“Making” at Fletcher: Discovery through exploration

Bloxels1

Video game creation with Bloxels

Think about the last thing you made – either with a team or all on your own.  Perhaps you wrote a paper, crafted a presentation, created an interesting movie, animation or piece of artwork, built a Lego structure, baked delicious cupcakes, or designed a game or a virtual world.

Now take a moment to think about the process.  What led you to select this project?  How did you plan, execute, and complete your finished product?  What roadblocks did you overcome?   If you worked with a partner or team, how did you share leadership opportunities?  Throughout the process of making, what did you learn?  Did you have fun?  Your endeavors probably resulted in a sizable list of discoveries.

This rich, multisensory learning process of “making” can be observed in classrooms around the Fletcher School.  For students with learning differences, integrating knowledge through experiential learning is a key educational component.   The Fletcher School’s curriculum infuses this culture of creativity, exploration, and design thinking. “Making” in the classroom provides both enjoyment and challenge, reaping limitless rewards.  

In recent years, Fletcher’s Technology and Learning Center (TLC) has been evolving as a physical gathering space outside of the classroom for problem solving and design projects.  Home of Fletcher’s Green Screen Studio, the MakerBot 3D printing station and regular BreakoutEDUs, the TLC is the perfect meeting space for student and teacher innovators.

Fletcher’s new Makerspace Club provides an additional opportunity for students to experiment, invent and explore.  Embracing the trending Makerspace evolution, participants use creativity to design products and understand processes.  With a dedicated time and space for independent learning and decision-making, and an array of digital and analog tools, students spend club time learning by doing.  Makerspace Club experiences prepare students for their current and future worlds through STEM challenges in science, technology, engineering, and math.  

Makey Makey

Makey Makey circuit board

Fletcher Makerspace Club students enjoy the freedom to select their own projects to pursue, using a wide array of tools:

Robotics

  • Dash & Dot Robots: Movements, sounds, and actions of these interactive robots are coded and executed with iPad apps.
  • Ozobot: Ozobots interpret color paths with optical sensors, customizing their movements, lights, and actions.

Digital Fabrication

  • Tinkercad: Easy-to-learn online 3D design app allows students to create and augment shapes, resulting in a 3D object for printing.
  • Makerbot Replicator 3D Printer:  Hardware receives and prints uploaded 3D designs, using a special heated plastic filament.

Coding

  • Makey Makey:  This small electrical circuit board connects with physical objects, allowing students to code ideas and inventions into actions with their computer.
  • Bloxels: Using simple blocks on a board and an iPad app, Bloxels allows students to build, test, and play their own video games.
  • Minecraft Edu: Educational version of Minecraft allows students to create and play this classic game in their own secure, classroom environment.

Offline Tinkering

  • Computer deconstruction:  By taking apart an old laptop, students learn about the inner mechanisms of devices.
  • Paper Airplane Challenge:  Students explore how to create an airplane which flies the highest, fastest, and farthest.

Student Broadcasting: A Path to Leadership, Teamwork, and Digital Literacy

The Fletcher School’s “Falcon News Network” serves as one of many ways in which our students have opportunities to cultivate and practice leadership and digital citizenship. “FNN,” written, produced, and directed entirely by students, has enjoyed huge success in only its second year.

FNN LogoLaunched in the fall of 2015, FNN began as an effort to modernize and improve the quality of school announcements, traditionally read during morning homeroom over the intercom.  Meticulous planning, methodical equipment procurement and testing, and detailed student and staff training led to the successful launch of FNN in the fall of 2015. Broadcasting live each morning using Google Hangouts on Air, this free Morning News Show Tool worked beautifully for students, enabling live streaming broadcasts to the entire Fletcher community and beyond.  In the spring, a new FNN crew was trained to run the show.  The new crew departed for summer vacation feeling well-prepared for a smooth FNN season transition in the fall of 2016.

Upon returning to school in August, 2016, the FNN crew learned that Google Hangouts on Air would be phased out. This not only necessitated a change in broadcast procedures, but proved to be a positive turning point for FNN.  After extensive research and testing, Instructional Technology Director, Jenny Grabiec, introduced Wirecast Studio as FNN’s new broadcasting software.  While Wirecast is not free and required a new learning curve, the purchase of this tool was an excellent investment in both time and money. Integrating seamlessly with YouTube, Wirecast challenged the crew to learn new and advanced broadcasting techniques while propelling FNN’s evolution toward a highly creative, professional-quality newscast.  FNN student directors began using the new features immediately, utilizing animated titles and graphics, customized banners, and streaming pre-recorded videos.  The FNN website was launched, providing links to broadcasts and Google Forms collecting news and content ideas from the Fletcher community. 

