Fostering the Next Generation of Storytellers

eMINTS is partnering with KCDigiKids!

eMINTS will be collaborating with KC DigiKids and the KC DigiStory Center on a project focused on bringing digital storytelling into the classroom.

The eMINTS National Center is pleased to announce that we have paired up with KCDigiKids on a new project to help develop a comprehensive storytelling curriculum for grades PK-12.  KCDigiKids was founded in June of 2013, and are working to develop the “next generation of digital storytellers” in the mid-west.  The project is currently in the early stages, but will result in a “curriculum that can be used by educators as formal units of instruction and by non-profit leaders as after-school and summer learning projects.”  The students will experience hands-on learning activities that will utilize a variety of technology platforms and digital formats.  These units will help educators bring digital storytelling to into the classroom as a way to help students reflect, build community, think creatively, become media literate, and much more.

To learn more about KCDigiKids, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Coding in the Classroom

Not every child will grow up to be a historian, yet there is value in teaching history. Not every child will be a mathematician, yet there is importance in teaching math. What about teaching computational thinking? Computational thinking is a way of describing and solving problems that applies higher level critical thinking. How can programming be a productive addition to an already overloaded curriculum? Consider this quote from Steve Jobs.

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”

— STEVE JOBS, THE LOST INTERVIEW

AgentSheets Logo
AgentSheets is a software program that lets you create your own agent-based games and simulations using drag and drop, rule-based programming. For more information on AgentSheets and Scalable Game Design, visit scalablegamedesign.org.

Programming encourages children to use technology to solve problems, first by designing games, then by transitioning to STEM-oriented simulations. Learning to program with Scalable Game Design and AgentSheets software introduces computational thinking patterns using motivational and interesting methods tied to the core subjects. The benefits include enriching learning, elevating critical thinking and expanding 21st century and STEM skills.

eMINTS is offering a course in Scalable Game Design. The pilot begins in August and the course will be offered again in the spring. If you are interested in coding in the classroom, please fill out our eLearning interest form.

Carla Chaffin is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Join Us in Celebrating Digital Learning Day on February 5th!

Can you imagine education without technology?  In order to prepare the next generation for college and for their place in the workforce, it is very important that students and teachers embrace the benefits that modern instructional tools can provide.

This is why thousands of educators answer the “call to action” and join the celebration of Digital Learning Day each February.  A national event designed to allow educators to gather virtually to share and discuss the successes and challenges that they are experiencing with integrating digital tools in their classrooms.

To help build this awareness and to promote enhanced instruction with modern technology tools, join us by participating in national Digital Learning Day which is scheduled for February 5, 2014!  The online event will feature demonstrations, interactive lessons, presentations, resource sharing, tips, and even tricks designed for classroom educators that possess a passion for incorporating powerful digital tools into their lessons.

Here are some ways you can participate…

I hope to see you participating and making a difference with digital learning on Digital Learning Day!

-Doug Caldwell, EdS, is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

Time to Register for the 2014 eMINTS Conference!

It is that time of year again, when educators from near and far make plans to attend the annual eMINTS National Center Conference.  This exciting event takes place Feb 26-Feb 28 at the Stoney Creek Inn in Columbia, MO and is designed for anyone who is passionate about learning, teaching, and connecting with technology.

register2014_cropped

If you have never before attended this conference, please accept this invitation.

eMINTS teachers, trainers, technicians, and administrators  are looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones. They are preparing session workshops and designing their materials, selecting activities, resources and choosing strategies that can be taken back and used by participants almost immediately and in practically any learning environment.

The Keynote speakers will be Dr. Alex Repenning – “‘Excuse me, I need better Artificial Intelligence!‘ Igniting Students’ Intrinsic Math Motivation through Game Design” and Dr. Wesley Fryer – “Mapping Media to the Common Core”.

There are also two brand new opportunities that take place during the conference this year.  On Wednesday afternoon, there is a pre-conference 2.5 hour session called the “eMINTS Academy”.  During this session, eMINTS Instructional Specialists will be showcasing several custom PD offerings.  Actual activities from those recent and upcoming sessions will be delivered to participants.

