Friday, December 20, 2013

Uh Oh - The Result

Well, that $200.00 winning bid for our holiday family auction gave Grace not one, but two pies.  While Melissa and I both kept our eyes closed, waiting to see if we'd be the one to get the pie in the face, the kids and Mr. Park played a trick on us.  Mr. Park made TWO pies so Grace and Darrian could get both of us at the same time.  Hmmmm, tricky.  A good, but sloppy, time was had by all.  - Don

Immersion Week Wrap-Up

As this was the week before winter break, we decided that it would be a great time for students to immerse themselves in their project research.  Each day, the kids conducted research and collaborated with their group-mates on their projects.  While researching, they also began working on their one-minute "Pitch Video".  The video will make up part of their presentation to the Pitch Committee and should outline what the project is about, what the participants expect to learn during the process and what the result of the study will be.

We are using Animoto to create the videos.  The kids have used Animoto in English class before to create Book Trailers.  The program is user-friendly and the videos look very professional.  We are going to encourage the groups to post their videos on their blog so that everyone can see them.  Some have already posted the videos.

Two groups ran into problems with their ideas.  One student, who is working as an individual, had a great deal of difficulty deciding on a project topic.  Finally, after a few days of back and forth, we think he has something he can really run with.  Another group was going to disband but instead changed its idea and now things are moving more smoothly.

We're very happy with the way things are going so far.  When we get back from break, the kids will begin an intense three-week period involving finishing videos, facing the Pitch Committee and getting ready for the Idea Showcase.  So much fun! - Don

Uh Oh

Today is a big day on Team Harmony.  While we are doing our 20% Time research during sixth and seventh hours, the highlight of the day will be something entirely different.  Every year, our team adopts a family in need for the holidays.  Each year we set a goal of raising 1500.00 for gifts, etc.  We have never failed to reach this goal.  This year, we raised a total of 1892.79.  One way we raised money was to auction off some fun things.  One of the auction items this year was winning the chance to throw a pie in the face of one of the teachers, either Melissa or me.  Well, the winning bid for that auction was 200.00.  And so, at the end of the day today, we will all go outside and see who Grace, our winning bidder, chooses to receive a pie in the face.

This event is just one of the things we do on team to promote our team culture.  We strongly feel that if we spend time throughout the year, and especially at the beginning of the year, on team-building and developing a team culture, then our team will function well and allow for ambitious goals like our 20% Time projects.   Our work toward team-building and developing a team culture has paid off every year.  Stay tuned for pictures of today's event! - Don

Friday, December 13, 2013

Blogger Day 2 - The Adventure Continues

Nearly all of the kids were able to create a blog template yesterday and get them online.  Today we focused on inviting teammates to blogs (2-3 kids may be working on a particular project so all of them should have administrative privileges on the blog), choosing the right template and incorporating the desired gadgets into the blogs.  While each individual or group could choose whichever gadgets they wanted on their blog, I did ask them to include a few essentials: the Google+ gadget, the Blog Stats gadget, the Subscribe by E-mail gadget, and the Subscribe gadget.  Some kids also wanted to add the Slideshow gadget and the Image gadget.

Each individual/group shared the URL to their blog with me on Edmodo.  This weekend I will make sure that all of their blogs are listed in the "Must Read Blogs" section on the right side of this blog.  I had a chance to take a few pics of the kids' blogs while they were on their computer screens.  Some cool stuff is going on.  Many of the kids will be writing their first blog posts this weekend (The Origin of the Idea).  We are very excited to see what they have to say! - Don

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Blogger - Day 1

Today we introduced the kids to Blogger, the tool they will use to record and narrate the stories of their 20% Time journeys.  Using Edmodo as a launching pad, we posted a link to a folder in our Google Docs folder.  Once the kids clicked on the link, they were in the shared folder that we created.  Then, when the kids clicked the "Create" button in Google Docs, the docs they created were already in our folder.  We didn't have to file or move anything.  Confusing, I know, but effective.  The documents that the kids created will house their blog drafts.  They will write their blog entries in those docs and we will read them to make sure they are well-written, and then the kids will copy/paste into their Blogger post.

After creating our blog docs, we launched Blogger.  We navigated through the set-up pages, creating titles, subtitles, and sometimes connecting groups of kids as contributors on the same blog.  Most of the kids picked it up pretty well.  Coming up with clever blog names held some of the kids back, but knowing that they could change the name of their blog at any time was reassuring to them.  They at least created blog names as place-holders until they came up with their final blog name.  The best blog name that I heard today was by a pair of kids who want to create a cake-pop business.  They decided on "Pop-a-doodle-doo" as their project and blog name.  Very cute!

Tomorrow the kids get to choose their template, explore the gadgets that Blogger offers, incorporate some of those gadgets into their blogs, share their blog URL with us so that we can list them in our "Must Read Blogs" section, and generally shape the look and feel of their blog.  The first blog post that each student/group will post will be "The Origin of the Idea" and those posts should be interesting reading.

