Creativity Is the Future of Education

(Via ISTE)

While this video is primarily for the Ghetto Film School in New York City, the point is still a valid one. Our greatest resource is our creativity. If we don’t develop students’ creativity, with what are we left?

Innovation and creativity are the areas in which we can turn around the US’s standing in the world. Building on these strengths, we can not only improve test scores and send more children to college (as evidenced in the video), but we can begin to solve many of the world’s social and economical problems.

How do you build creativity in your students? Where does film-making fit into your curriculum? How can your schools emulate the  efforts of a school like the Ghetto Film School?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Weekly Update 2/27/12

Congratulations to Baldwin County, AL eMINTS Teacher: Congratulations to Nick Hemmert, eMINTS teacher in Baldwin County, AL for being profiled in the Press-Register blog. Nick is a 4th grade eMINTS teacher at Robertsdale Elementary School in Elberta, AL. Read more about Nick and how he teaches at:http://blog.al.com/pr-community-news/2012/02/get_to_know_nick_hemmert.html

Successful eMINTS Conference: Congratulations to eMINTS staff and presenters at the annual eMINTS Conference in Columbia, MO this past week. The sessions were outstanding and provided attendees with excellent teaching tips and opportunities to share what works with technology and teaching. Watch for podcasts and other resources that will be shared out via the eMINTS website and blog.

eMINTS Conference: Session 2 (Friday)

Design Patterns 2.0

Our good friend Bernie Dodge presents on how the best WebQuests are those built around tasks that resemble the authentic work that people do outside of school. Design patterns provide us with a way to describe that work and make it easier to create WebQuests that better prepare our students for life. This session will be the world premier (since yesterday’s session) of a new set of design patterns that will kick lessons up a notch.

Journals, Blogs and Wikis to Enhance Reading and Writing

Presenter Denis Knight provides participants an opportunity to gain a better understanding of various web-based instructional opportunities to use to enhance reading and writing skills. Participants learn how to use online journals, blogs and wikis to develop innovative ways to not only communicate with students, but provide an avenue for creative written expression. Teachers can generate online journals for students to reflect on classroom activities; blogs for addressing constructive response questions and article reviews to address reading comprehension. Participants learn to create a classroom wiki to provide opportunities for interactive discussion and peer evaluation. When used with appropriate assessments, these online sources can give teachers the flexibility to use internet sites as a way to move from the paper and pencil past to a new and exciting learning experience.

Personalize Your PD

Presenter Stephanie Madlinger helps teachers expand and take ownership of professional learning by creating a PLN (Personal Learning Network). Having a PLN allows one to learn and share with others around the world, 24/7. A PLN is a reciprocal network created and based on your interests and needs. Generate multiple opportunities to learn from, connect with, gather information and resources, then create and share with people like you. Participants learn which online tools to use to personalize their own PD. They explore online learning communities like Google Groups and SchoolTown; social networks like Facebook and Twitter; and social bookmarking like Delicious and Diigo.

Put Some WOW into Your Website

Krissy Venosdale of Hillsboro R-3 School District helps teachers explore ways to use the classroom website to enhance the learning environment. Using various Web 2.0 tools, sprucing up certain areas of one’s site, and encouraging interaction on the classroom site will enhance learning both in and out of the classroom. Digital portfolios, online projects, and weekly contests can all be used to engage students in a site and most of all, in learning.

Class, get out your cell phones please for bellwork. Seriously!

Presenter Roger Brallier of Mexico Public Schools help participants learn how to use cell phone technology to add an extra spark to bell work or preassessment in the classroom. Roger demonstrates how to reduce “under the table texting” and unlock the power of the cell phone (which may be greater than some of our older computers). Additionally, participants learn the basics of “Poll Everywhere” – a free online tool that shows real time results using the texting feature of a cell phone. Even without a phone, one can still use a webpage link.

