BreakoutEDU: A platform for immersive learning games

Ever heard of the “escape room?” Our very own Fletcher faculty participated in a team building activity a year or so ago by visiting Exit Strategy, the country’s largest escape room location, right here in Charlotte. According to Wikipedia, “an escape room is a physical adventure game in which players are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit.” It is a fun way to work collaboratively, while using critical thinking skills to solve problems, and ultimately, escape from the room!

The smart creators of BreakoutEDU decided to bring the idea of the escape room into the educational world by creating curriculum related breakout challenges! They thought, why not allow our students to get out of their seats, work together to solve puzzles, all while learning about key themes related to their areas of study. Brilliant! Here is a great clip describing how BreakoutEDU works and why it is a great addition to any school setting.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to attend the ISTE conference in Denver, CO with a group of Fletcher teachers. The creators of BreakoutEDU positioned a school bus in front of the conference center, to introduce educators to the idea. The school bus had been redesigned as an escape bus! Working with a small group of educators (I only knew one of them), we uncovered various clues, such as a hidden key in a beaker full of colored liquid and magic letters on a map, exposed only with a special UV flashlight. We had a guide in the session with us and we were able to get up to two hints from her, if we got stuck. We had to get a few hints and we relied on a high school student to help us with many of the challenges – This challenge was right up his alley! We ended up breaking out of the bus in 14 minutes and 57 seconds and then proceeded to our photo op station.

af1qippwnoi0dgk1empgxlj0ymjv2exc_mtw0at_-ujoi-u af1qippchwu0tgk-eb6jti1fpfws1frygbef2n2xthzsi-u af1qipnexzcmjba5nk9v59hcp6ymerv_e-fhgdkz-9i6i-u

img_1256I knew that our students would LOVE the opportunity to try something like this, so I purchased a special BreakoutEDU box for our school. The box came with a hasp, combination locks, key locks, pencil lock boxes, a disappearing ink pen, UV flashlight and blank hint cards.  I also found a huge following for this idea on a BreakoutEDU Facebook group and on BreakoutEDU.com. On this site, teachers can find tons of games that have been designed by educators around the country. The games include helpful resources, such as lesson plans, video clips, printable game materials, combinations and so much more. Several of the games even include video tutorials so that teachers can set up the game exactly right in their own classrooms. All of the games include an age group suggestion and a direct link to subject area content – math, science, social studies, language arts and more are represented!

Stephaportable-network-graphics-image-fb7684c9796f-1nie Sanders, a fifth grade teacher at Fletcher, was planning to introduce her students to the book, Pax by Sara Pennypacker, when she stumbled across the BreakoutEDU idea. Thankfully, a teacher had already designed a BreakoutEDU challenge for the book and Stephanie decided to put the book in the box, locked with key locks and combination locks, that could only be unlocked by solving the related challenges. The students worked together to solve the challenges, breaking into the locks and retrieving the book from the box. The students used Google searches to find answers to some of the questions, which were needed to determine combinations. What a fun way to begin a new novel in the classroom! The kids loved it!

Mrs. Poe used the box last week and set up a Minecraft challenge for her elective class and computer fun club. Again, the students worked together to break into the box and one student asked, “When can we do this again?”

img_7412 img_2233

We can’t wait to see what other BreakoutEDU challenges await for our students!

Studying Communities Through Global Collaboration

Studying Communities Through Global Collaboration

The 3rd Grade curriculum includes a study of communities. In 2015, our 3rd grade students Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 4.43.20 PMparticipated in a global collaboration project titled “If You Learned Here.”  This was the first year the project was offered. Eighty schools from around the world were involved, including the Fletcher School. The coordinators, Carolyn Skibba and Mary Morgan Ryan, were inspired by the book If You Lived Here: Houses of the World. They have created a wonderful project in which students share in a global dialogue about our learning communities. The project culminated with each school writing pages for a published online eBook titled If You Learned Here:  Schools of the World.

