Saving Edchats!

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One of my greatest joys as an educator is having been a part of the #caedchat moderating team. Ever since we started back in February of 2013, it is has been a phenomenal experience. The #caedchat community has grown and many networks and friendships have been made through this hashtag. Our weekly chats have tackled many educational issues from integrating edtech, to focusing on our language learners, to supporting LGBTQ students. There have been many transformational conversations, thousands of tweets, and hundreds of resources that have been shared.

We have built a community out of a hashtag. Think about that. Just by placing a “pound” symbol in front of the letters “CAedchat” all of this was born. And I love this community. As do many other people.

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So what do you do when your community is threatened?

Last weekend, a spambot found our hashtag. This wasn’t just any spambot. It was a spambot spewing xxx-rated photos objectifying women at an alarming rate. As soon as you reported the photos and blocked the Twitter handle, a new Twitter handle appeared, recycling some of the very images you blocked. The tweets came into our hashtag quicker than we could block them. At first we thought, this spambot will just move on. But as the tweets increased even as our reporting increased, the task of getting the tweets to stop seemed insurmountable.

Direct messages began showing up in my inbox on Twitter. People asking me what are we going to do about this? The only response I had at first was to keep reporting and blocking. Reporting and blocking. Reporting and blocking. And don’t share the #caedchat hashtag with any new teachers at this point.

The #caedchat mods began brainstorming together in a DM group as well. David Theriault created some unique tweets. We started requesting that @Twitter, @Support, and @Jack (Twitter CEO) to please help us.

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And…

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And even asking politely…

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Then we learned we were not the only ones. These tweets appeared:

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And guess what? #sschat, #pblchat, and #dtk12chat had the same spambots. The same problems. The same objectifying xxx-rated images. This is when we all teamed up. We started a group DM and began brainstorming together. We all wished we had connections at Twitter. This problem just seemed so much bigger than us. It was even suggested we consider changing our hashtag, but to me that was always “plan z.” We wondered why this was happening to only our relatively small educational hashtags, when big hashtags like #edchat were unaffected? Well that didn’t last long. As soon as we uttered those words, a small amount of the spam tweets started to show up there as well.

Then before we knew it, on America’s glorious birthday, the tweets just stopped. After 5 days of battling the bots, they just disappeared.

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We don’t know exactly what helped our cause. It could have been the sheer number of people working to report and block on three different hashtags. It could have been the many tweets to@Twitter, @Support, or tweeting directly to @Jack. Whatever it was, the problem went away. We survived. We kept our hashtags. And our community is put back together again.

But we have to wonder. How vulnerable are our education related hashtags? After all, no one owns a hashtag. They are as public as a community park. Yet, unlike a community park, you can’t just call in for emergency services and get the creeps out of the park. And if it was our public park, emergency services would have shown up right away. But in the Twittersphere of hashtags, it took days. 5 days to be exact.

Our hashtags rely on all of us. If we want to keep this going, if we want to keep connecting on Twitter to learn and grow, we have to come up with some sort of strategy that will work. It is my hope that in sharing this whole ordeal in a blog post, we will at least have an archive of it happening. So far, I haven’t heard of this happening this badly with any other education related hashtag. But if so, if you have seen this happen before, please share the story of what happened and how you think you may have solved it.

Until then we are just thankful…

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Thank you to all who helped battle the bots!

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Just Say NO to Public Behavior Management Systems!

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I love this blog post from Pernille Ripp called “I’ve Had Enough– No More Public Behavior Management Systems.”

She says in reference to kids who have a difficult time with behavior, “When we use public behavior management systems, we tell those children that school will never be a place where they will succeed. We put them under an unattainable microscope and then wonder why they rebel.”

Just Let it Go!

I used to use a clip chart and I’m sorry for it.

Sometimes I think back and wonder why, as a teacher, do we do certain things? Like public behavior systems, homework, spelling tests, etc. These are not things that are learned in our credential programs. There isn’t any research that supports the use. So where did we learn it then? We learned it from each other. Because someone, however long ago, decided this worked. Public behavior systems kept a class in line. It kept a class quiet. It kept kids in their “place.” And long ago that was how school was. A quiet, teacher centered place. But this isn’t what school is today.

