Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Podcast: End of Year Reflection

In this episode, we wrap up the year featuring student comments from their reflections and some parent comments as well. We also reflect on the role of technology in today's classroom. Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe". You can also follow us on Twitter @melissahellwig4 and @dayankee

Monday, May 26, 2014

Students Reflect

As part of our project wrap-up, we asked kids to write a reflection of their 20% Time work this year. We believe they were completely honest because they noted the things they liked about the project in general and their projects in particular. They also noted things that could go better next year and where teachers could have helped more this year. Like we've said all along, this has been a learning experience for all of us, students and teachers alike. Here are some of the students' comments:

I really liked this 20% Time project because we were able to choose something that we were interested in and I hope we can do something like this next year.

When I was trying to use cheap molds and plastic sometimes it would have been easier to just quit rather than continuing and figuring out how to fix it.  Once I did get past these hurdles I finally got some final product that I am happy with.

The TED Talks were not something I was looking forward to.  Even though I didn’t want to do the TED Talk I thought it was good for me to get up and talk in front of people about something I am passionate about.

I liked 20% time.  The fact that we could choose anything we wanted was awesome but was also complicated.  There were so many possibilities that I was overwhelmed.  That was also a good thing though.  The fact that there were no limitations was good because we got to come up with things that we were really passionate about, and were really motivated to work on.

I learned how to make a website, how to blog well, how to manage my time, and how to get a project that needed to do a lot at home done.  This was a great learning experience and it should be used more in schools.

I did not like the fact that we had to use a blog.  I was not very good at keeping up with it and I often got behind on it.  It  was a good way to keep people updated but it was not something I was good at constantly doing.

I think that this whole 20% project idea is a good idea for learning, it helps kids think more about the things they love to learn about.

If I had worked by myself, I would have come up with something in which I was more passionate and would not have had to rely on others  to do their part.  It was a good lesson learned.  I realized that I am more comfortable relying on myself than others and that not everyone has the same level of determination as me.

I thought it was very interesting and fun because I got to learn about whatever I wanted to. Of course in the end my idea didn’t really work but it was nice to have my imagination run rather than make a project off of something you guys taught us or take a test over a subject.

My 20% time was a pretty good project I think. What caused its downfall was me. I was too confident and arrogant and I think I’ve learned to not do that.

Starting in December was difficult for most projects, especially clubs, because you are starting the middle of the semester. I felt that for some of our projects, we needed more time to get the project started.

There were a lot of things we did great in. For example we learned a lot about music. There was one song where we had to conduct 12/8 time which means there are twelve eighth notes per measure. We had never done this in class before so we had to learn it.

So I guess you could call that susailing, which isn’t a real word but it means failing and succeeding at the same time, but it’s something us Modern Music kids like to say.

We went on youtube and found how to make a DYS (do it yourself) hovercraft. When we followed the instructions exactly the hovercraft didn’t fly. And at that is when me, Alex, Spike, and parents decided that it was time for improvements.

I felt good about my own learning experience with this. I felt like I learned alot.  It was new and something I’d never had the chance to try before.  I liked it. I liked the freedom to choose what I did during that time and I’m proud of what I did.

For me, I have found that I want to continue helping others and work in social sevices when I’m older. Using 20% time for our project Pictures For Africa was also an amazing learning experience. I have learned that when you put your energy into something you are passionate about, you will achieve the goals you set for yourself.

Overall this has been an amazing learning experience. I have realized that if you put your mind to something and make time to do it you can achieve great things.  

I thought that the 20% Time Project was a good opportunity to challenge myself and to try to fulfill a dream I’ve had for a long long time. I think I may have contributed a little more to the project than my partner. Although he is a good person and fun to be around I do wish he had helped me more. I think my project succeeded and failed at the same time.

When you and Mrs. Hellwig first started telling us about Twenty Percent Time Projects, honestly, I was super excited. Never in any grade had I been allowed to work on any project I desired.

I think we could've been more productive with our time in school than we were throughout the year. When the project was done and over with we had accomplished a full functional Go-Kart with an mp3 sound system.

