Friday, December 3, 2021

Visualizing Growth with @Seesaw and @AdobeSpark #PBL #AdobeEduCreative

One of the things that I have advocated for when talking to people about Project Based Learning is the need to reconsider how we assess growth. As an ELA teacher, one of the most common practices was the manila folder where students would keep their assessed writing. The idea was that they could go back and see how they have grown from one essay to the next. Another traditional format is asking students to keep a binder of everything they have done in class and hope their water bottle doesn't explode in their bag or lose it completely. 

Those are traditional examples of portfolios that many of us have used for years, but maybe never actually called a portfolio. As I shifted more to project based learning and created my design classes for 6th-8th grade, I needed a way to assess student work that also allowed them to hold on to it and see their own growth over time. Adobe Spark and Seesaw have been two apps that have really helped me accomplish both of those objectives. 

As a school, we use Seesaw as out main portfolio tool in the Middle School. I like it so much, that I also use it with my high school Mechanical Engineering class. It allows for teachers to create classes, create activities in those classes, and it allows for students to post their work to those activities to demonstrate their understanding of the material covered in the activity. What is really nice about Seesaw is that is allows for video uploads, image uploads, and recorded annotation. Students can spend multiple classes creating a project and then upload images of their work to the Seesaw with a provided narration that explains what they did and how that demonstrates their understanding. I have found that by adding Adobe Spark to the mix, you can take the portfolio to the next level. 

Adobe Spark is free to all students and allows for the creation of images, slideshows, and websites. All of it is hosted and stored on their account. They can download their content and use it as needed. What I love about Adobe Spark is that it gives students access to amazing creation tools that have normally been reserved for art departments or design departments. I have students that love to use Adobe Spark to create different templates and styles to showcase their work and then they upload it to Seesaw. Some have used websites to store all of their work as they progress through the trimester and share the link on Seesaw. Adobe Spark adds an element of versatility to the use of portfolios in the classroom. 

Due to privacy issues, I cannot share any of the work that students have created with all of you, but here is some of the work I have done using Adobe Spark to give you a sense of what it looks like. This is template I created in Adobe Spark that students could use if they wanted to showcase their work at the end of the marking period. You can make your own copy of this template by following this link to my library of templates. 

What I think is most important is helping students understand the value of looking at growth over time. Where have they started and where are they now. It is so important to remind students that everyone is on their own learning journey and are at different points than their peers. Having a portfolio that allows students to truly see their growth is a wonderful way to keep the hopes up for those students who might feel like they are not where they should be in class. Using Seesaw and Adobe Spark has really allowed for some great conversations with students about growth. I will continue to be an advocate for project based learning in the classroom because I have seen how it impacts student learning. Seesaw and Adobe Spark are just more resources that showcase how important PBL can be. 

If you have any questions about Seesaw, Adobe Spark, or Project Based Learning, please reach out on my social channels. 

Hugs and High Fives, 


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Ed of #MakerEd

When MakerEd is talked about, there is a heavy focus on the Maker part and not so much on the Ed part. I know I am guilty of this. I think it has lots to do with the fact that the Maker part is something that is easy to share. I can showcase the thing I built or the projects the students have built, while the education part often goes unseen. As I've been thinking about MakerEd and how important it is for schools to explore and integrate the ideas into their learning culture, I wanted to make sure that I share the education side of MakerEd in the hopes to convince more people of the value of this approach in the classroom. Part of that is looking at the research and I found a great website that has links to a variety of educational studies that explore the impact on MakerEd in the classroom. 

Makers Empire is a company that makes a 3D design software that supports digital making. Through their website, I found a page dedicated to MakerEd research. Check out the Research page here. There are lots of great articles and links here, but I wanted to share some that stood out to me. 

Here is a wonderful article on The Maker Movement in Education. It was published in the Harvard Educational Review and here is a synopsis,

"In this essay, Erica Halverson and Kimberly Sheridan provide the context for research on the maker movement as they consider the emerging role of making in education. The authors describe the theoretical roots of the movement and draw connections to related research on formal and informal education. They present points of tension between making and formal education practices as they come into contact with one another, exploring whether the newness attributed to the maker movement is really all that new and reflecting on its potential pedagogical impacts on teaching and learning."

The interesting points are the one on the tension seen as MakerEd and formal, or traditional, education collide. This is something that I have seen first hand with my work with schools. It is tough to bring teachers to the table to explore new concepts in pedagogy because it is hard for teachers to not feel like they are being pushed into another program that may not be helpful or even supported long term. The pushback is very real and it is something that educators need to be aware of if there is going to be a push to integrate MakerEd into the classroom. 

The other part that I noticed was the idea that MakerEd is not actually a new idea. One of the things I love to point out is how Kindergarten teachers have been Maker teachers longer than anyone. The idea of learning through making and play is ingrained in the PreK and K curriculums around the country. As a society, we recognize the value of this in our early education systems, but move away when it becomes time for college prep or high school prep. The difference between the two approaches can be seen as night and day. One focuses on creativity and learning through the process and the other is more focused on rote memorization and test taking. This approach was great for churning out people to work factories, but it is not helpful in supporting creative minds, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. 

I encourage all of you to take the time to read the article and check out some of the other research on MakerEd to better understand why MakerEd should have a place in schools as we look to a variety of approaches to support a diverse group of student learners. 

Hugs and high fives, 

The Nerdy Teacher

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Exploring Hydroponics with @ForkFarms #SciChat #EdChat

The thought of growing my own food in the dead of Winter never seemed like much of a reality for me since I live in Michigan. Having a whole system that would allow students to do it and learn about sustainability, agriculture, and more seemed impossible. Fork Farms has made this all a possibility with the Fresh Farm system.  

Through a partnership with Demco and Fork Farms, our students are going to be able to explore hydroponics in many different ways in our K12 setting. We were able to set up the system last week and I shared some images on Instagram. 

The one thing I want to point out from the start is how easy it was to build. I enlisted the head of the high school robotics team and middle school robotic's mentor to help me build the Flex Farm and his vast engineering skills were not needed. There were only two screws that required a screwdriver. Everything else slid and snapped into place. The entire build took around 45 minutes. It took us a little bit longer because we were pausing on various steps to make sure it was as easy as it showed in the directions. It was!

The system comes with a full curriculum that walks teachers and students through the process of hydroponics from start to finish. The system comes with all of the chemicals, seeds, and other supplies needed to get the first batch of veggies going. They have a subscription service to help replenish your supplies or you can get your own. 

The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to classroom application. One great example our MS Science teacher thought of had to do with the Space unit in 8th grade. She thought it would be cool for students to explore the need for hydroponics in deep space exploration. Asking students to think about what would need to be grown, how does growing your own food have a positive impact on a space mission, and more. We also have a Botany class in the high school that will take advantage of the system as well. There are many possibilities for using Flex Farms in the classroom. 

I am excited to see what we can do and I'm also very excited for all the fresh veggies we are going to grow for the school! If you have more questions, check out the video below and/or reach out to @ForkFarms on Twitter. 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Be Brave Today #EdChat #MentalHealth @SaraBareilles

I wanted to share this on Monday because I know many of you are so brave to get up and get to work today despite the feelings of anxiety and depression. I am so proud of you. It is not easy. If you are struggling, here is a link to some resources provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services. 

You are all brave. Here is a song from Sara Bareilles that helps me on days that are tough. 

Hugs and High Fives, 

The Nerdy Teacher