However we are human, and yes, we make mistakes. Mistakes can bring about good if we can learn from them. I wish I could go back and change my practices of the past and apologize to kids who may have been adversely affected. But since I haven’t been able to get our Tardis to work just yet, what I can do is move forward. Make changes and move forward.

tardis

 

Image Credit: LINK

We all can. We all want our classrooms to be safe places for children. All of the teachers who I have worked with love children. So let’s truly build a place that is safe, respectful, and helps our most needy kids. Make the behavior systems private and personalized. Because let’s face it, 95% of the class does not need a system. Plan for the small percent. It may be a lot more work, but it is work that is well worth it. Because our most needy students, our students who need the most love, ask for help in the most difficult ways.

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Flipping Back to School Night

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Flipping BTSN

 

No, I’m not trying swear about Back to School Night… we actually “flipped” it! Thanks to the idea from the famous Scott Bedley who has been flipping back to school night for several years now.

WHY did we flipped BTSN at Quantum Academy?

We are all crunched for time. Parents are. Teachers are. And there just isn’t enough time to really get to know each other. So one of the first times parents are invited into our classrooms, traditionally we inundate them with information “sit and get” style. In the past, I have looked out at my parents during BTSN events and have seen their tired faces, after having worked all day long, trying to focus, write notes, and learn about what their child will be doing all year. And yes, we all know parents use this time to gauge their child’s teacher. To see if their child’s teacher has passion, commitment, and knows their stuff. But is this traditional method of BTSN the best way to do this?

I say no. Parents can learn all the nitty gritty stuff like behavior expectations, curriculum guidelines, and contact information in a better way. This is when flipping comes in. Why not create videos parents can watch BEFORE BTSN so they can watch and learn about your classroom in the comfort of their own home and maybe even while wearing their pajamas? Why not give them an opportunity to gather their questions BEFORE they come to BTSN so they can ask you in a more personal manner? Why not open the doors of your classroom on BTSN for both parents and students and let the students do the talking about their classroom? All of these questions led us to decide that at our school we are Flipping Back to School Night.

HOW did we flipped BTSN?

We took advice from Scott Bedley and created about 15 1-2 minute videos by screencasting on our computers. We simply used Quicktime on our laptops. We co-created slides using Google Slides. We divided up the number of videos between our principal, Ted Kirkbride, and I. We created almost all of the videos that covered all the “school-wide” details. The teachers then created an introduction video where they introduce themselves and describe what makes them passionate about teaching. They were also welcome to add any other videos as well. What is great about making many short videos rather than one long video, is that it allows parents to watch in small chunks, rewatch parts they need refreshing about, and next year they can skip the videos they already have watched to save some of their valuable time. Also, from the perspective of making the videos, by creating smaller videos we could easily share the responsibility of creating them.

Once we had all of our videos created we posted them online in two ways. First, we posted them on our school website. Then we also created a Youtube playlist so all the videos could be watched easily at once. About a week before BTSN night we sent a link out to all parents and explained how BTSN will work at Quantum Academy.

I know some of you are thinking… what about equal access? What about parents who do not have access to technology to watch the videos? Here is how we solved that problem. We opened up our computer lab on the evening of BTSN and allowed those parents to come early to see the videos.

HOW was time spent during BTSN?

This is the best part… we had great one on one conversations with parents and students allowing us to make better connections with them. Students had tour guide sheets to help show their parents around. Students got to pitch their first Genius Hour project to their parents and parents had an opportunity to give feedback by using a rubric to help their child with their idea. I believe everyone had a great time during the event. There were far more smiles and stronger family connections were made. Perhaps this is something you may want to consider trying at next year’s Back to School Night Event.

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Introducing SPRK Lightning Lab for Sphero and Ollie

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SPRK Lightning Lab

 

Those spherical little robots have found a special place in my heart and in the heart of the students at my school. Seeing how much students love to interact with Sphero, I am in constant search to find more ways to make learning meaningful through the use of Spheros and programming.

So you can imagine how excited I was when Sphero contacted me back in November about writing lessons for their new (then unreleased) SPRK Sphero Lightning Lab. The SPRK Lightning Lab is a place where teachers, students, parents, and makers can gather and share ideas about how to interact and learn with Sphero and Ollie. With the new SPRK Lightning Lab you are able to create a class to push out peer-created lessons to students and track student progress. Being able to create this virtual classroom is perhaps one of the most unique features of classroom use of Sphero. In addition, the Lightning Lab app utilizes blockly programming where you can design programs and share them with the community. You can read more about this here.