Each of the first four weeks, we created videos which we shared using the app Flipgrid.  We were able to view all of the other schools videos to learn about their school communities. Every week had a different theme:

  1. Our School and Community was the first week’s theme. Together we wrote a script to introduce The Fletcher School and Charlotte to our new cohorts.
  2. Our Day at School allowed us to share each part of our school day from the ride to school to our after school activities.
  3. Our Learning was a fun time for us to teach a lesson. We noticed that none of the other schools had Social Skills classes and it just happened to be The International Day of Happiness, so our main lesson was about how to stay happy.
  4. Our Reading was a chance for us to create our own Reading Rainbow style videos reviewing our favorite books.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 4.38.43 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-06 at 4.39.12 PM

The global collaboration videos were enlightening. The students gained confidence and self-esteem as they watched kids from around the world share similar stories. This year, our 3rd grade students are enjoying the If You Learned Here videos from both 2015 and 2016 and discussing the various communities.

The link below will take you to the videos and our book “If You Learned Here: Schools of the World.” Our Flipgrid videos are labeled Orange Cohort.

If You Learned Here 2015

Map of Schools

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 5.02.29 PM

 

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.

Digital Literacy and Creative Projects

Blog Post - April (2)Nowadays, we live in a digital world where students spend a large portion of each day utilizing computers as a tool both in and out of the classroom. At the Fletcher School, our goal is to develop Digital Literacy and Citizenship in our students. Using Common Sense Media’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum in our computer classes, students discuss and learn how to be responsible and safe while online.

Two of the many aspects of Digital Literacy from Common Sense Media that are taught in 6th Grade are Strategic Searching and A Creator’s Rights. These two components give students an introduction to online researching and the importance of citing sources used to obtain information. Strategic Searching, shows students how to effectively and efficiently conduct research on the internet using a variety of strategies such as using keywords, synonyms, quotations marks around specific words, and different domain types. A five-step method (S. E. A. R. C. H.) is introduced as a tool to assist in planning and carrying out online searches. The 5 letters stand for: select questions, extract keywords and terms, apply search strategies, run your research and chart your search.

A Creator’s Rights teaches students about copyrights, fair use, public domains, licensing, piracy and plagiarism. Through videos and class discussions, students come to understand these terms so they can follow the rules of copyright laws, protect their own creative work and be respectful of how they use others work.

Blog Post - April (1)After studying these two Digital Literacy components, the 6th Graders complete a four part culminating project entitled, “My Birthday in History”. The project incorporates the Digital Literacy curriculum, as well as various technology tools. For the first part, students are required to apply the five-step method and strategies for searching to research events and birthdays that happened on their birth date in history. Students are always amazed at what they discover when doing this research. Many times they have heard of an event or person, but it adds an exciting element when they find out it happened on their birth date. My classroom comes alive with chatter as everyone shares their discoveries. I often have to remind them to save some “surprises” for their actual paper. Once the information is gathered, it is used to write a six paragraph paper Students must include a “Works Cited” list to give credit to the people’s work used as resources. For the second part, pictures are collected that correlate to the events and birthdays chosen. The pictures are utilized three ways, as an attachment to the written paper, incorporated into an iMovie, and to design a poster using one of two websites: Canva www.canva.com or Buncee www.edu.buncee.com.

Blog Post - AprilThe completed posters are put together as a bulletin board. For the third part, an iMovie is produced. Using our green screen room, students record and edit a video depicting one historical event and one birthday from their written work. The video and pictures are assembled to create an iMovie which has to include transitions and music. Lastly, in order to share our completed project with our school community and visitors, students use Blippbuilder to create “blipps.” These “blipps” turn the posters into interactive images that can be used with Blippar, an augmented reality app, to scan them. Anyone who has the app downloaded on a digital device can see the students’ movies “come to life,” just by scanning it. All are welcome to come see our work!

KAPOW! Students Get Creative with Comics in Spanish Class

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 10.29.44 AMStudents often struggle to find creativity and relevance in their Spanish writing assignments.  Often, the textbook vocabulary can be dry, unrelatable or “boring”. Additional challenges include not knowing enough supplemental vocabulary to truly tell an interesting story in their own words. Which results in students turning to online translations tools to “fill in those blanks” and typically I am left with a lovely essay written by Google Translate. So how does a teacher get students to bring to life their textbook vocabulary while staying true to their own abilities??? A comic!