On Wednesday and Thursday evening, the eMINTS community will gather to have the very first Camp eMINTS”.  This event will have a guest speakers, group sharing, games and resources that will be sure to allow attendees to help build professional relationships.

Both the eMINTS Academy and Camp eMINTS are free!

To register and find more information, visit http://www.emints.org/conference-2014/

Doug Caldwell, EdS, is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

Firefox: Organizational Tip – Tab Groups

This was my browser workflow before finding Firefox Tab Groups….

I would be working on, let’s say, a blog post. I would have open multiple browser windows (2-3 usually), each with their own VERY IMPORTANT plethora of tabs, all in some sort of order that made sense in my delusional organization plan. I thought I was organized! With my tons of tabs, in order, in multiple windows, trying to figure out which to bring to the front, where a specific webpage was, and then deciding that they were grouped wrong and then dragging tabs from one window to another. (See mess below)

TooManyWindows

BEFORE

I would drive myself nuts trying to position the windows just right so that I could drag tabs to new windows. It was crushing when I would accidentally close a window FULL of sites to never see them again. Don’t even get me started about the amount of prime property it took up in my dock when all these windows were all minimized. It really was going to be the death of me until…

enter stage right…my savior, my knight-in-shining-armor, my hero ….Firefox Tab Groups. I had the webpage with instructions in an open tab for more than a month before adding it to my “EXPLORE” list in my Outlook ToDo list. It took me a few more months before I had a week this summer to do some R&D and get back to that “EXPLORE” list.

It was AMAZING, I read the instructions and made a couple of quick clicks, typed in a couple of names, and turned that crazy mess of windows and tabs into THIS (see below). It became a beautifully organized, gathering of websites sorted into groups of small images with titles all in ONE window. Ahhhh, sweet organization!

PinnedTabinGroups

AFTER

How to Tame the BEAST: It’s pretty simple to set up, but the directions from Firefox didn’t work exactly as stated on the website under the “How do I create a tab group?” section. What I did was first add a couple of tabs, then selected “Customize” toolbar from the View>Toolbars drop-down menu.

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 4.34.12 PM

From there it was a piece of cake. I created new groups by double-clicking in the gray area to add a new tab in a new group. Then i named my groups by hovering over a group until the “Name this group” text field showed up (where you seem my “Work – Must Do” title) and then I typed in the name I wanted. Named Tab GroupThen I dragged the existing tabs around to the appropriate group and resized the group areas so that I could see a larger or smaller image of the tabs to help me identify them. I have 3 main groups, 2 for work and 1 personal group.PinnedTabinGroupsWhen I am ready to start browsing I click on the tab I want front and center, notice all of the other tabs in that group are available in the same window. When I want to get back to view all the tab groups I just click the “Group Your Tabs” button in the top right corner of the Firefox window. TabGroupsIconYou should practice going back and forth between tabs and groups but be careful because when it asks if you are sure you want to close the windows it means all of your Firefox windows.

DontCloseWindowsThere are a few additional features such as searching and saving resources for reviewing later using Pocket. These instructions, and more, can be found on the Use Tab Groups Mozilla Support Page. All images captured by Brooke Higgins.

Brooke Higgins, occasional blogger, is an eIS for the eMINTS National Center working with eMINTS teachers, trainers, and administrators. All of her posts, including this one, can be found at The Higgins Helps blog.

Common Core State Standards Tidbits: Episode 2

After the webinar I overviewed in CCSS Tidbits – Episode 1, I did some additional research to gather more information about the CCSS.  Below is a collection of links that you might find helpful as you move forward with your Common Core implementation.  I have also linked to this great infographic on becoming a Common Core Ninja!  For anyone interested, I am working on pulling together some resources for developing and using infographics in the classroom, so stay tuned!

