“Making” at Fletcher: Discovery through exploration

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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.  

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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.

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Using Flubaroo

Teachers, if you are not using the add-on Flubaroo, you are missing out!  Flubaroo automatically grades a Google Form, freeing up time for lesson planning.  Interested? Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a Google Form
  2. You, the teacher, complete the Google Form
  3. Students complete the Google Form
  4. Teacher then uses Flubaroo to grade the quiz:
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Open the Google Form you want to grade. At the top of the form, click on “Responses.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Then click on the green Google Sheet icon to put all the responses into spreadsheet form.

 

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A spreadsheet is automatically then created, with “Responses” added to the title.

 

I find it best to change your username to ANSWERS, that is easier to identify in a spreadsheet of multiple usernames. (For security reasons, student Usernames have been covered.)

I find it best to change your username to ANSWERS, making it easier to identify in a spreadsheet of multiple usernames. (For security reasons, student usernames have been covered.)

 

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If you have not done so yet, get the Flubaroo Add-on.

 

Click on Add-ons in the menu bar and select Flubaroo, Grade Assignment.

Click on Add-ons in the menu bar and select Flubaroo, Grade Assignment.

 

A menu will pop up asking about grading options. This is the place you can tell Flubaroo to leave out a particular question when grading, or to give questions different weights. After making your choices, click on continue.

A menu will pop up asking about grading options. This is the place you can tell Flubaroo to leave out a particular question when grading, or to give questions different weights. After making your choices, click on continue.

 

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You will then be asked to select the username which is the answer key. Select your own username, or if you changed your username to ANSWERS, select that.

 

Then watch Flubaroo work its magic!

Then watch Flubaroo work its magic!

 

You will then have a spreadsheet with grades, as well as which answers they selected.

You will then have a spreadsheet with grades, as well as which answers they selected.

 

You then have the option to email the students their grades

You then have the option to email the students their grades.

 

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Make your selections and grades will be emailed to your students.

 

Enjoy your free time!

Many thanks to Marialice Hilt for showing me how to use Flubaroo and making grading so much easier for me!