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 10.30.01 AM

Teachers often struggle with how to use technology to encourage storytelling. Typically a new app or website can be everything from exciting to terrifying…and time consuming. Many teachers want to find ways to grow their projects using the SAMR model. SAMR is a model designed to help educators infuse technology into teaching and learning. Pixton Comic Maker is an easy to use website that really allows students to design, develop and infuse digital learning. To make an amazing project, teachers and students do not need to access another site (i.e: students do not need to use Quicktime to record voices, Pixton provides all tools needed within its site). There are also many helpful “how-to” videos provided by the website. I was very impressed with how quickly my students learned the website and their final projects were really incredible!

The Pixton Comic Website is both a teacher and student friendly website that not only allows students to write and create their own stories, but allows them to fully bring them to life by providing the technology needed to record student voices directly into the project!

The end result is a narrated slideshow that tells the students story in their own words. I believe that this a a website that can teachers, regardless of content area, can use to create individualized and innovative projects.

Student Example

Pixton Comic

We then used http://www.qrstuff.com/ to link our pixton comic to a QR that allows everyone

We used a simple QR code to allow others to share in our assignments! Try it! 

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 10.30.14 AM

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!

Going Green! Fletcher’s Green Screen Studio


Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 2.38.45 PMOur school’s green screen studio is one of the many gems found in our building, but why do we have one? Chroma Key or “green screening” is a technique by which a block of a particular color (often blue or green) in a video image can be replaced either by another color or image, enabling, for example, a weather forecaster to appear against a background of a computer-generated weather map. Check out this
fun YouTube video for examples.

Our green screen studio has been used in many creative and innovative ways to bring our curriculum to life. Instead of traditional essays, students have used the green screen room to immerse themselves in a story’s setting and plot by replacing the green background with a scene from that story. Students use props, accents, and clothing to portray a character’s point of view to show their understanding of those important characters and how they affect the plot. The ability to superimpose oneself into the storyline of a book or within a different landscape learned about in science, engages and motivates students to learn.

Here are a few example of our past green screen projects created by Fletcher classes:

Exotic Spring Break Destinations (edited in DoInk’s Green Screen app) 

Trouble River (edited in iMovie for Mac)

Trigraphs (edited in Touchcast for iPad)

So, how do our students make the magical green screen effect happen?

IMG_4991Our green screen studio has adapted to our needs over time. We used to have a mobile screen with stands that we carted all around the school. It was cumbersome and no longer practical once the idea of green screening caught on and everyone wanted the kit transported to their room. Our original screen screen lights were extremely low budget. We purchased three tripods from Target and clip-on flood lights from Home Depot. We simply clipped the flood lights to the tripods and situated them in front of a large, felt green screen purchased from a photography store.

We found that the lights weren’t holding onto the tripods well and they were really warming up the rooms we were working in.  Therefore, we spent some money to upgrade the lights to the Impact Soft and Natural Light Kit from B&H. Honestly, these lights would function much better in a larger space, but since we are working in a small office, we can’t situate the lights in the best way possible. However, they are more sturdy and don’t get so hot.

IMG_9819Yes, so we moved out the fabric screen and in it’s place painted a wall green in a small, empty office in our tech center. We used Behr “sparking apple” paint to mimic the green screen that we had used in the past. 

Since the beginning we have filmed with our iOgrapher for iPad and Rode microphone kit. We recently purchased a cheaper Rode microphone for our second iOgrapher, and it works just as well!

