“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.

Pear Deck – More Than Just Notes

What is Pear Deck?

Pear Deck is an interactive presentation tool used to actively engage students in individual and social learning. Teachers create presentations using their Google Drive account. Students log into the presentation with unique access codes and interact with questions while teachers monitor student and whole-class progress.

The main login page. Students get real excited to walk in and see this!

The main login page. Students get real excited to walk in and see this!

As a busy teacher, I often dread having to make new content that works with the “newest technology.” It can be frustrating to remake notes, activities, and assignments from scratch because they are not compatible. This is what sets Pear Deck apart from other platforms→ Pear Deck works seamlessly with Google Slides! Let me repeat…I can take my already brilliantly made notes and upload them to Pear Deck.

But Why???  

Student Engagement-

Pear Deck allows me to make my notes engaging and interactive. Within the deck I can quickly build engagement slides. These slides allow me to check in with my students in a variety of ways.

I can create :

  • Draggable questions take the form of agree/disagree or thumbs up/thumbs down
  • Drawing questions allow students to free draw in a blank space or on a grid
  • Free response questions have short text, long text, and number capabilities
  • Multiple choice questions take the form of yes/no, true/false, or A, B, C, D

Peardeck Creations

Not only does Pear Deck create a more engaging and interactive classroom for the students but the teacher dashboard provides immediate feedback to analyze student engagement, comprehension and lesson efficacy. A huge plus is that the teacher controls what appears on the screen. Unlike Slides or Keynote presentations, in Pear Deck, students are locked on the screen until the teacher decides when to move on!

Another feature of Pear Deck that I LOVE is the Student Paced feature. This feature allows students to move throughout the Pear Deck at their own pace. I often utilize this feature for homework and for quality sub work.  At the end of my notes, I will build in engagement slides that relate directly to the day’s lessons. They often include matching, multiple choice, audio activities and everyone’s favorite; the free hand drawing. When class ends, I simply switch the Pear Deck from teacher paced to student paced and my students can finish the lesson at home.  As they complete the activities, there is nothing to “turn in”- Pear Deck records all their work and we can review it together the next day in class. Once the review is complete, I send out their “Student Takeaways” and students have access to their notes and corrected HW answers.

Using the student paced feature as meaningful sub work has been one of my favorite features of Pear Deck.  I can quickly and easily design a Pear Deck full of interactive activities for students to work on with a sub. I often combine audio and draggables to create fun and intuitive activities that challenge students even when I am not present. Pear Deck also lets teachers determine when and what responses to share with the whole class via the main presentation screen. This means I can highlight a specific student response, toggle between responses, or in some instances share all student responses (this one is often the most fun!). It’s great because student responses are anonymous to everyone except the original responder and the teacher. During this presentation, I can backtrack to previous slides and add impromptu questions.

Some examples of student paced:

Peardeck Student Paced

To sum it up; Pear Deck is a teacher and student friendly program that easily allows a teacher to modify existing slides and create new ones with interactive features that engage students!

OG and iPad at The International Dyslexia Association

The International Dyslexia Association’s Annual Conference is committed to growing awareness, research, and education in the areas of literacy instruction and interventions for all levels. This annual conference is a four-day event bringing in over 2,000 attendees globally. Educators, therapists, reading specialists, physicians, researchers, and parents of children with dyslexia and other language disorders come to engage with keynote speakers in a wide variety of work sessions and poster presentations on the most current research. Some of the topics represented are Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Response to Intervention, Literacy, Critical Reading, Vocabulary, Spelling, Morphology, Language Disorders, and Advocacy. IDA’s Annual Conference also offers an exhibit hall which allows the opportunity to browse curriculum, software, materials, and of course, the opportunity to network with other professionals.ida

The 2016 IDA Annual Conference was held in Orlando, Florida in late October. With keynote speakers like Albert Galaburda and Guinevere Eden, my colleague, January Reed and I, were thrilled to be attending this year. Not only were the keynote presentations conveying the most current research about literacy and the brain, but other sessions were led by well-respected presenters such as Ron Yoshimoto and William Van Cleave. We were able to attend a variety of sessions, including Orthographic Processing, Neuroscience of Dyslexia, Morphology, Executive Functioning, allowing us to learn new strategies, look at students from fresh perspectives, and engage in collaborative discussions with other professionals at the conference.

January and I were honored to present at the 2016 IDA. Our presentation, entitled Using iPads to Enhance Multi-Sensory Instruction, focused on empowering educators to create innovative lessons to remediate struggling readers, improve spelling, and increase attention using the iPad. We offered practical examples to enhance literacy instruction while keeping students engaged and accountable for their learning.