I didn’t like this project is because I don’t know how to work independently on my own without having some type of schedule or something to me keep on track. The next reason I didn’t like this project is because I feel that it holds nothing that's worthy of learning. It takes time out of a regular school week to learn the important things in life that we will never use.

It’s no secret, this project didn’t really work for me. With my inconsistency to stay with a project, I never actually got that much done. It put me through a lot of stress to have to constantly change projects, and I feel now that I will have more self discipline and motivation to get things done. I learned a lot from this project, even though I really didn’t like it.

The TED Talk was stressful to say the least. First we were way ahead of schedule and my mom was freaking out and then the mike broke. That’s not even including the stage fright and tech problems. But according to my mom I was, “Calm and collected.” Maybe I’ll go into poker if that’s what I looked like.

I’m still debating whether I liked 20% time or not, it was……….. interesting.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Podcast: Student TED Talks!

In this episode, we talk about student TED Talks and getting feedback from students and parents about the 20% Time Projects this year. Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe". You can also follow us on Twitter @melissahellwig4 and @dayankee

TED Talk - The Veteran Project

Jake describes his efforts to learn about prosthetics and match veterans who need prosthetics to organizations who can help them get the limbs.

TED Talk - Modern Music Club

Nessa, Olivia and Lily talk about the club they started at school. Their club was for kids who wanted to play modern music in a band setting.

TED Talk - Eric's Hovercrafting

Eric talks about his experience learning about and trying to build a hovercraft.

TED Talk - Gym Program

Andrew talks about his idea for revamping the school physical education program.

TED Talk - Handle Board

Carson, Justin and Camden talk about the idea behind their invention - the Handle Board.

TED Talk - Creativity

Ricky talks about creativity and how video games are not harmful for kids.

TED Talk - Tobey

Tobey describes why he did not have a 20% Time Project this semester and why he prefers pencil and paper tasks.

TED Talk - Quarters for Quarter Horses

Camille and Grace talk about their experience trying to help organizations that aid retired or injured horses.

TED Talk - GSA

Audrey talks about her experience trying to raise awareness for school GSAs and her efforts to get other schools to start clubs.

TED Talk - A Brick by Brick Society

Theodor describes the experiential Lego game he created during which players learn many skills.

Friday, May 16, 2014

TED Talk - Go-Kart Sound

John, Louis and Ben set out to build a go-kart and install a sound system in the kart. They worked with mentors in their free time and planned it out at school. This is the impressive result.

TED Talk - Steger 2 Hixson

Isaac, Elijah and Matthew talk about their missteps starting at Hixson Middle School and their desire to design a blog to help incoming seventh graders navigate the school better.

TED Talk - Special Shoes for the Blind

Chris investigates how to create shoes that will send vibrations or impulses to the brain so that a blind person's immediate surroundings are mapped out for them, giving them "vision".

TED Talk - Suber Music

Edward researched how music affects kids' thinking. He began some experiments to see the effect of music on kids' work.

TED Talk - Helping Hands

Jolene, Karissa and Izzy started a club in order to help others in the community who are less fortunate. They spent weeks collecting donations and making sure that those donations got to those in need.

TED Talk - Spotlight Lip Balm

Gold and Natalia explored the market of lip balms and decided to design and test their own. Their ultimate goal is to patent and sell their creation.

TED Talk - Into Auto Audio

Nick and Theo learn about how car audio systems work. They learn how to dissect the inner workings of a car audio system and how to deal with the octopus of wires.

TED Talk - Operation Beautiful Hixson

Allyson describes her ideas to help others at Hixson. From positive comments to locker bombing, Allyson has positively affected many kids at Hixson Middle School.

TED Talk - Hope for Honduras

Kelly, Cielo and Julia worked to relieve the financial stress of a family whose daughter was terminally ill. Their TED Talk speaks to the ups and downs of that project.

TED Talk - Can You Be Fearless?

Nivi's 20% Time project was born from the pages of Divergent by Veronica Roth. The "Fear Landscape" intrigued her and she investigated to see whether or not fear is genetic or learned.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

TED Talk: SNB Bass Baits

Today our students gave TED Talks in the auditorium, for a real-life audience, outlining what they learned during their 20% Time project this year. This is Steve's project, SNB Bass Baits.

