Sunday, July 24, 2016

Throwing Light on Circuits

In 2014, +Maker Jawn helped to host a Make Cycle in CLMOOC. Ever since then, I have been dying to use paper circuits and LED lights in my classroom.

Chibitronics recently came out with some new sticker lights that made paper circuits even easier. My coteacher and I brainstormed, and ended up using them in three ways in our ELA classes this school year:

1. Treasure Maps

Our first unit teaches narrative writing. We had students create a fantasy treasure map and add in a paper circuit to light up where the treasure was. The treasure ended up being everything from cupcakes to gold in Africa. Then they based their first big narrative on their maps. Our thinking was that the circuitry aspect would help to increase engagement, and it definitely did. (Plus it was fun.)

2. Random Acts of Kindness
Our students have been placed at our school because they are unable to function in their homeschools. As a result, we place a big emphasis on Social-Emotional Learning. We had our kids make a card thanking a staff member for their help and support. They could attach a paper circuit or a throwie. The throwies led to a lot of experimentation about how many lights we could light up with one battery, how long they would stay lit, etc. Our classroom glowed when the lights were turned off! Students presented their cards in person and were thus able to both show appreciation and feel the impact of their positive behavior. Staff still have the cards hanging in their offices (although we need to give them new batteries).

3. World Peace Game
In our last unit, we did a version of John Hunter's World Peace game. The poorest country in the game, Snowenia, did not even have electricity. That team spent three weeks researching how a country would "get" electricity. Once they finally had an understanding, they added actual "electricity" to the World Peace Game map in our classroom.

I am a big believer in multidisciplinary teaching and using hands-on projects to increase engagement. Our students learned about topics from all disciplines via these circuitry activities. It was not a science classroom, but it often looked like one!

How can you use paper circuits in your classes?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Escargot Mail (Without the Garlic)

Focusing on our Make Cycle 2 and #CLMOOC theme of gratitude and reciprocation...

In the typically phenomenal fashion of #CLMOOC, Sarah Honeychurch helped to inspire Karen Fasimpaur who inspired lots of others-to embrace the beauty of snail mail

Karen's Postcard Project took wings and kept its legs (mixing metaphors) throughout the year, often giving those who were participating in it an emotional lift when they most needed it. 

I love this project.  All winter long, I added cards to my kitchen walls and cabinets. Just seeing the connections made real - with concrete, hands-on objects - helped me through the gray, cold winter. In the spring, I finally installed a stainless steel postcard display in my house. The postcards are here to stay!

At the beginning of summer, inspired by the thought-provoking cards I had gotten from others, I decided to try some interactive postcards.  I got one set on which a person can doodle and another set which gives creative ways to interact via the postcards. The last set is aptly called "Everything is Connected."

I love to draw, so I sent out some with doodles already on them.
#postcard #doodle animated GIF

I also sent out some with "missions" on them, like this one I sent to Kevin Hodgson:

and this one I sent to Scott Glass:

I got some non-CLMOOC-ers involved, too, because I knew they would love the interconnectedness of it all.

There's something uplifting about interacting on such a concrete yet heartfelt level. Someone took the time to make something, buy a stamp, and mail it out. Online interactions are great, and rewarding, but the feeling of Escargot Mail is just different for me. 

I am grateful to those of you who took the time to send me postcards and those who were willing to receive or play with my interactive postcards. (And sometimes the Postcard Project was more like a gifting project...)

This project wants and needs you! It has no beginning or end, and you are just on time. Want to join us?

You don't have to be an artist, just willing to connect via escargot mail!
Image result for snail
Yours in connectedness,


See also: and this

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Next Year We Should Have Trillions"

It happened again. I watched a TedTalk (by John Hunter) and got inspired.  

  • His fourth graders solved 50 world crises?! 
  • That game board is so cool!
  • We'd learn so much by trying that!
  • It looks impossible to implement and figure out!
  • Can't wait to read his book!
I work at an alternative school.  We teach the .01% of our district's students who have not been able to be successful in their home school.  Whenever I thought about the World Peace Game, it seemed like our students might not have what it takes to play the game.