The Flipped Classroom Approach in an eMINTS Classroom

Presenter Melody Paige of Monett School District presents a flipped classroom approach that entails “flipping” instruction in which students watch and listen to lectures for homework or at other non-instructional times. This gives learners control to pause or rewind lessons for understanding. Precious class time is then used for what typically was done as homework: tackling difficult problems, working in groups, creating, collaborating and researching. The concept is simple; but how does one make the “flipped” approach work in the real classroom? What software is needed? In this session, teachers watch videos of this concept in action and provide many resources for creating flipped content. There are many free completed lessons and videos ready for use in the classroom.

2012 eMINTS Conference: Google Docs in the Classroom

If you missed eMINTS Conference 2012, that means you also missed a great breakout session, Google Docs in the Classroom, presented by Google Certified Teacher, Stephanie J. Madlinger, Ed.S. Stephanie guided participants through everything from utilizing Google’s URL shortener, goo.gl, to collecting and organizing information from multiple individuals with Google forms.

When sharing Google documents or presentations, up to ten collaborators may work on the online file simultaneously; up to 50 may work concurrently on Google spreadsheets. Of course, as owner of a Google Doc, you determine what stays private, what is shared, and what permissions collaborators are granted. A tool that was new to many participants was Google Drawings. Need to create a diagram? You can do that with Google Drawings as well!

One of the best features of Google resources is that they are all free! Whether you need email for your students or collaborative docs to can access anytime anywhere, Google has the tool. Google in Education provides a nice overview.

Bottom line: it seems like there is now a Google Doc for everything! What are your hunches about how students and teachers might use Google Docs? If you need some ideas, check out Google Docs for Educators.
Stephanie graciously agreed to share her presentation resources with all of you. It’s no surprise that they’re all organized in a Google Doc!

Thank you, Stephanie!

Debbie Perkins is an eMINTS Instructional Specialist.

Thursday #eC12 – Design Patterns 2.0

Bernie Dodge’s eMINTS Conference breakout session, Design Patterns 2.0, focused around one of the most challenging parts of writing a WebQuest…. developing a task that engages students while pushing them to think at higher levels and then do something with the content they learn is tough. Bernie’s Design Patterns have long been a resource used in the eMINTS professional development sessions to support teachers as they write their first WebQuest. Design Patterns 2.0 is Dodge’s latest attempt to support teachers in the challenge of coming up with a good starting point to create original, quality WebQuests.

When beginning planning a WebQuest, Dodge suggests “starting at the end and looking at the kids”. Asking… What will they be doing for a living 15 years from now? What will they be doing for recreation? What issues will they be faces with? Dodge shared that “the success of people today and 15 years from now is when people have actually practiced and become good at…designing, deciding, analyzing, creating, predicting.” These are the excellent places for teachers to begin their WebQuest planning because “success is not about the nouns…success is about the verbs”.

So what’s new with Design Patterns 2.0? It’s now an interactive (click-able) matrix where a user chooses an anchor (person, place, thing, problem, activity) and a verb (deciding, designing, creating, analyzing, predicting). At the intersection point are questions that guide a user to help develop their WebQuest’s task and “create a lesson that engages higher-level thinking.”

A couple of tips shared at the session…for a beginner, pick one verb and anchor and do it well – for more experienced WebQuest creators build in more than one intersection point and design a more complex WebQuest.

You can see the Google presentation Bernie created to overview his ideas at http://webquest.org/questquilt.html. He hopes to turn it into a web app in the near future.

What’s your best tip for teachers creating their first or fiftieth WebQuest?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center and presenter at the eMINTS Conference 2012.

eMINTS Conference: Session 1 (Friday)

How to Teach Students Who Don’t Look Like You: Culturally Relevant Teaching Practices

Featured speaker Bonnie Davis facilitates this interactive talk, focusing on examining one’s cultural lens and learning strategies to improve the academic achievement of ALL students. Davis discusses culturally responsive instruction with an emphasis on students “who don’t look like you.” Beginning with an examination of one’s cultural lens, she leads participants through reflection and collegial conversation.

Using brain-based instructional strategies, Bonnie explores how to create a classroom community that honors every voice. Participants learn her award-winning strategies to engage all students to improve their academic achievement across the disciplines.