TED Talk - Pictures for Africa

The "Pictures for Africa" group gave their TED Talk, outlining their learning during the project and talking about the future goals.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

In fifteen minutes, our student TED Talks begin in the auditorium. One group, Go-Kart Sound, needed access to the auditorium early in order to set up their presentation. By looking at the picture, you can see why. This presentation will be a wonderful beginning to a day filled with learning conversations and exhibits!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

And Now Presenting...

Today we received notice that a proposal we submitted, "Harmonized Learning: A 20% Time Classroom", was accepted for presentation at the MOREnet Annual Conference in Columbia, MO in October. We see this as further validation that there is an audience out there that wants to learn more about how to undertake a 20% Time program and see some of the results of those efforts.

Those who follow the blog and podcast know that we are creating as we go forward. We can usually sense when we need to formally check in with groups, see a product along the way or give a longer leash to some groups to explore or change topics. So much of the learning that takes place in a 20% Time environment is alien to the typical school regimen and often we depend on reading our students to see where we should take the project next. That is not to say that we don't prepare. We probably over-prepare. We realize, though, that we have to make changes, often on the fly, for the experience to be as rewarding and relevant as possible to the kiddos. We have a lot of discussions about what the next move should be, why it should be that way, and how we are going to make that next move.

Our 20% Time experience has been an incredible learning experience for us and our kids. We are looking forward to sharing that experience with anyone who wants to listen and having another rewarding experience next year with our new group of kids. We are convinced that this is the way schools should be moving and will champion that cause wherever we can! - Don

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Drumroll Please...

With TED Talks only two days away, kids are making last minute preparations. Some are very excited, some are very anxious and some are both. This is an exciting time for Harmony Team students. The culmination of their semester of 20% Time work occurs this week. For all of the hours they have spent researching, writing, building, testing, revamping, rethinking, revising, and publishing, they will finally get a chance to showcase their learning to an authentic audience.

Our TED Talks are open to school classes, district teachers and administrators, parents and community members. The talks will take place in our auditorium, on stage, with a projected visual (if the students choose to have one) and a microphone. Our talks should be very much like the TED Talks we have all seen online. We plan to videotape and publish all of the TED Talks right here on our blog. All of the groups will publish their own TED Talk videos on their student blogs as well.

As the teachers, our part of the TED Talk preparation was to make sure that all groups had their project ready to go, secure the auditorium, develop a schedule, link visuals to the schedule, and publicize it to the community and district. WE ARE READY! This is one of the real-life applications of the students' work and they are realizing that their learning does apply to their  immediate domain and the larger world around them. The audience could range anywhere from 50 (the number of students on our team) to 450 (the number of people the auditorium holds). We don't know what to expect as far as audience size, but it doesn't matter; the students will be discussing their learning with a REAL audience. This is not a project for school, this is a project for the world. 

All year we have tried to tie all of the kids' learning to the world around them. We have made connections with things in their lives, their community and their world. We believe that the best education is one that prepares them for the world in which they will live. The 20% Time projects are the most organized attempt at this real-world connection that we have made this year, but we have made these connections in their regular classes as well. These kiddos will remember these TED Talks for the rest of their lives. How many other classroom activities can we say that about? Not many. Not only did these projects teach them about the content they explored, it also taught them about how they learn, how they work with others, how to prioritize, how to persevere, and how to work in the world. While the kids may not think so right now, we think this will be life-changing learning for them.  - Don

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Video: Hovercrafting 101

The Hovercrafting 101 group has been playing with designs, propulsion and materials. They are trying to get the lift band and skirt to work in concert in order to keep the vehicle off the ground for a long period of time. Here is a video that shows some of that effort.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Podcast: Ted Talk Prep and Looking Ahead

In this episode, we talk about Ted Talk preparations, scheduling and student performance. We also reflect on how things have gone overall and some tweaks for next year. Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe". You can also follow us on Twitter @melissahellwig4 and @dayankee

Student Blog Spotlight: Operation Beautiful Hixson

Allyson has been spreading good cheer at Hixson all semester as part of her 20% Time project, Operation Beautiful Hixson. She has piggy-backed on the school-wide program, Rachael's Challenge, and included many other students in her project. This is a wonderful, student-directed learning project. - Don