 

IMG_9813Finally, the most recent addition to our green screen studio is an iPad Air iOgrapher on a tripod. We use this as our “teleprompter” to offer a confidence boost and to encourage students to look at the camera instead of looking down at their notes. The app we use for the teleprompter is called PromptSmart Pro and offers a cool feature called VoiceTrack, which follows your words during your speech and automatically scrolls the text at your natural pace in real time. We have found that this functionality is hit or miss, however, and we often revert to setting an automatic scrolling speed.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.42.24 PMRecording objects or people in front of a green screen is the first step of chroma keying. The second step is editing the video in an application. Our iPad users edit green screen recordings in DoInk Green Screen app and Touchcast Studio while our Mac users chroma key in iMovie. You can find out more about how this is done on page 18 of my book, “iMovie for Mac in the Classroom.”

There are cheaper ways to make green screening work in your home or in your classroom. You can paint a piece of cardboard green or buy a large green sheet or piece of green fabric from the craft store. The built-in microphone of your device, such as a smartphone or tablet, will work just fine for recording audio. We hope you’ll give it a try!

K-1 Students Create Digital Privacy Book

Keep it Private Online

Click the thumbnail above to download Masarya’s book!

The Fletcher School is committed to developing digital literacy and citizenship skills beginning with our youngest students. Our kindergarten and first grade students begin by learning about online safety and privacy. They are taught to think about going online as a fun field trip. The rules are the same as a real field trip:  always go places with an adult, don’t wander off on your own and talk only with people you know. We practice looking at websites and discuss which ones have topics they enjoy and activities that work well and are fun to play. The site they choose should seem like it’s made for someone their age. The teacher displays a variety of website forms that ask a child to sign up before using the site. Students discuss how to approach a parent about help with deciding if this is a good site for them. Then, using the Book Creator app each kindergarten and first grade student creates a book titled, “Keep it Private Online.” Their book displays words and pictures of the information they know should be kept private when using the internet.

Example by Masarya:

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.

 

 

Google Hangouts on Air – A Morning News Show Tool

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 1.57.22 PM

Our very own FNN debuted on Monday, January 11, 2016!  What is FNN, you ask? FNN stands for Falcon News Network and is a daily morning news show produced, directed and filmed by Fletcher students. Under the direction of Kit Verica and behind-the-scenes technical support from the Fletcher Ed Tech Team, the Falcon News Network has worked diligently these past few months preparing to take over the morning announcements.

Back in the fall, Don Goble, a broadcast journalism teacher, came to Fletcher to help us prepare for the implementation of our student-led morning news show. Don’s expertise provided us with the information we needed to begin the process by envisioning a mission and gathering up all of the elements needed to run a show.  Last year we converted an office into a green screen studio. Transforming the tiny room into a news studio required a few additional steps. We brought in professional lights, a webcam, a MacBook for recording the broadcast, a high-quality microphone and a teleprompter.

IMG_9125The FNN team was selected based on teacher recommendations and students’ dedication to arriving early each day. Branding was another important part of the process. First, the team asked students to submit name ideas, which were voted upon by students, faculty and staff through a Google Form. The name, FNN was the clear winner!  In the next phase, the team asked students to submit designs for the FNN logo contest. The winning logo was created by Justine G and Abby F and has now become the official branding of FNN. We even purchased a pop up banner with the FNN logo to serve as the backdrop behind our news anchors.

IMG_9739The workflow of FNN is entirely digital, starting with the morning announcement requests, which are submitted by faculty and staff through a Google Form. Directed by Alex K, Max  and Alex M compose and add the submitted announcements to a teleprompter – an iPad on a tripod loaded with the PromptSmart Pro app. The webcam and microphone is set up in front of our news anchors, Jeffrey and Tyler, and plugged into a Mac. Ned and Henry work on the production side and use Google Hangouts on Air to film the live broadcast.

FNN1Each morning at 8:15 am, each grades 6-12 classroom teacher turns on their projector and Airplays their Mac screens to the Apple TV so that the students in each class can watch the show live. To watch the show LIVE, all viewers go to http://bit.ly/falconnewsnetwork to tune in.

If you’d like to watch previous recordings of the show, you can go to  http://bit.ly/FNNonYouTube. Don’t forget to subscribe to the FNN Channel!

 

We are so proud of our FNN team and can’t wait to check out the next episode!