Resources:
 
Explanation of the Standards
This is a sample document that shows how the standards are broken down, which grade levels teach to the standard, the DOK level of the standard, what it might look like in the classroom, and much more.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a full copy of the book for free, however, you can get a full copy from Amazon.com.
The North Carolina State Board of Education has developed a site with a great deal of resources, including an explanation of the standards “unpacked.”  They also have tool for implementing the standards.
ASCD has pulled together several great resources that provide an explanation of the CCSS as well as tools to help teachers implement.
If you’re a visual learner like me, you will love LearnZillion’s visual representation of the standards!
COREpedia is a resource tool to assist you in the understanding and implementation of the Common Core State Standards
Teacher Professional Development
This site is AMAZING!  They have a great deal of videos that will help teachers implement the common core   standards.
Pearson has done an excellent job at developing some top notch professional development resources! Teachers can watch webinars, they can access practice tests, find information for ELL students, and learn about rigor, instruction, assessment and much, much, more!
Classroom Tools / Resources
This is a nice collection of common core resources for 5th grade.
An CCSS integration tool that allows you to plan and track standards in your lesson plans.
“We Are Teachers”  has a nice collection on Pinterest for Common Core including great visuals, infographics, and other images.
This is a comprehensive site for all things Common Core including curriculum, assessments, PD, Videos, and tons more!
Curriculum Alignment
This sight helps schools ease the transition into Common Core.  They have excellent explanations of the   shifts taking place in both math and ELA.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills has additional information and resources on how to align to the CCSS and meet the needs of our 21st century learners.
Scholastic has pulled together some really great lesson plans, glossary of terms for teachers, Nonfiction & Literature lists, info on assessment, and professional development tools for teachers.

Jen Foster is an eMINTS Instructional Specialist and blogger. Check out her blog at eMINTS Classroom Strategies where she shares her thoughts on learning theories, teaching tips and strategies, practical classroom applications, and reflections on her journey to continue learning. This post was originally published on August 5, 2013.

Common Core State Standards Tidbits: Episode 1

I recently listened to a webinar provided by edWeb and Follett about the Common Core.  Common Core: High Impact Planning was an excellent, and highly informative webinar.  I have linked the recording so you can listen to it yourself, but I also wanted to give you the highlights in the form of my notes. Any educator will gain a great deal of information from this webinar, but it was specifically targeted to administration.

  • The goal of Common Core State Standards is College and Career Readiness.  The question we need to ask ourselves is “How can we reach ALL kids, and help them achieve the goal of CCSS?”
  • Common Core goals were set by companies, corporations, higher education, military, etc.

Students should be able to:

    • Understand concepts and new developments in science and technology
      • This is one of the most important new skills in light of our world that is data-driven!
    • Analyze and solve complex problems.
      • Real-world problems are complex, so we need to engage students in real-world complex problems to prepare them for life after high school.
    • Apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings.
    • Use critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills
      • We no longer have to memorize information.  We have access to all the world of knowledge at our fingertips.  Instead we have to focus on how to navigate through the world of information, think through it, and analyze it.
    • Effectively communicate orally and in writing.
      • Students must be prepared to communicate, and must practice often, especially in the use of electronic communications!

Being Prepared:

  • We need to begin to prepare our stakeholders for the change.  Test scores will go down, because CCSS have raised the bar.
  • We must “stretch” our students Lexile scores by 2-3 grade levels from what they are reading now.
    • Reading is a national security issue because 75% of our high school graduates cannot join the armed services because they cannot read well enough to pass the test!
    • There are a great deal of welding jobs currently available, but we cannot fill those jobs because we cannot find young people that can read the technical manuals required for the job training.
    • Students are leaving college early, and in considerable more debt because they are have to take remedial reading and math course to bring their skills up the level necessary.
    • Libraries will need to be reconfigured to provide students with the books they need to meet the new lexile requirements.

