Monday, December 11, 2017

Exceptional Minnetonka Teachers Recognized for Use of Technology

We are fortunate to have exceptional teachers in Minnetonka Public Schools. Each day I am amazed at the innovative ways they use technology with their students to engage and excite them in learning. This is the fourth year that we have nominated one elementary and one secondary teacher to be recognized in at the annual TIES MN state technology conference in December. These teachers are among 75+ teachers from almost 50 districts honored at the annual conference. The TIES Exceptional Teacher award recognizes teachers who use technology to positively impact student learning and model best practices in their classroom. Below are descriptions about each award winner written by our instructional technology coaches. This year's Minnetonka award winners (as well as our past winners since I haven't posted about them in the past) are below. I've included direct links to their Twitter handles so you can learn more about them:

Jennifer Hahn, Groveland 5th Grade Teacher, is a student-centered, tech-savvy teacher. She is highly proficient at integrating technology into existing curriculum and skillfully creates learning experiences that encompass technology. Jennifer consistently seeks ways to engage her students in learning through Breakout EDU challenges, Genius Hour, and coding projects. She effectively uses iPads and Schoology to maximize student learning and to share her passion for Language Arts to ignite a love of reading in children. Jennifer is collaborative and creative, sharing her passions for reading and technology not only with her students, but with her peers as a master teacher leader. She is a go-to resource for tips, tricks, and instructional best practices.

Joe's Blog
Joe Cossette, Minnetonka High School Science Teacher, works tirelessly to implement technology on a daily basis to enhance his instruction and increase student engagement. He harnesses the power of technology to build community and empower learning for both students and staff. Joe has become a connected educator on social media, building his own repertoire as well as sharing ideas on his blog to support others. He recently led an internal professional development session on using Twitter to enhance teacher voice and collaboration among staff. His work has not only impacted his students but all science students at Minnetonka High School. Joe models a growth mindset, creativity, collaboration, and communication using technology to empower his students to try new tools and create meaningful products to demonstrate their learning. He even writes songs to help his students learn science!


Lisa Reed, Minnetonka Middle School STEM and Computer Science Teacher, is an educator who is very focused on creating a student centered classroom for all of her students. She is a motivated to not let anything get in the way of bringing technology to her students. She has a powerful ability to create engaging projects that are student-led to showcase the students’ ability to utilize technology to enhance their learning. One of Lisa’s strengths is how organized she is both in the classroom and in a virtual environment when communicating with students and parents. Her dedication to the teaching and learning goes beyond just her classroom. Lisa leads a cohort of teachers that focuses on how classroom design affects student learning. She also involves her 6th Grade STEM students in the Design for Learning process by having them create proposals for other teachers to help better design their classrooms to foster engagement and high levels of learning. She has written curriculum for middle school level computer science courses, which are being implemented this year. She was able to use our districts Framework to help create those courses and ensure alignment with the high school program. Lastly, Lisa is passionate about fostering a love of science and technology for girls by leading the Tonka Technovation club, which is a club for girls to get involved in STEM activities, such as coding. 

Kirsten Rue Johnson, Grade 3 Teacher at Minnewashta Elementary, is a leader with technology. Kirsten is innovative and looks for new ways to integrate technology with her students on a daily basis. Being a third grade teacher, she helps bridge the gap from students learning to use technology, to using technology to learn and create. This year, Kirsten has taken on an additional role to support teachers in their use of coding and computer science in the elementary classroom. Persistence, logic, and problem solving are not just skills that she is helping to foster in the classrooms, but skills that she models in her role as a computer science coach. Kirsten continues her support in after school activities as well. She is working with a team to provide computer science professional development to all teachers via a blended learning opportunity, and she is working to get families involved with computer science with an after school event.