This presentation is based on material on Davis’s book, How to Teach Students Who Don’t Look Like You: Culturally Relevant Teaching Strategies.

SMART Board 800

Presenter Laura Brockman of SMART Technologies demonstrates how collaborative learning becomes an extraordinarily natural experience with the SMART Board® 800 series interactive whiteboard. Two people can instantly work together anywhere on the surface at the same time using either their fingers or a pen. This interactive whiteboard also features a multiuser Pen Tray with buttons that make it easy for users to switch ink color, right-mouse click and bring up the On-Screen Keyboard.

Google Forms = Easy Online Quizzes!

Suzanne Stillwell of Hallsville School District facilitates participants developing their own free online quizzes and surveys to use with their students. Participants see how to use Google Forms to create simple quizzes and surveys. The form can be easily embedded in a teacher webpage so that students can complete the quiz without having to have a Google account. There is even a script called Flubaroo that can be added to collect, grade and analyze the results!

Gaga for Gaggle

Presenter Diane McCormack of Affton School District demonstrates the tools available to classrooms through Gaggle and develops ideas of how to integrate it into lessons. An overview of the capabilities of Gaggle, what makes it safe for the classroom, and ways it can be integrated into learning are part of this presentation. Gaggle contains email, blog, profile page, message board, homework drop box, digital locker and collaborative writing space. The program is set up to meet the unique needs of classrooms and can be customized by each district.

Student and Class Created e-books

Cathie Loesing (eMINTS National Center) is back to show participants how easy it is to create ebooks and share ideas for classroom use. Creating books in the classroom to support developing reading skills, to share learning and as a component of writing instruction is not a new idea. However, eBooks make sharing those projects easier and more rewarding than ever.

Friday keynote – The Power of Student-Made Questions Bernie Dodge

From the conference description…

The air in school is filled with questions. They’re asked by teachers, they’re found on tests, they’re written on the white board. The most powerful questions, though, are those that come from students themselves. How can we use technology to encourage, organize and improve student-generated questions? We’ll offer some practical suggestions.

Inquiry is a key piece in the eMINTS instructional model. So, Bernie’s talk on student-generated questions is right up our alley. He begins with the idea of the ideal classroom versus one situated to only respond to a teacher’s question. Participants reveal visions that match our model as well of student activity and engagement. Bernie’s talk covers student-generated questions, something new called the Questions Formulation Technique, WonderPoints, WHex, CircuitBoard Games, WebQuests vs SGO, and so what?

Bernie adds a new book to add to everyone’s reading list: Make Just One Change. From the book, Bernie latches onto the idea of teaching kids to generate their own questions; this one simple shift is all we have to do. The authors of the book have established the Right Question Institute. The technique they promote is to establish a question focus, including rules for generating questions. Have students generate questions, categorize between open and closed questions, improve the generated questions, and prioritize those questions.

Bernie demonstrates a process in which questions are acknowledged, lists of questions are compiled, lists are refined and questions are categorized as open vs. closed. Then, students experiment to see how questions can be altered. Once this process is started, it builds on itself.

Bernie introduces Project nGage, promoting smartphone use in schools. His student teachers in Sand Diego use smartphones in the classroom as do their students. Bernie makes a clear distinction that these smartphones are not to deliver learning. Rather, their purpose is to help create an environment for learninng to take place. The idea is to think of them as advanced devices for taking in information, not delivering it.

This initiative is developing an app called WonderPoints where students identify location and boundaries, recording all kinds of data. Students can use the app to post questions for discussion.

Even with such a great tool, open-ended wonder is a hard sell. As with anything in education, it’s an easier to sell when there are boundaries. So, the easy fix is for teachers to limit what students do with these great mobile tools by simply narrowing the questioning focus on particular topics.

Overall, it’s great to have Bernie back once again. We look forward to seeing him at future conferences!