Lesson Design and the Common Core:

  • Recipe to align units and lessons with CCSS assessments
    • 2 Anchors (ELA Standards) or Practices (Mathematical Practices)
    • 3 – 5 Content Standards (this adds complexity)
    • 2 Questions: DOK 1 / Bloom’s 1-2
    • 2 Questions: DOK 2 / Bloom’s 3-4
    • 2 Questions: DOK 3 / Bloom’s 5-6
    • Write 1 (short write focused on comprehension or in math focused on fluency)
    •  Essay 2 (longer writing piece)
  • Only 86% of the standards will be tested

Content Areas:

  • Math
    • 7th & 8th Grade (these grades contain the critical skills necessary for students to move through high school and into college!)
    • All about fluency of basic math skills
    • Even the simplest math problems on the CCSS assessments will require a great deal of reading.  Students will be required to read multiple types of texts to solve one problem.
    • Performance Events will take approximately 2 – 2.5 hrs., will revolve around a real world problem, students will read, and analyze multiple types of texts to gather information to determine the type of problem that needs to be solved, what data is needed to solve the problem, and then actually solving the problem.  Students need to learn how to do all these things and PERSEVERE throughout the entire event!
  • ELA
    • Writing, Vocabulary, Argument
    • Student writing skills must be improved (this is critical!)
    • To expand vocabulary students need to read materials at a wide range of ability (low, medium and high)
    • Content needs to be presented in multiple formats (text, multimedia, video, real-world, literature and non-fiction)
    • School leaders should constantly have conversations about reading data!
      • Know the starting level of each student
      • Ask the questions:
        • What does the data say?
        • How are the students growing?
        • How do we know?
        • What are we doing about it?
        • Are students reading non-fiction in our libraries?
    • Connect lit studies to non-fiction
      • Example – A teacher loves to engage students in a lit study of Huckleberry Finn.  The students read about Huckleberry pies, they eat pie, they study Mark Twain, and read the novel Huckleberry Finn.  To engage the students in a more complex, more in-depth study, the teacher could have the students read a non-fiction work on the Mississippi River and learn of the changes that have taken place over time.  The students could then engage in a conversation as to how the story Huckleberry Finn might have changed because of the difference in the river system.
    • Students should be writing a lot and often (4 – 5 pages weekly for some grade levels)
      • Writing should be for an authentic audience
        • Traditional prompt: What did you do over the summer?
        • CCSS Style prompt: Write an paper (blog, wiki, etc) to convince me of where I should vacation next summer!
        • Use technology! Write on the computer, publish often!
        • Use a thesaurus (students need to consider word choice in written communication)
        • Follow the NAEP writing requirements

Overall this was an excellent webinar!  The next installment of this series Common Core & Back to School – Issues for the Upcoming Quarter is August 23rd at 1:00 pm central time.  If you can’t attend, no worries, they record the sessions :)

Jen Foster is an eMINTS Instructional Specialist and blogger. Check out her blog at eMINTS Classroom Strategies where she shares her thoughts on learning theories, teaching tips and strategies, practical classroom applications, and reflections on her journey to continue learning. This post was originally published on July 25, 2013.

Comedians and Life Lesson’s

Life lessons and aha moments come at unexpected times. Yesterday, as I ate lunch, I watched the first episode in Jerry Seinfeld’s newest project called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I loved the Seinfeld show and continue to try and see Jerry Seinfeld in action.

Click image for source.

Click image for source.

The gist of this new show is that Jerry selects a car based on his “guest”, picks them up, they travel around catching up, and eventually stop for coffee. In this episode, he was catching up with his Seinfeld show friend, Michael Richards. As I listened, they began talking about the success of the show and their craft. At that point in the conversation Michael started to cut himself down saying he studied too hard and should have been more relaxed about preparing. He implied that others had fun and he didn’t because he felt that preparing took so much practice. Immediately, Jerry stopped him and said, “I don’t accept the judging of process.” He continued by stating, “we are all trying to get to the same island.” He then finished with, “what matters is when the red light comes on” … “our job is to make sure they enjoy it”. Jerry and Michael go on to talk about how it’s about working selflessly not selfishly and the importance in remembering that.