Tim Sauer and Ali Wachutka with Mark Wollak from TIES
Dr. Tim Sauer, Minnetonka High School Math Teacher, “Doc Sauer” as the students call him, is dedicated to the success of every learner. He designs lessons with hands-on experiences to fully engage students and to provide real world applications for their mathematics learning. When Minnetonka implemented its 1:1 iPad initiative, Dr. Sauer re-imagined his entire curriculum, designing lessons and practice that make optimal use of the technology available to students. Insatiably curious, Tim constantly explores new ways to show his students that math is in everything, and he uses technology in his classroom to spark curiosity and wonder.

Ali Wachutka, Grade 2-3 Navigator Teacher at Scenic Heights Elementary, is an innovative teacher who focuses on what is best for her students. Ali is in tune with the needs of her multi-age exceptionally gifted students. She has made the most of the limited technology available in her classroom, including using QR codes with her book collection and programming applications with Finch robots.
Ali is a master teacher. Her students are engaged and challenged each and every day. She uses technology to personalize learning for her students. She engages students in big-picture projects where their interests and strengths drive the learning. Ali is incredibly competent in leveraging technology to plan, communicate and teach efficiently and effectively. She is also happy to share what she knows with her colleagues.

Cindy McGlasson, Minnetonka Middle School East Math Teacher. Her approach to educational technology always begins with students. She brings a laser focus to the critical question of how the technology will impact her students, and she uses her innate knowledge of students and her expertise in authentically integrating craft the right approach using the right technology. If you were to walk into her math class on any given day, you would find happy, engaged math students authentically using technology to differentiate, create and collaborate. From her daily homework checks that allow her to follow her students’ progress, to her collaborative whiteboard problem-solving lessons, to her lesson-review Kahoots!, Cindy is a master at making mathematics come to life with technology-infused lessons. When it comes to instructional technology, Cindy is a leader in her classroom, in her department, and in her school.
Rachel Studnicka, Groveland Elementary School Grade 4 Teacher, is continuously striving for the best in her students. One of the ways that Rachel works to ensure that her students are successful in her class is through her use of technology. Rachel uses technology as an integrated part of her classroom. She has provided her students with flipped opportunities through our LMS, she has given the students the chance to participate in BYOD, and she often collects data from the students through the use of digital formative assessments. Rachel jumps at the chance to try new things, when she understands the potential impact it can have on students. The best example of this is her involvement in our district’s coding initiative. Rachel is the co-lead for her building for TONKA <codes>. She brings an excitement for the knowledge that comes with bringing this new program to the students.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Don't Miss 12 Minnetonka Public Schools' Presentations @ #TIES17

Next week is the TIES Conference, the annual statewide Minnesota Educational Technology get together. Teachers, technology coaches, tech directors, media specialists, principals, superintendents, and other educators from around the Midwest will gather in Minneapolis for two days of learning, networking, collaboration and idea sharing. If you can't attend, follow #TIES17 to see what you're missing. If you are able to attend, be sure to check out these 12 sessions led by Minnetonka Public Schools' staff:

Dave Eisenmann, Director of Instructional Technology & Media Services
Eric Schneider, Associate Superintendent
Develop a larger framework for technology beyond SAMR ladders and pools which includes authentic and real-world learning, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, global perspectives, and personalized learning. Learn how Minnetonka has developed a Framework for Teaching & Learning that includes all of these dimensions and will guide you to successfully create more meaningful, deeper, and engaging learning experiences. Move beyond focusing on technology! Link to presentation

Melinda Barry, Media Specialist
Using Human Centered Design and The Third Teacher principles, staff, students and parents at Scenic Heights Elementary transformed the library media center into a 21st Century learning space. We reflected on our current space, consulted with kids, and dreamed big. During this session you'll learn about the process used to redesign the space and to build excitement so the funding would follow.

Nicole Snedden, Innovation Coordinator, Teacher Instructional Coach, & Design for Learning Project Leader 
In this session, participants will learn how to embrace a progressive culture of innovation in how a school district can design and think about learning spaces. Discuss the preconceptions and barriers regarding classroom design and explore the power of using technology and crowdsourcing to communicate vision and engage a variety of stakeholders (students, teachers, and the community) in this evolution.

