August for all of our new teachers.

We use My Learning Plan to manage all of this. Teachers can sign up and drop classes, automatically be notified and reminded of classes and locations, and we can track rosters, waitlists, and CEUs. Teachers receive a stipend for the time they spend learning in summer technology sessions.
More details about this summer's technology options are below (open in a new window):

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