Monday, July 16, 2018

New iPads Coming for Minnetonka Grade 5-12 Students to Accelerate Learning

Image Source: Apple
Image Source: Apple
At its last meeting the Minnetonka School Board unanimously approved the purchase of new iPads for our 6,400 grade 5-12 students (watch the meeting). Funding will come from a three-year payment structure. For the past eight years in our 1:1 iPad program, we have refreshed about a third of the devices each year. This means that students in our 1:1 iPad used an iPad that was no older than three years. After three years, we collected these iPads and redistributed them to our K-4 students to use in their classrooms in small sets at a ratio of about 1:4. We also have been cycling out the oldest iPads to a reseller, because the value of iPads that are five or more years old is still quite high.

Because of our past rotation schedule, this meant that students in our 1:1 program were using three different models of iPads. The memory, speed, and operating systems capabilities varied--such as split screens being available on new models but not on older ones, etc. The decision to do a mass refresh will mean that all students will start with a new device this fall with the same capabilities: an iPad 6th Generation

There are many exciting features for learning in these new devices, including the AR capabilities, of which the current possibilities are only beginning. The Apple Pencil will also work with these iPads. We are purchasing some of these Apple Pencils for teachers to use in an extended pilot. We are anxious to see how teachers use this additional tool for instruction, adding the ability to easily annotate as they instruct with a wireless mobile device using apps like Notability and Explain Everything. Students will be able to use their own Apple Pencil if they so choose.

In order for this to happen, we had to collect all of our current iPads about one month ago. In the past we had only collected about 1,600 iPads at the Last Minute to Maximize LearningA few weeks ago we collected almost 6,000 student iPads in the final week of school. Normally our students keep their iPads for the summer, but because of this mass refresh, we collected almost all of them. Some exceptions were teacher iPads as well as about 800 students taking a Tonka Online class this summer. These two groups will trade in their old iPad for a new one in August when everyone else receives theirs as well. Below is just a small sampling of photos showing what the organization and process of this collection looked like:

Photo by Sara Hunt
Photo by Sara Hunt 
This process involves a tremendous amount of work on the part of teachers, staff, and students, too. I am thankful it went so smoothly and look forward to getting the new devices in the hands of our students and teachers next month to accelerate learning in the coming years!

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Monday, July 9, 2018

FlipGrid is Now Free--Great News for Online Discussions & More

Although I was aware of FlipGrid, I hadn't used it until this past week since it used to cost money. We'd had some teachers in our Tonka Online program try it out with their students and they liked it, but because of the cost we hadn't paid to allow all our teachers to have an account. A couple weeks ago right before the ISTE Conference in Chicago, FlipGrid announced that Microsoft had purchased it and was making it free for everyone (more details here). This was great news and created quite a buzz at the conference (#FlipGridFever). There were a number of sessions and mentions about FlipGrid so I learned a lot more about its many possibilities.

This past week I tried it out myself. I used FlipGrid in the online class I teach through Saint Mary's University of Minnesota with teachers who are working on their master's degree. Because the class is entirely online, I had students record a short 1-2 minute introduction of themselves to post to our class FlipGrid. All FlipGrids are password protected, so it offers a private way to build an online community. As I watched each video to learn about my students, I was able to easily and quickly record a response to each of them, welcoming them to class and asking some follow up questions. I'm really impressed with the simplicity of the tool and can see it taking off this coming school year when we show it to our teachers in Minnetonka. There is also a built in rubric feature that can be utilized. I plan to use it again in my course in a few weeks, too.

Two different sessions I attended at ISTE mentioned GridPals, including Matt Miller of Ditch that Textbook (pictured). GridPals are basically video pen pals using FlipGrid. It's a great idea and there are a lot more details about it online. Matt has additional ideas about uses for FlipGrid I'm excited to show our teachers and students in the coming year. I'm thankful to Microsoft for making this tool available for free!

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Monday, July 2, 2018

The Most Magnificent Thing: Making Design Thinking Available Through Children’s Literature

A few weeks ago at the Ignite, Inspire, Innovate Conference in Stillwater I attended a session entitled Making Design Thinking Available Through Children’s Literature led by David Stricker from St. Catherine University. In this session, David highlighted the use of children's picture books to help teach design and engineering to students. 

The main book he showed was called The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires shown above. I had seen it years ago but had forgotten about it, so it was a good refresher. In the story a girl has an idea for an invention, "the most magnificent thing," and goes about building it. She works through all the steps of the design process, testing things out by trying various materials and building multiple prototypes. She spends time tinkering and observing. Her dog is an assistant in the story. She also experiences frustrations and failure, but persists and in the end is successful. 