Being able to attend this conference was valuable to our growth as educators in several different ways. We were able to attend sessions with specific intentions to gain expertise to serve our students with the most effective interventions. We networked with other professionals who share our passion to remediate and advocate for children and adults affected by dyslexia. We engaged in deep reflection looking closely at effectively adapting strategies for the future. Lastly, we returned to our school encouraged and inspired to teach and continue our work with struggling readers.

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

Teaching Tolerance

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.07.22 AM

Teaching Civil Rights during February is often expected of U.S. History teachers, but it doesn’t have to be the creation of a timeline of key events, or a study of Martin Luther King, Jr. I take a slightly different approach and use technology to drive home a lesson of global tolerance.

I start off by guiding the students to create a class definition of tolerance: the willingness to accept something you do not like, understand or agree with.  Then with the help of Danielle Knight’s lesson from Teachers pay Teachers, students learn the meaning of the lyrics behind U2’s song:  “Pride, In the Name of Love”.  On Youtube, we watch the original video (which always leads to student guffaws over Bono’s hair and dancing) and then a video that sets the same song to a compilation of news footage from the Civil Rights Movement.  It is an engaging way to introduce Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message of equality and tolerance.  

We then move onto the technology portion of the lesson.  Using Amy Zschaber’s lesson plan, students create a Tagxedo of who they are and what they want others to tolerate in themselves.  

  1. Using a Google Doc students created a list of 55 words about themselves.  
  2. Open Tagxedo.com  – it seems to work better in Firefox or Safari.  If you are using a Mac, you will need to install Silverlight first.
  3. Students then click on create, which brings them to the creation page. (Image 1)
  4. Click on load on the left side menu, paste the words from the Google Doc into the enter text box and click submit, the image will then “respin”. (Image 2)
  5. Click on Shape in the left side menu, and choose add Image at the bottom of that dialogue box. (Image 3)
  6. Choose a picture of the student.  When  the image loads will it may look like a black blob, so use the threshold and blur options to make the image more clear. (Using a picture with a white background works best.) (Image 4)
  7. Click accept and the image will ”respin” into the student’s photo with the words within the shape. (Image 5)
  8. I then allow students to change the colors by clicking on theme on the left side menu.  (Image 6)
  9. Students can also choose a new font by clicking on font on the left side menu. (Image 7)
  10. To save or print click on save/share on the left side menu and select the option you would like. (Image 8)

I enjoy teaching this lesson each year because the students really enjoy using Tagxedo, and it opens the door to honest conversation about who we are as a society and how far we have truly come in terms of equality.

IMAGE 1

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.02.25 AM

 

 

 

IMAGE 2

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.02.37 AM

 

 

 

 

IMAGE 3

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.06.32 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMAGE 4

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.06.38 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMAGE 5

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.06.44 AM

 

 

 

 

 

IMAGE 6

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.06.49 AM

 

 

 

 

 

IMAGE 7

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.07.14 AM

 

 

 

 

 

IMAGE 8

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.07.18 AM

Self-Checking in Math Class with QR Codes and Book Creator

20160108_084618During the first semester of school, the 6th grade students learned various math concepts such as integers, order of operation, prime factorization, number lines, operations with decimals and prime and composite numbers. We spent time on how to solve word problems by applying different strategies and using skills taught in class.

As a cumulative first semester activity, the students became the word problem writers!  Students created a QR Code Math Booklet of their own that had a total of six problems utilizing the concepts we learned in class. Each problem also included a QR Code with the answer for self-assessment purposes. 

After the books were completed, students chose another student’s book and completed the problems. Using a QR Code Scanner, the students checked their work. The 6th graders realized that writing math books is not an easy task!

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

Ghost Story Podcasts

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 2.30.13 PM

Click to listen to our students’ podcasts of ghost stories on SoundCloud.

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Kathy Poe’s 7th graders worked on podcasts of stories by SE Schlosser from American Folklore. Ms. Schlosser allows the use her stories if she is given credit. This project allows students to focus on the production of a podcast using Garageband to record a story, add music and sound effects, edit the audio and give attribution to the source of our story, music and other sounds.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 2.31.37 PM

 

 

 

 

 

What students thought about this project:
It helped me with my reading skills because I could listen to myself. CM
You can also have your voice sound scary and like monsters. AM
To accomplish a project you first need to obviously record. That sounds like a one time deal but only if your a great reader on the first try. If your not you could be recording for a long time. It’s always a good idea to add sound effects to get your listeners attention. Lastly make sure to give credit to the websites you borowed from. LG

Techspert Bar!

Falcon Flash April 2015