Hunter states in his book:
"Students must: possess a certain “intellectual stamina” and be able to wrestle with tough problems that are without quick or easy resolution, over time; be able to interact constructively with others much different from themselves (diversity as much as possible); be able to forestall closure and handle the certain frustrations of endless challenges and conflicts as they collaborate to achieve peace."

Well...our students are placed at our school for the very reason that they have NOT shown the ability to do the very things Hunter lists as required traits. 

So I waited a couple of years until I couldn't stand it any longer...and the time seemed right. My co-teacher is amazing and always willing to jump off metaphorical cliffs with me. So. We jumped.

Reading John's book was helpful, but he is very non-prescriptive. We had to figure out almost everything on our own. Hunter travels around the world and teaches the World Peace Game internationally, but that was not an option for us. Luckily, his book and TedTalk gave enough inspiration and information for us to give it a shot.

We had to adapt many aspects of the game. John Hunter, as far as I can tell, does the game with one full class of 20+ fourth graders all together in one room. We have four separate small classes of middle schoolers. So each of our first three classes became a country, and our fourth class became the United Nations/World Bank.

Hunter's game board is four levels high and takes 3 hours to set up! Ours needed to be sturdy, safe and easily moved. We created a flat game board using corrugated plastic cardboard from Lowes, and used putty and a hot glue gun to attach objects as we played. The students loved the game board! We had a crisis list of 20 crises, reduced from Hunter's 50.

As Hunter does in his games, we chose the Prime Ministers, and the Prime Ministers then chose and nominated their cabinet members for their class. Students could accept or refuse their nominations. All but one accepted. Each student had a job in the cabinet. These were posted on our interactive bulletin board.

Since collaboration skills are integral to success in complex problem solving, we used a business meeting format with the BIE Collaboration Rubric to structure the game for each class.

The Prime Ministers gradually learned to run the business meetings using the printed meeting Agendas, with lots of support from staff. We played the game almost daily for a six-week time period, and then spent a week reflecting.

By the end, all 20 world crises had been solved, the game board was intact and more complex due to additions of a college and electricity (among other things), and there was no tangible reward asked for or given. Leaders emerged, artists created, math whizzes excelled, collaboration improved, and fun was had.

We won.
That was the reward.

In the video, you will see more details about the Game, the classroom, and what the students thought about the experience.

I will end with this -
It was fun.
We all learned a lot.
I can't wait to do it again next year.
Enough said.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Feedback Welcome: Choose Your Own Adventure Projects

warrior western m-482.jpgIf you would like to view and give feedback on the students' projects, there is a link at the bottom. We would love your feedback!

IMG_1908.JPGOur middle schoolers in ELA have spent term 2 working on Choose Your Own Adventure Stories using Google Slides.

dt.jpgIn many settings, this might have been a two or three week project. But in ours, it took every bit of the term to manage the completion of a handful of hero stories. Several students did not complete the project at all.

toxic.jpgOne of our biggest challenges was simply getting students to write about heroes with positive values. We work at an alternative school, and our students tend to focus on less-than-heroic values...which was part of why we chose this project. One of the most interesting things was the way they projected themselves into their characters:

  • "Max is a troubled teen with a difficult history as a child but tries to overcome what he saw the night his mother and father vanished."

Hungry Wolf | by
  • "This character’s name is Hot Head. He has a problem and it is his temper. He has had three important events in his life.The first was he gets annoyed at little things. This made him a big fat meany. The second was he kidnaps kids and that caused him to be a criminal. The last important event was he’s a bully. This made him decide to push away people that tried to help."
If you look at the projects, you will see we had mixed success,with some instances of plagiarism of ideas, some projects in need of editing, and some students who were less than inspired. But there are a few nuggets of inspiration and creativity, a few students who truly embraced the project, and many students who learned a lot about technology and what it means to be a positive hero.

You can comment on my document or in the comment section below.