One of the reasons that the kids had a successful day is the amount of technology that they have used so far this year.  We try to introduce three main apps/sites that we rely on for most of the school year.  Edmodo, our student portal, and our classroom websites are the things we use most often.  However, we have also incorporated 3DGameLab, BrainPop, Reading Rewards, Quick Topic, Animoto, Glogster, Khan Academy, Prezi, Socrative and the host of Google Apps (Docs, Presentation, etc) into our classes.  As a byproduct of our classes, the kids are immersed in technology, from which they learn a great deal.  On to Blogger - Day 2 tomorrow!  Charge! - Don

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Idea Generation

On Monday,  I met with every individual or group to see where they were in the idea-generating process.  I would say that 85% have a solid idea.  As I met with each group, I asked questions to generate the thinking process.  I wanted to get them started on the next steps as we prepare to delve into "research immersion week" next week.  I heard some awesome ideas from starting a website to help incoming sixth graders from Steger, to filming a documentary about different kinds of fears that consume people.  To see some of the students light up about their next steps and talk so excitedly about what they are doing is empowering to me as their teacher. I am blown away by some of these ideas and yet, as in any assignment, I have students who are struggling to find their idea or passion.  Most have a "working idea" and though Don and I want to be helpful and supportive in any way we can, we also don't want to give too much direction on the idea process because we want each student to have ownership of their idea.  Our support might be asking questions about their interests and passions or just stepping away and letting have time to think. We want each student to buy into this project and if we guide them too much towards something we think would be best for their "working idea", I am afraid that they will not take ownership of the idea and become invested in the long run.  So, with patience, we are trying to help these students down the right path to transforming their ideas into realities. I think we are going to see great success and accomplishment from our students during this process.  -Melissa

The Feedly Experience

Today we introduced Feedly to the kids as a way to cull information from a variety of sources to which each student/group will subscribe.  For example, if a group is interested in making a hovercraft, they can subscribe to online sources that talk about propulsion, design, etc. and related articles will be waiting for them in their Feedly stream.  Many got the hang of Feedly right off the bat but some were a bit confused by the format and the process for accessing sources.  Countless times I heard, "Why can't we just Google it?"  Of course!

I tried to explain that they would not want to Google something over and over and try to pour through the millions and millions of returns to find that needle in the haystack.  Even if kids employed some filtering tricks on Google to limit the returns, they would still have to Google various elements of their project topics over and over.  Some were convinced that Feedly could be a good tool for them (in addition to Googling if they insisted) but some are sticking with what they know.  This entrenchment is a bit frustrating because some students (and some adults too for that matter, honestly) will only use what they already know.  They will not stretch and try something new, especially if they don't instantly master it.  Is it a general lack of persistence of "kids these days"?  We shall see as we continue on our journey.  We will have a good chance to observe more tomorrow, when we introduce Blogger! - Don

Monday, December 9, 2013

Preparing to Learn

This week, we speed up the pace of preparation for our 20% Projects.  Later today, Melissa will be working with the kids on idea generation.  She will help them craft a plausible idea to research or create while discussing what makes a good project idea versus ideas that do not create any new knowledge.  She will post tomorrow about the class discussion.  We are excited about what these kids' minds will generate.

Later in the week, I am going to teach the kids how to use two online tools that will help them find research and keep a running journal of their progress.  We will be using Feedly as our research collection tool.  It is a great app that allows students to subscribe to online sources specific to their projects.  We will also be using Blogger so that each student/group can show off what they have learned, what they have achieved and what mistakes they've made.  All of the students'/groups' blogs will be listed on the right-hand side of our blog.  Simply click on a blog that looks interesting and it will take you to their blog.  We expect student blogs to go live as early as Friday of this week.

Let the fun, um, I mean, learning, begin! - Don

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Introduction

Yesterday, we introduced the 20% Time project to the kids during sixth and seventh hour classes.  Already we had been doing some work in preparation for the launch (Socratic Symposium on "Failure" and The Bad Idea Factory) so the kids knew that something big was coming.  We took a half hour to run through the meaning of 20% Time, outline the process, talk about the timeline, highlight some of the bigger events on the horizon, and discuss what this learning project will mean to them.  As you can imagine, some kids showed signs of being overwhelmed while others were chomping at the bit to get started.

The kids will have about a week to settle on an idea that they'd like to pursue and we will conference with each student to help shape their project idea.  Already, this morning, kids have been coming in with ideas ranging from inventing a new kind of headphone to studying the affects of fear on people in order to help them overcome it.  These kids are definitely thinking!  We have a lot of work to do this week to help make sure that each student or group has a viable idea with which they can work.  Fingers crossed! - Don

Our First Podcast!

Bad Idea Factory

We started off our 20% Time project by allowing the kids to generate ideas, lots of ideas.  The name "Bad Idea Factory" came from a conference in Bahrain a couple years ago that was led by Ewan McIntosh.

 From his blogWhen you ask a room of professionals to come up with their “best” solutions to a problem you often tend to get great ideas, but not always the best ones. They can be contrived and almost always involve some self-censorship from the team: people don’t offer anything up unless they feel, explicitly or subconsciously, that it will get buy-in from the rest of the team or committee. 
Ask people for their “worst” solutions to a problem and people tend not to hold back at all – laughs are had and the terrible ideas flow. And while the initial suggestions might feel stupid, pointless or ridiculous to the originating team members, these awful ideas can take on a spectacular new lease of life in the hands of another, unrelated group.

Don and I want our students to know that the sky is the limit. No idea, no matter how silly or ridiculous, is off the table.  We never know what idea will spark a new idea for someone else or cultivate a "bad idea" into  a working "great idea". I want kids to come up with anything that they feel passionate or curious about.  This is the stepping stone to beginning their 20% projects. - Melissa 

Some of the ideas from our "Bad Idea Factory":