As a Sphero Innovator, I was able to publish a few of my lessons that I have already vetted with students. They are:

  • Collaborative Art with Sphero. You can read more about this lesson here.
  • Sphero Knock Down
  • Geometry Maze

Here is how to get started:

Sign up for a SPRK Lightning Lab Account and login.

Your Dashboard– Where you can see your classes you have created and assign activities.

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Go to My Classes to create a class and add students.

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Visit the Activities page to see what lessons are already out there, add your own activities, or meet some of the Sphero Innovators. There are tons of great ideas to incorporate Sphero into all different types of content areas. Go to My Activities to add your own ideas and activities for students. Also, click on Innovators to see the teachers who are publishing lesson ideas and activities. Check out this great list of educators from around the world.

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Explore- See and try other’s programs. You can copy or download others’ programs as well so you can make your own iteration.

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Hopefully you will find the new SPRK Lightning Lab a great way to solve the workflow problems of using Spheros in your classrooms. Hopefully I will one day see your amazing lessons posted here as well!

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One Word 2016

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Community

As I embark into the 2016 journey, I am choosing one to guide myself throughout the year.

My one word is “community.”

My goal is to share more of the story of my school’s journey from opening on the first day to the end of the 2016 school year. I want our community to know how amazing our students are and how hard our staff works to design amazing learning experiences.

If you want to learn more about my school you can find us at QA.eusd.org!

qaclassroom

Share #YourEdustory 2016.

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A Beginning STEM Lesson for Parrot Minidrones and Tickle

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Parrot MiniDrone and Tickle

If I had asked myself 17 years ago what type of lessons I might be planning in 2015, I’m 100% certain I would not have predicted I would be planning a lesson involving the programming of a drone for students.

But yes, this blog post is exactly that… How to teach your students the safety of flying a drone and how to program a drone. I did this lesson with a group of 5th graders in my friend’s classroom and we had 16 Parrot Minidrones.

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Here are some tips we learned:

  1. Plan your lesson indoors. We used the multipurpose room with a lot of open space. If you do this lesson outdoors the wind will cause problems for the measuring in this lesson.
  2. Be organized and go over the safety tips I have included.
  3. Have students organized on one side of the room and plan for the drones to fly away.
  4. Often a drone gets dropped from the Tickle app and picks up another drone. So after a few times of this happening, when a group was ready to fly their drone they announced for the class to step away from the drones just to be certain it wasn’t picked up by another drone.
  5. Since there is a lot of room for inquiry in this lesson, check student programs before they fly to be sure they didn’t get too far off from the program you were hoping they would create.
  6. It is okay to be run a teacher centered drone lesson for the first few lessons until students gather confidence with programming their drone.
  7. Lessons with Sphero and Tickle first really help to build background skills for this drone lesson.
  8. Battery life is only about 7 minutes. We were able to finish this lesson without a problem with the battery.

Quadcopter Safety Tips:

  1. Always communicate well with your team. 
  2. If you are in charge of driving your quadcopter, you must be sure no one is holding the quadcopter in their hands or kneeling near it and be certain everyone on your team knows when it is time to fly.
  3. Be aware of other groups around you.
  4. Act out your program before you hit play.
  5. Do not try to grab the quadcopter while it is flying.
  6. Put your hair back in a ponytail.
  7. Do not run after the quadcopter if it is running astray.
  8. When in doubt, parachute out. (Use the emergency landing button).
  9. Each person in the group has a role. Please share the roles by taking turns.
  • Operator- in charge of the iPad and adding program changes
  • Observer- in charge of quadcopter
  • Recorder- in charge of recording measurements on sheet
  • Measurer- in charge of measuring

Goal of the Lesson:

The goal of this lesson is that students will learn the basics of blockly programming in Tickle and program a Parrot Minidrone. In addition, students will learn the relationship between time, speed, and distance through inquiry. The time, speed, and distance portion of the lesson is a lesson that I found on Sphero.com/education. This was originally a STEM lesson designed for programming Sphero with the Macrolab App. I adapted it to fit with programming with Tickle and using the Parrot Minidrone.

Student Handout:

Here is the link to the student handout I created to guide students through the lesson. Originally I had wanted the lesson to be student led, however, we had some glitches with the drones and so I moved the lesson to be one that we followed together.

Be sure you have time to get to the student challenge. That is where you will really see students collaborating, thinking critically, communicating, and creating.

I hope you enjoy flying drones with your students!

Please let me know if you think of anything else I should add to this lesson.

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