Library Skills for Today's Media Centers
Erin Carcamo, Elementary Media Specialist
Julie Carter, Grey Ed
Library skills provide a rich background of essential understanding for students in the areas of research, writing and digital literacy. Although these skills have changed to reflect the needs of the 21st century learner, how we are teaching these skills hasn’t been transformed. Experience an interactive, literature infused way of teaching and transforming library skills in your media centers. You will learn about the implementation of these skills in a Minnetonka Schools Elementary Library. May contain commercial content.

Rachel Studnicka, Elementary Instructional Technology Coach
In this session, we will explore ideas and processes for designing authentic performance tasks to be used as rich learning activities and/or for purposes of assessment. The G.R.A.S.P.S. elements that are used to frame a performance task: real-world Goal, a meaningful Role; an authentic (or simulated) Audience(s), a contextualized Situation, student-generated Products and Performances, and performance Standards (criteria) by which successful performance would be judged.

Darren Best, High School Instructional Technology Coach and Math Teacher
Patricia Price, High School Instructional Technology Coach and Science Teacher
This session will highlight Schoology features that allow teachers to present new content in an online format; even when they need to be out of the classroom.

Professional Learning - One Size Does Not Fit All
Dr. Paula Hoff, Middle School Principal
Sara Hunt, Tech Coach/Science Teacher, Minnetonka Public Schools
Learn how one school transformed the professional learning model for all staff by providing a framework for each individual adult learner to pursue learning that directly aligned to individual interest and need. Focus on district and building goals, deliverables for staff, and student achievement measures are all part of the model.

Schoology Hidden Gems
Rachel Studnicka, Elementary Instructional Technology Coach
Schoology user? This session is for you! Schoology has so many "hidden gems" - lesser known features or loved features that are being used in new, creative ways. In this session a Schoology Champion will present some of her favorites!

Ann Kaste, High School Media Specialist
Kelli Whiteside, Elementary Media Specialist
Fake news has been around for a long time, and recently, learning to spot it has taken on new levels of importance. Students need strong, scholarly research strategies to evaluate the information they find online. This workshop offers relevant information on effective online searching, strategies for accessing quality online resources, and engaging instructional content to use with your students as you prepare them for finding information online.

Colleen Small, Elementary Media Specialist
Learn about the 3D Printing in an elementary setting! This session will feature one educator's journey using Tinkercad and Maker'sEmpire in the elementary.

Ben Stanerson, 
Robb Virgin, Assistant High School Principal
Online learning reimagined through stories of successful online courses that defeat common myths. Tonka Online offers supplemental, teacher created, online courses to students in Minnetonka and across the state. Minnetonka teachers will share how they confront myths about online learning by developing engaging courses that focus on quality, building relationships, and deliver exceptional learning. Practical tips for course design, student support, communication, and more will be discussed.

Darren Best, High School Instructional Technology Coach and Math Teacher
Zach Eidelbes, Digital Learning Coach, Shakopee Public Schools
Desmos is more than a free online graphing calculator. Desmos activity builder creates opportunities for students to discover mathematics. In this session, we will share how we have used Desmos to increase engagement and exploration in our classrooms. You will experience Desmos Activity Builder as a student, explore the many ready to use activities available for free, and prepare to create your own. Leave with activities that you can implement immediately when you get back to your classroom.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Digital Media Diet: Differing Types of Entertainment Screen Time

Source. Used with permission.
Recently I was interviewed for an article on screen time called The Digital Media Diet: Nutritious Vs. Junk Food Screen Time. In this article, the author creatively uses the food pyramid as an analogy to help us realize there are different categories of entertainment screen time. Just as there are different food groups with varying levels of nutritional value and recommended daily servings, so too are there differing levels of screen time and amounts that should be "consumed." Some foods like fruits and vegetables (or screens used for education, collaboration, creation, and organization) are better for us than other foods such as sugary snacks or junk food (mindless video games or passive movie watching). I love the analogy and think it is a helpful one to point out to both students and adults. 