One of the best uses of shared digital media is connecting with our larger world to share positive ideas and contributions.  After witnessing the wonderful possibilities of FNN, Fletcher students and teachers writerseagerly collaborated to brainstorm new and exciting projects.  As a collective effort, an array of special news segments began rolling out, connecting our students with activities on our campus and beyond.  The FNN crew helped Fletcher celebrate National Digital Citizenship week, highlighting tips submitted by Upper School Beta Club students.  Fletcher faculty and staff joined others around the world in the famous “Movember Project,” growing beards and moustaches to raise awareness for men’s health issues. The great “shave off” was featured as a special FNN broadcast, surprising and delighting viewers.  FNN joined millions of students globally to promote the Hour of Code by featuring apps and encouraging classes to participate during Computer Science Education Week.  Middle School students used FNN as a platform to announce their Pajama Service Project, resulting in 398 pajama sets donated to Scholastic Services.

On campus, reporting at Fletcher has expanded in equally exciting directions, bringing our school community closer. The use of remote cameras enables the FNN crew to break free of the studio to summon “live reporting from the field.”  Students broadcast breaking news from their classrooms.  Lower school students stream the Pledge of Allegiance live from the gymnasium stage, with flags as a backdrop. A feature called Senior Spotlight streams directly from the Senior Seminar classroom.  The remote cameras enable every student and teacher to participate more fully in FNN.

Field ReportsPledgeRemote Camera

As this project evolves and grows, the FNN news crew flourishes as a team, with students taking turns in various leadership roles.  To join FNN, each writer, producer, anchor, sports/weather reporter, special correspondent, and director/assistant director must fill out a Google Form application and attend a job interview.  FNN crew must then complete orientation and training, while learning to navigate their tasks collaboratively. The FNN crew studies how to care for and maintain studio equipment, navigate copyright issues, learn graphic design, and practice script composition and spoken delivery.  Only through practice do students learn the precise timing needed to load the iPad teleprompter app or switch to the remote camera crew, ensuring a smooth broadcast flow.  State-of-the-art digital technology devices and broadcasting tools support a quality production, but none of these tasks can be accomplished without developing student skills. The FNN crew members practice leadership, teamwork, and use increasingly refined executive functioning skills to produce a top-quality show every morning.  Schedules, routines, and communication are all accomplished with hard work, yet the students enjoy each step of the process and are proud of their final results.

FNN crew constantly faces new challenges.  Both routine and change are part of the job.  WhetherIMG_3835 testing out a new Wirecast feature, troubleshooting audio quality for our roving reporters, or piloting green screen broadcasting, the crew discovers that only through some failures can they truly learn – how do we solve this newest challenge?  The FNN crew – and the growing number of other participating Fletcher students – are learning and using real life skills.  Each FNN crew member has a clear job description. Each student on the team must develop and practice the planning and troubleshooting challenges they will inevitably face in life beyond school. And as the team connects and matures, its members must train and nurture new recruits to expand the program.  

The Fletcher School serves students with a variety of special learning differences, and hands-on use of technology has become vital to this mission. Live broadcasting through the Fletcher News Network embodies this important component to support our curriculum.  For students with learning differences who have struggled and lost confidence before arriving at Fletcher, FNN offers a sanctuary where skills and talents can provide a daily sense of accomplishment and success.  FNN provides a vivid example of how the intentional use of educational technology engages students to become effective leaders, collaborative team members, and skillful problem solvers. On any given broadcast day, FNN reveals students enthusiastically learning, growing, and having fun.