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger with the eMINTS National Center.

eMINTS Conference: Session 4 (Thursday)

Return of the Speed Geekers!

eMINTS National Center staff Doug Caldwell, Ruth Henslee, Jen Foster, Amy Blades and Brooke Higgins lead this fast-paced and exciting session. Participants benefit from the knowledge of others in the field and walk away with a plan for incorporating 2.0 tools in meaningful ways. Workshop participants view actual, practical and rich examples of online technology tools and hear about implementation strategies used to enhance communication, collaboration, and cognitive thinking. The workshop’s activities are delivered in a “speed-geeking” format. Five stations are set up and participants rotate through each station in timed intervals.

Beyond Blogs and Wikis: Technology Tools for the Writing Classroom

Kerry Townsend presents how teachers of writing will learn new ways in which the collaborative writing process can be taught in the modern, technology-enhanced classroom. Web-based applications such as Google Tools, Twitter, Evernote, Prezi and Weebly are discussed as well as AV software and tools such as iPads/iPods, webcams, document cameras, Audacity, iMovie, etc.

Student and Class Created e-books

Cathie Loesing of the eMINTS National Center shows participants how easy it is to create ebooks and share ideas for classroom use. Creating books in the classroom to support developing reading skills, to share learning and as a component of writing instruction is not a new idea. However, eBooks make sharing those projects easier and more rewarding than ever. See how you and your students can use a free online program to create and share e-books that may be read on smart phones, iPads and other eReaders.

SMART Notebook Math Tools

Laura Brockman from SMART Technologies helps participants create, explore and evaluate math concepts with SMART Notebook™ Math Tools. This add-on to SMART Notebook collaborative learning software combines all the tools you need to teach math concepts and solve equations in a single application. It keeps everything at your fingertips, so you can easily incorporate shapes, measurement tools, graphs and tables into lesson activities.

eMINTS Conference: Session 3 (Thursday)

Google Docs in the Classroom

Presenter Stephanie Madlinger presents online collaboration & instructional strategies using Google documents, providing a 24/7 global approach and differentiated instruction for all learning styles. Participants create, share and edit online by using the basic abilities of word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet software. Additionally, teachers create an online form to collect information, chart and graph in a snap. As a Google Certified Teacher, Stephanie Madlinger shows us how to open up one classroom to new learning today! All one needs is a Google account to get the most out of Google Docs.

Sites Worth Quacking About!

Glenda Admire and Ashley Sutherland of Lebanon R-III show us how using technology to enhance existing lessons doesn’t have to be difficult. Quick and free sites easily adapt for classroom use in a matter of minutes. Sites shared range from classroom management to tools that will help enhance lessons through use of technology.

Journals, Blogs and Wikis to Enhance Reading and Writing

Presenter Denis Knight helps participants gain a better understanding of various web-based instructional opportunities to use to enhance reading and writing skills. Educators learn how to use online journals, blogs and wikis to develop innovative ways to not only communicate with your students, but provide an avenue for creative written expression. Teachers generate online journals for students to reflect on classroom activities; blog for addressing constructive response questions and article reviews to address reading comprehension. They learn to create a classroom wiki to provide opportunities for interactive discussion and peer evaluation. When used with appropriate assessments, these online sources give the teacher the flexibility to use internet sites as a way to move from the paper and pencil past to a new and exciting learning experience.

SMART Board: More Than Just a Fancy Whiteboard!

Heidi Beatty of Horace Mann Laboratory School demonstrates how to make one’s SMART Board/SMART Notebook work for teachers to motivate students, promote peer interaction and independent success! In this workshop, participants explore SMART Notebook and how it can work to enhance lessons and engage students. Students should be comfortable using the SMART Board and by attending this presentation, teachers are more confident in their own skills as well as letting a 6-year old or a 12-year old use this expensive piece of equipment! The presenter models and assists in guided practice.

Thursday #eC12 – eIS Smackdown!

Such a fun session to attend…with 4 Instructional Specialists tag-team presenting their favorite online tools everyone had to see an interactive website they hadn’t seen before. I walked away with some new goodies to add to my bag of tricks and pass them on to the teachers I get to work with.

What tools would you share?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center and presenter at the eMINTS Conference 2012.