It's a great story that really could result in some powerful conversations with students about their work and the process they go through when brainstorming and creating something. In fact, some elementary teachers in the room spoke about how they had found this book helpful with their own students. It's nice to have a main character who is female--David mentioned in his research and experience using this book, female students appreciated this and that it wasn't an issue noticed by male students. Other texts that were mentioned included What Do You Do With An Idea?Beautiful Oops!Rosie Revere the Engineer, and Iggy Peck Architect. Another attendee mentioned Accidents May Happen- 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake by Charolette Jones. 

In addition to talking about children's literature to help teach design thinking, David pointed out is that engineering and design thinking doesn’t need robots or be expensive. We can find conceptually rich, inexpensive projects in everyday for students. For example, he described having students work on re-designing a paperclip or pop tab/can openers (working with levers, pressure, the need to keep the tab with the can). In another example, he described the task of having students redesign a cardboard lunchbox, and comparing box lunch containers from various restaurants. Each of these tasks gets students to be inquisitive and work through basic principles of engineering. You can also easily have the students work as a team collaboratively. One other resource to check out that David shared which looks good is EIE, Engineering is Elementary.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Design for Learning Project Lead Nicole Snedden Wins ISTE Award

Congratulations to Nicole Snedden, Minnetonka's Design for Learning Project Leader, for winning this year's ISTE Learning Space PLN Outstanding Learning Space Designer Award. Besides being our Design for Learning Project Leader, Nicole is also our Innovation Coordinator. "Each year, ISTE honors individuals who are leading the way in accelerating the use of technology to solve tough problems in education and inspire innovation. These winners represent a who’s who in the edtech world." Nicole received her award yesterday at the ISTE Conference in Chicago.
Elementary Instructional Technology Coach Rachel Studnicka wrote the following about Nicole:

Nicole is a visionary leader that fosters a learning culture for modern learners in the digital age... Nicole wanted to empower students by giving them a voice in the design of their learning spaces to impact student engagement and learning... Nicole has transformed our district through her vision and grassroots initiative to better the student learning experience by providing learner-centered environments to meet the diverse needs of all learners... She has provided teachers with innovative professional development training and opportunities to work closely with experts in design such as Cannon Design, author of The Third Teacher... Nicole’s efforts and clear vision for modern education have brought positive change for students and teachers district wide with design thinking and Human Centered Design practice.

As stated on our website, Minnetonka's Design for Learning Committee “empowers Minnetonka students, staff and the community to transform teaching and learning through the design of the learning environment.” This team meets quarterly to:

  • Engage in conversations regarding the design of spaces in the district both present and future.
  • Offer staff development to teachers who are interested in learning about the design process.
  • Support teachers through a grant process as they apply for funding to re-envision their current learning spaces.
  • Provide research-based information to Minnetonka Teachers and Community as well as host a yearly event with guest speakers who specialize in learning spaces. 
We are so fortunate to have teacher leaders like Nicole in Minnetonka. More info about Design for Learning in Minnetonka and a photo gallery can be found hereYou can read more about Minnetonka's Design for Learning process, see other projects and results, as well as learn more about Minnetonka Innovation in these related posts: 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Isolation is a Choice Educators Make: George Couros & The Twitter Factor

I have lost track of how many times I have heard George Couros speak at conferences--eight or ten seems about right. Today I heard him at the Ignite Inspire Innovation Conference in Stillwater, Minnesota. We've had him come speak at some of our past events in Minnetonka, too. I’m surprised I haven’t had a blog post about him until now, as I always enjoy hearing him present. George is an energetic, fun and passionate storyteller who can move and inspire an audience. He uses so many great images and video clips to get points across, and his jokes as a Canadian are a nice bonus. 

He always encourages the use of Twitter by educators to build a network outside their school with whom they can share ideas and best practices. This is something we encourage our own teachers to do in Minnetonka. I also encourage each of my online students who are mainly teachers around Minnesota working on their masters through the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota program where I teach to do this as well. Although it's easy to sign up and start, it's not a practice I see all teachers follow through with in the long term. I've heard it said that it takes about ten weeks to form a habit, and I think using Twitter is no different. 

One of the more memorable stories I’ve heard George tell is what he is called 
the Twitter Factor (see A Higher Chance of Becoming Great? The “Twitter” Factor), in which he describes walking into a teacher‘s classroom and seeing all sorts of evidence that a teacher has a network outside of his or her school district. The  evidence is visible by some of the projects the teacher is doing with her/his students, from makerspaces to genius hours. One of the other points he makes in his talks and did so again today was that "isolation is now a choice educators makeIf you want a world class education, you've got to look at what the rest of the world is doing." I agree. If you have been hesitant or have tried Twitter in the past but haven't found value in it yet, here a two tips I have to make it easier and more useful:
  1. Use a free Twitter dashboard tool like HootSuite pictured. Rather than scrolling through an endless feed of random tweets of followers as well as ads, you can create columns organized by search keywords and hashtags you select, such as your school district, #edtech, #digcit, #ipaded, and more. You can then easily scroll through these sorted Tweets. Almost everyone I show this tool loves it and feels it is a much easier way to manage Twitter. Simply leave this webpage open as a tab in your browser and take a look at it as you have time. You can favorite, retweet, and compose new Tweets directly through the dashboard.
  2. You can also turn on mobile alerts for colleagues/important connections so you receive a text every time s/he Tweets and don't miss out, without having to got to Twitter or a dashboard tool like HootSuite to see if they have posted anything. 
Other tips to add? Let me know via Twitter!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Beyond SAMR Ladders & Pools: A Framework for Teaching & Learning-- ISTE June 26, 2018