Professional Development Spotlight: Tech Tuesdays

Ongoing, high-quality professional development is a key component of any successful educational institution.  Students benefit when teachers are presented with opportunities to learn new techniques, be inspired by creative lesson ideas, and collaborate with colleagues.  The Fletcher School’s robust collection of professional development opportunities include a particularly unique and popular offering:  Tech Tuesdays.img_1

Launched and developed by Fletcher’s Technology Director, Jenny Grabiec, in 2013, Tech Tuesdays are one-hour weekly professional development sessions, allowing staff to sharpen their technology skills in completely customized ways.  Offered in-house after school, Tech Tuesdays are optional, so teachers can sign up for topics which match their professional goals.  Based on a universal staff understanding of SAMR and TPACK frameworks, Tech Tuesdays allow teachers to transform their learning environments with technology.

Like everything else we do, The Fletcher School’s professional development offerings reflect our mission:

The Fletcher School creates bright futures for students with specific learning disabilities and/or attention deficit disorders by offering a structured, individualized, college preparatory curriculum that prepares them to reach their full potential.   

Our Tech Tuesday sessions provide teachers pathways to reach these goals, with sessions to support student learning. 

Tech Tuesday topics include:img_0388

  • Orton-Gillingham and Technology
  • iCan with iOS: Accessibility for iPad Users
  • Personalize Learning with Mac and Chrome Accessibility
  • Improving Executive Functioning with Tech Tools
  • Using iPad to Enhance Multisensory Instruction
  • Create your own Textbooks with iBooks Author

Teachers learn how to use a wide variety of apps and web tools to accomplish their goals, including iPad and MacBook apps and Google Apps for Education.  Sessions offer engaging, trending ideas, including green screening, using QR codes and augmented reality. Each year, teachers are surveyed to obtain feedback on sessions, and gather ideas and suggestions.  Fletcher’s EdTech team select topics which include the best current ideas and apps, so staff is always kept up to date.  Since its inception in 2013, Tech Tuesdays have evolved to include many more Fletcher teachers leading the sessions, demonstrating their own research and learning.  The format has also changed over time, improving the conversation between teachers and presenters.

img_0197img_0903img_0434

img_0906

Students-Created Instructional Videos with Do Ink

“While we teach, we learn,” said the Roman philosopher Seneca.  Mr. Elliott’s 7th grade science classes recently put this ancient wisdom into action by creating amazing instructional videos detailing their knowledge of the circulatory system.

Part of a larger study of the human body, 7th graders covered the circulatory system content using their Discovery Ed Science Techbooks, with the guidance of a teacher-provided outline and other select resources.  In past years, Mr. Elliott would have then assigned students a final culminating project, such as an oral report, or slide presentation.  But this year, he wanted his students to utilize audio/visual-rich technology tools to demonstrate their expert status on specific elements of the circulatory system.  So Mr. Elliott charged his 7th graders with the task of creating interesting and unique, narrated instructional videos.

Working in pairs, the 7th graders began by reviewing a selection of copyright-friendly, editable Discovery Ed videos.  Each student group was asked to present a specific areas of the circulatory system, such as the heart, blood vessels, or blood cell types.  Once the students had selected some interesting video, they transferred clips into iMovie to do some initial editing.  Each group then wrote a detailed script to accompany their video.  Excitement and anticipation about the project grew as students prepared for their Green Screen Studio appointment slots by practicing script narration timing with their custom videos.  Mr. Elliott observed that enthusiasm for this project drove students to be quite independent while completing their work.

IMG_0459Once everything was prepared, each student group arrived at Fletcher’s Green Screen Studio and began downloading their scripts into the PromptSmart teleprompter app.  They next set up their edited iMovie in the Green Screen by Do Ink app, which enabled the student experts to see their video playing behind them while they read their script. Classmates volunteered to run the iPad camera and teleprompter, creating a positive, collaborative atmosphere.  The experts donned their lab coats and enjoyed filming their creations, resulting in exceptional videos.

Teacher Collaboration Impacts Student Learning

QRCode_2ndGradeTeachersWorking together as a team is always a positive experience for teachers who wish to improve the educational experience for their students, learn from each other, and grow professionally.  The Fletcher School’s ongoing professional development programs create opportunities for all teachers to learn and practice new skills, share ideas, and work on common goals to increase teaching efficacy.  Fletcher’s second grade team is now expanding their knowledge by creating their own customized informal workshops for lower school teachers.  

Following the model set by Fletcher’s professional development programs, second grade teacher Christi Kubeck taught teachers how to use QR codes in their classrooms.  QR codes are a great way to engage and motivate students by incorporating added interest and movement into reading, writing, and information processing.  Ms. Kubeck shared her extensive technology knowledge and volunteered her time to assist lower school teachers who signed up for the activities.