That is teaching in a nutshell…selfless not selfish. Our goal, as teachers, is to leave kids in a better place than when we get them. Each teacher has to prepare in the way that makes him or her feel ready to “perform”, to put on the best show possible. As I have reflected back on what I heard them say, I have wondered…in what ways might we support our-self and others in doing just that? And more importantly, how can we build each other up and not tear each other down with judgment as we all work to achieve that same goal? How can we be a positive influence and not a negative influence?

What I choose to take from this conversation is this: we each have to do what we feel we have to do to prepare, we must respect that in ourselves and others, and we must presume positive intentions of others, because we all have the same audience and the same goal. That audience, those kids, deserve our very best. Parents, communities, and the world are depending on us. We are all here for the same reason doing what we can. As Maya Angelou said, “When we know better we do better.” We are all doing best we know how.

So as many of you, my friends, go back to begin a new year with students, my hope is that you take care of yourself, you take care of each other, and give the kids the best experience possible. Make sure they enjoy the journey you get to share with them.

*Coincidentally, I heard about Comedians in Cars Having Coffee on NPR as I drove home from some class visits last spring, and yes, it took me this long to get back to it. I will be watching the rest of the episodes. Who knows what else I might learn.

Brooke Higgins, occasional blogger, is an eIS for the eMINTS National Center working with eMINTS teachers. All of her posts, including this one, can be found at The Higgins Helps blog.

The Pioneers…

PictureFor me there is nothing better than introducing the eMINTS program to people for the first time!  Last week I had the privilege of doing just that.  Our national PD4ETS (or train-the-trainer program) held its kickoff!

The PD4ETS participants will bring the eMINTS program to districts in Alabama and Arkansas.  The comprehensive eMINTS program is two years long, during which teachers learn strategies for embedding research-based, best practices into the classroom.  The results of the eMINTS program go beyond test scores and meeting the Common Core, student engagement in eMINTS classrooms goes up as students learn to think critically, build community, question, and problem solve.

A key element of the eMINTS program is job-embedded coaching and mentoring.  Teachers attend eMINTS professional learning throughout the year, but they also received visits from their instructional specialist.  This personalized time to coach, collaborate, consult, and mentor is what sets the eMINTS professional learning program apart from other professional development.
During eMINTS training,  pedagogy is modeled and teachers spend time reflecting on practice and thinking about how strategies will transfer back to the classroom.   During a recent training, Dr. Kim Hendon, PD4ETS from Roanoke City Schools, made the statement, “No teacher wakes up and says today I want to be mediocre.”  eMINTS strategies help educator do their best everyday!

One of the primary goals of the PD4ETS kickoff is to give participants a strong foundation for what eMINTS is all about and what it can do for their students and teachers. We wantto develop a deep understanding of our instructional model; high-quality lesson design, inquiry-based learning, community of learners, all powered by technology.  After the three days of face-to-face time, the trainers then return to their districts and are supported virtually throughout the year.

eMINTS Instructional Model

The eMINTS Instructional Model

To begin developing relationships with the PD4ETS participants,  I sent out a survey prior to their training. Their responses helped me customize the training experience.   When looking at survey responses, I discovered that the participants really wanted to experience the Gateway Arch.   With the help of some colleagues, we designed an inquiry experience and task using the Arch as our subject.

The Inquiry Experience…

The heart of inquiry learning is questioning.  One strategy eMINTS shares with our teachers is the Question Focus Strategy or QFT.  Using this quote about pioneers, “It’s not easy being a pioneer, but oh is it fascinating.”  the PD4ETS participants participated in the entire QFT process. Ranking and selecting their top questions, they began to guess what the task would be.

“We are going to do a presentation about pioneers.”

“We are going to have a wax museum.”

Higher-level thinking is what eMINTS is all about!  I revealed the task-”Create a symbol, motto, quote/tagline to motivate and celebrate your eMINTS implementation. What is your “Why?” for implementing eMINTS?” Silence, excitement, and the comments “That’s hard”, “How much time do we have?”, and “Let’s get going!”