At ISTE in Chicago on Tuesday, June 26 from 4:15-5:15pm I'll be presenting Beyond SAMR Ladders & Pools: A Framework for Teaching & Learning with our Director of Teacher Development, Sara White. The day before I'll also be presenting a short teaser at ISTE Bytes, on Monday, June 25 from 8:30-9:30am. Here's more info:
You'd be hard pressed to find an educational technology leader unfamiliar with the SAMR scale. The concept of differing levels of technology integration with stages of use in education is not new. Over the past few decades, we've had various acronyms like ACOT, RAT, TPACK and more. With SAMR, we've seen analogies like ladders, coffee, pools, and wheels. One of the limitations with each of these is they really just focus on technology, sometimes pigeon holing a technology tool or app into a specific level, when instead the focus needs to be much more broad. For example, even though a green screen end product might look great, students might simply be at the basic level of learning. And looking beyond technology, what about the four C’s, authentic real world learning or global learning?

Four years ago in Minnetonka Public Schools we stopped referencing technology scales and acronyms and developed our own framework for teaching and learning. We found great benefit from reflecting on all areas of teaching and learning, too. Now conversations about technology not only include the levels of complexity, but also to what extent students are thinking critically, communicating, what they are creating, if their experiences were authentic, personalized, collaborative, and global. It all fits together as part of the conversation and bigger picture of instructional best practices.
The Minnetonka Framework for Teaching & Learning
Each of these other areas of instruction and learning have their own levels and stages, too. For example, you can say that your students are collaborating, but is it at the basic level of talking with a neighbor about their answer to a problem or a higher level of collaborative skills involved in negotiating and resolving decisions about what information is most important for a group presentation? Because of this, we developed a larger framework for instruction overall. There are eight dimensions on our framework, and each has its own levels of complexity (similar to SAMR levels). 

The Framework shows "how often modest adjustments to lesson design and learning environments can significantly elevate students’ opportunities to learn. It provides educators with a launching point for planning meaningful, engaging instruction for learners who already live in a complex information society in which the nature of work is rapidly changing. Teachers can create places of learning that engage students at high levels and lead to deeper understandings by intentionally planning learning experiences with these strands in mind." Framework Overview document

To develop this comprehensive framework Sara coordinated the work and efforts of teacher and administrator teams who worked to identify and compose the definitions and levels for each level of complexity on the Framework, as well as write an overview document and create guides of about 10-15 pages that detail each of the Framework's eight dimensions. (View the draft guide for Authentic & Real World Learning). Sara also scripted an overview video that we showed our staff  during back to school workshops a few years ago:

Our Framework now guides our curriculum writing with dimensions and levels being identified in our UbD units. It also is the focus of our staff development, including technology. Our instructional technology coaches meet with teachers and do trainings focusing on strands of the Framework. Teachers meet in roundtables to discuss how they are designing instruction around different dimensions of the Framework and how technology integrates with these other areas. They also discuss the progress they are making on their technology goal for the year which is tied in with another Framework dimension. These goals are shared with the instructional technology coaches and their building principals. 

The Minnetonka Framework for Teaching and Learning has helped us move beyond SAMR ladders and pools to designing student experiences for meaning, engagement, and deeper learning. In fact, our teachers haven’t even heard of SAMR. Come discover a way to design and implement a roadmap for teaching and learning alignment and move beyond simply focusing on technology implementation toward successfully creating more meaningful, deeper and engaging learning experiences for students. If you'll be at ISTE in a few weeks, please join me on Tuesday, June 26 from 4:15-5:15pm.

Learn more about Minnetonka Schools and Technology Integration:

Monday, June 4, 2018

What Are Minnetonka Teachers Learning About This Summer? A Lot--During Our Professional Development Classes!

Last past week we launched our annual summer catalog of professional development for our teachers. There are almost 100 sessions from which teachers can choose, including 18 online options. You can view all the 
course descriptions and the schedule
Hundreds of our teachers will spend time in classes and trainings we offer over the next three months, right up until school begins. Each summer over 400 Minnetonka teachers take technology professional development classes 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 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.

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