The teachers began with a discussion around innovative uses for QR codes to enhance their multisensory lessons.

Some stimulating lesson ideas included:

  • Orton-Gilling rules, including
    • CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant)
    • the “rabbit rule” (when to double middle consonants)
    • Syllable division
  • Math flash cards
  • Subjects and predicates
  • Government: American symbols, eg. The Statue of Liberty

QR Code StudentThrough hands-on, step-by-step instruction, Ms. Kubeck led teachers through the steps of creating, laminating, and cutting out QR codes.  QR Code Generator was used to create the codes, and the i-nigma app was used for QR code scanning.  Multi-colored papers, pictures, videos, and a variety of intriguing content were included to customize the final products.  The teachers had ample time to gain instruction on the process, work to finish their lesson materials, and practice how they would be used in class with students.

Teachers emerged from the experience enthused about the experience and ready to replicate the use of QR codes in the classrooms with additional content.  The teachers also reported feeling energized through their group conversations and appreciated the opportunity for additional camaraderie and creativity.  Kudos to Ms. Christi Kubeck for leading this effort by sharing her time and expertise with colleagues!

Symbaloo

iPad K-4 SymbalooA key component of The Fletcher School’s Digital Citizenship program includes guiding students to make excellent choices when using their devices.  Our teachers prepare students for their digital worlds by modeling, instructing digital citizenship, and teaching students how to practice navigating and organizing resources from a variety of sources.  Students can now benefit from this continued guidance when using their devices either at school or at home using Symbaloo.

Symbaloo is a personalized learning environment, which offers a shared collection of online bookmarks and web resources.  Fletcher’s Symbaloo webmixes are organized by grade levels and customized by Fletcher’s EdTech team, evolving with continuous student and teacher input.  With Symbaloo, Fletcher students may use technology to access specific activities/games which are safe and appropriate for specific approved school periods (eg. advisory, homeroom, team time), during before/after school programs, and even at home.  Symbaloo provides students with both guidance and independence, leading them to take responsibility for their own learning while continuing to benefit from Fletcher’s excellent devices and technology resources.  

How Does Symbaloo work?

Fletcher students may use the following resources to create, explore, or play games during before and after school programs, or during any assigned free time during the school day:

MacBook 5-12 Symbaloo

Any student/teacher wishing to suggest an item to be added to the Symbaloo may submit their idea using the Symbaloo Request Form, which is also linked on each Symbaloo webmix.

 

 

EdTech Coffee Chats

coffeechat copy

The new Edtech Coffee Chats series kicked off on November 11 for parents of grades K-4 students, who enjoyed meeting with Fletcher’s EdTech Team in the school’s Technology and Learning Center.  The relaxed format of this drop-in event enabled parents to ask an abundance of excellent and important questions about Fletcher’s one-to-one program and their students’ iPad devices.  Several tech-savvy parents even offered useful tips and shared their experiences for managing both Fletcher and personal devices at home.  

A wide variety of device, digital citizenship, and general technology topics were covered during the first EdTech Coffee Chat, including:

  • iOS 9 tips
    • Important accessibility features for students with learning disabilities
    • Jenny Grabiec’s new iOS accessibility iBook, iCan with iOS
    • Optional parental restrictions located in iPad settings
    • Battery life to check usage
  • Excellent habits for iPad use at home
    • Checking devices often with your child
    • Learning how to check history
    • Password management tips and tricks
    • Discussing tech topics with your child
    • Keeping devices in a common area at home, particularly after bedtime
    • Using Guided Access to lock student into one app, with optional timer
    • The pros and cons of filtering at home
    • Teaching children how to manage devices appropriately as preparation for the real world and their future
    • Communicating as a main key of technology success
  • Age-appropriate search techniques
  • Advantages of digital books, with built-in accessibility tools such as text to speech, font and view customization, search, bookmarking, and highlighting features
  • Minecraft as an educational tool
  • Finding balance between technology and the rest of life

We appreciate the wonderful contributions of our first EdTech Coffee Chat participants!  Please join us at an upcoming EdTech Coffee Chat, one Wednesday per month from 8:15 – 9:15 AM.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

chat 5.001