As I stated in the article, I'd rather have my kids socializing with friends through technology or playing multiplayer video games than spending time watching movies or playing video games alone. I realize there are times when screen time won't be productive or seem to have any redeeming value. As parents and educators, we can help kids realize the need to not overindulge in this type of entertainment screen time, just as we work to help them understand why we can't eat candy all the time. We want to raise kids to have a healthy balance in their use of technology, and understanding the different types and values of entertainment screen time is a great skill to teach kids.

It's been over two years since the American Academy of Pediatrics revised their screen time recommendations, encouraging parents to consider the content on the screen itself before deciding whether or not there should be any time limits. The AAP recommends limiting recreational/entertainment screen time to one to two hours per day for children over age two (source). There is no screen time limit for educational content and use. Read more about The Difference Between Educational & Entertainment Screen Time in a previous post. 

FYI, the article was written on behalf of Forcefield, a company that created a parenting Apple App to help manage kid's phones. It soon will be available in Android. I plan to try it out in a few months when it will be available as a VPN like Curbi.

Related posts: 

    Monday, November 20, 2017

    Dancing Robots Programmed in Grade 6 STEM Class

    Sixth grade students in Dan Chies’ STEM class at Minnetonka Middle School West spend one quarter learning about robotics and coding. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Approximately four weeks is spent on each topic. For the coding unit, students learn using Apple’s Swift program on their iPads. For robotics, students use LEGO’s NXT robots. The students love STEM class overall, as it is a very hands on, project driven class.
    One student's robot animal with claws and a heart.
    For the robotics unit, Dan first taught students the basics of using the block coding program to move and manipulate the robot. He provides guidance and assistance as needed, but leaves a lot of the troubleshooting and problem solving up to the students. Students work in collaborative groups as they learn and then each of these groups creates a product to showcase their learning as well. One of the final projects is for the students to make a robotic animal, such as a giraffe, turtle or snake that uses its sensors to move or react.  Students also had to submit a video explaining their thinking and each step of coding that took place.
    The end project of the "learning the abilities of your bot" portion was to make their robot dance. The dance moves had to be choreographed to the music or words of the music. For example, if the words say "to the left" your robot actually moves to the left. The students each had to program their own robot to work collectively as a whole for 15-30 seconds. As you can see in the video, students had fun with this project and worked hard to get the timing correct.
    One group's coding block sequence for their robot.
    Then during the second half of STEM class for the quarter, sixth graders learn Swift. The app is very user friendly, with each ‘level’ adding another piece of code language or complexity.  As a final project, students design their own level for Swift, creating a story with a problem to solve, providing the user with hints as well as showing at least two solutions. Dan requires that the code contain more complex moves than moving right or left, such as if...else, loops, etc.
    In later grades in Minnetonka, students have further opportunities for hands on, project based classes learning coding and robotics. In seventh grade Tech Ed, students once again get to use LEGO robots, as well as a 3D printer (MakerBot), and design with Google Sketchup. Elective classes in eighth grade include Advanced Robotics using EV3s and a Computer Science class in which students learn Java and HTML. These elective options continue at our high school as well.

    Monday, November 13, 2017

    Simple Tip for Powerful Conversations with Kids: Start with "What if.." vs. "Have you..?"

    No one likes to get cornered or be interrogated, kids included! When people feel as through they may end up in trouble for answering a question, they may choose to not be as open or honest with their answers. Relationships between a parent and child, teacher and student, coach and athlete, etc. can be challenging enough already, so here's a quick tip to make things a bit easier that I find works well:
    Start conversations with "What if..?" instead of "Have you..?"
    This simple tip works well for all types of conversations. For example, when talking with kids about technology, consider the differences between asking the following questions:

    What would you do if you saw someone being mean to someone online?
    Have you ever been mean to someone online? 
    What would you do if a friend wanted to show you inappropriate pictures online? 
    Have you ever looked at inappropriate pictures online?
    This technique removes the potential fear of a reprimand. I've found it also leads to deeper, more meaningful conversations, too. Variations that might get a bit more personal yet still don't completely corner the person being asked might be "Have you ever seen this happen..?" or "Have any of your friends ever..?" And of course, the questions don't need to be limited to just technology. All sorts of topics are easier to discuss without making them so personal from the get go-- cheating, drugs and alcohol, etc.