Off to the Arch we went.  The process was to use the questions created during the QFT to explore the pioneers. The parallel, they are the pioneers for their districts.  We arrived at the Gateway Arch Museum and set to work~reading displays, taking photos, asking more questions… There were no specific directions on how they needed to convey their message.  This added to the creativity, differentiation, and thinking involved in completing the task. (This is sometimes frustrating for both student and adult learners.)  These school leaders awed me with their final products and explanations:

Quote on a plaque: We have an unknown distance yet to run; an unknown river yet to explore. -J.W.Powell

“We have an unknown distance yet to run; an unknown river yet to explore.” -J.W.Powell

A tool used by pioneers

A tool used by pioneers. It had multiple functions. There were many connections to the image.

 

On this spot monumental dreams come to life!

Participant Video: My eMINTS Project

To truly understand the power of eMINTS, you have to experience it!  Once you experience eMINTS it is hard to imagine teaching any other way!  The excitement and innovation that comes with constructing your own knowledge is empowering and life changing!  eMINTS is about empowering and changing the lives of teachers, who then change the lives of students!

The eMINTS National Center offers many professional learning opportunities.  Visit the eMINTS National Center website for more information!

Carmen Marty is an eMINTS instructional specialist and Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer for the eMINTS National Center. This post was originally posted at Carmen’s blog, At Least One Thing.

Easy Screencasting With Screencast-O-Matic

A few weeks ago I was facilitating iPad trainings and had searched for resources to support the teachers in using the iPad as a production and collaboration tool. I found a lot of demonstration videos on YouTube to show how to use different apps that we were highlighting in the sessions and I linked those resources on the training site.

As we worked through the session there were certain iPad skills I suggested and demonstrated, but then after leaving the session I realized I didn’t have any resources linked for those skills that participants could refer back to. That is where Screencast-O-Matic came in. Some colleagues introduced me to the computer web 2.0 tool, Screencast-O-Matic and I knew it was just the fix for my participants need. I signed up for a free account, followed the directions on the screen, quickly created a screencast, uploaded it to YouTube (also downloaded to my laptop as an MP4), and made a link to the “how-to” video on our Weebly training site. It took about 15 minutes from start to finish which I am sure will be even quicker the next time through.

As you can see in my video below, it includes a screencast of the iPad screen (created using Reflector to mirror my iPad image on my computer), my voice, and a video of me talking (not really necessary but I was playing with all the features). I felt like the tool was very easy to figure out once I click the “Start Recording” button with on-screen directions.

The free version allows for 15 minutes of recording time, recording the screen and webcam, publishing to YouTube or downloading as MP4. One challenge in the free version to be aware of is that you can’t go back and re-record but have to start all over if you make a mistake. Not a big deal if you have a script to follow and have practiced what you are demonstrating before you begin recording. This seems to be everything I need for now, but some of the options and features of the pro version includes: no watermark, unlimited recording time, editing tools, webcam only recording, the ability to publish to Google Drive/Vimeo/Box/Dropbox, and more.

In those iPad sessions, other things we discussed was how to empower learners. One way the group talked about was giving students access to resources and allowing them to decide if and when they might need them. Creating screen-casts and posting them on a teacher website or WebQuest would be a great way to offer optional scaffolding for learners to support their thinking and self-directedness. Students could even create their own screen-casts and post them to a class/school YouTube or SchoolTube account so that everyone could benefit from their expertise and knowledge.

Screencast-O-Matic isn’t the only screen-casting software available, but it is simple to use and the free account offers a lot of features and options. What’s your favorite screen-casting tool? How have you and your students used screen-casting software to support thinking and learning?

Additional Resources
How to Record Your iPad w/Screencast-O-Matic
Screencast-O-Matic Help Channel

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist, Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer, and sporadic blogger for the eMINTS National Center. This post was originally posted at the Higgins’ Helpful Hints Blog.