    Related links:

    Monday, November 6, 2017

    Family Fun Day- Making Quality Time for Relationships

    Spending quality time with others is important to build relationships and deepen friendships. It is critical for healthy families. Technology can certainly help strengthen these connections, and of course, it can also distract us from them. Finding a healthy balance and modeling this for today's youth is important. In the past I have written quite a lot about this, such as Be Where Your Feet Are: #RealTime with Those Around YouTech Free Family Dinners Focused on GratitudeFive Ways to Raise Digitally Balanced JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) Kids in a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) World and much more (see links below). Last spring during one of my Parent Webinars with Mathew Meyers, as we were discussing the need to do things with our children that weren't just screen based entertainment, one of the parents submitted this question: "What are some activities to do without screens?"

    At first I was pretty surprised by this question, but in discussing it with Mathew afterwards I realized that for many parents, this is a challenge. Much of our lives are busy and scheduled, and by the time we have common free time together, we may be exhausted! What little time many families do have together is often spent with screens on, either collectively watching TV or a movie, gaming, or each on their own device. Sometimes it can be this way in our home, too, but my wife and I continue to make an effort to not have this be the norm. One super fun activity in our home is called "Family Fun Day."

    Family Fun Day is a reoccurring monthly appointment on our calendar. It may be shifted due to conflicting events, sports games, etc., but we try hard to have it happen at least once per month. Basically, each of the six members of our family picks an activity for 20 minutes. We draw names to determine who goes first, second, etc. Activities are a surprise and aren't announced until the start. In the span of a couple hours, we spend quality time together doing a variety of activities such as those listed below. It's not always entirely tech free, such as playing Just Dance on Nintendo Wii, but it is a group activity done together. It is a lot of fun, great conversation time, and great memories are made. I'd encourage you to give it a try--let me know if you do and if you have other fun ideas to try!
    • Minute to win it relays (Google that for hundreds of ideas)
    • Cup stacking
    • Playing with Play doh, Pictionary with Play doh
    • Making brownies, cookies or caramel apples
    • Egg drop in a shoebox from the roof
    • Card games like spoons
    • Board games like 5 Second Rule
    • Darts
    • Paper airplane contests
    • Four square
    • Basketball
    • Touch football
    • Street hockey, ice hockey
    • Bike rides
    • Walk to the park
    • Coloring
    • Wii Sports or Just Dance competitions
    • Mini golf (on a homemade course in the basement)
    • Looking at family pictures from a past trip
    • Water balloons
    • Stacking pennies on tinfoil boats
    • Ping pong, blow ping pong, round robin ping pong, etc...

    Related posts: 

    Monday, October 30, 2017

    Top 10 Tips for Successful 1:1 Implementations

    Adobe Spark (45).jpg
    Last week at our biannual Minnetonka School District Site Visit, one of the breakout sessions for interested attendees was our Top 10 Tips for Successful 1:1 Implementations. Even though our 1:1 program is with iPads, the tips for success apply to any device or platform.

    I have written about some of the tips listed below in the past in detail as an individual blog post. You can view the presentation slides farther below which contain links to further information about each of these tips. I hope ideas listed here are beneficial for you. I also hope to write about each of these tips in more detail in the future.
    1. Execute the Planning & Rollout Carefully & Deliberately 
    2. Flip Student Training
    3. Continual & Differentiated Teacher Training
    4. Make Classroom Management an Early & Continuous Focus
    5. Use tools for Formative Assessment 
    6. Promote Collaboration with Google Apps
    7. Have a robust LMS as the Hub of Student Learning 
    8. Inspire Creation vs. Consumption
    9. Teach Students to Be Responsible & Focused
    10. Parent Education is Critical

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