No Extra Credit If You Nuke!

WIth our K-4 1:1 roll out on deck for August 2016, HSE21 Shorts has devoted much of this school year to sharing HSE21 snapshots from elementary classrooms. Today, though, we’d like to highlight HSE21 in action at HSE High School. Read on!


Mr. Follis, AP Social Studies teacher at HSE High School, exemplified HSE21 before there ever was an HSE21. Mr. Follis is a natural communicator whose classes are student-centered, engaging, and relevant. He has found ways to create learning opportunities for his students that combine depth of content (AP exams are this month!) and meaningful experiences connecting the past to issues in our world today. His recent Cold War simulation is a perfect example.

IMG_3707Mr. Follis ran HSE’s Cold War as an in-school field trip for his AP European History classes.  Students represented the East (the Warsaw Pact), the West (NATO) or the United Nations.  All day, teams were confronted with real problems which they could choose to solve diplomatically or… Throughout the game, wars broke out, territories changed hands, and treaties were signed.  Newscasts, propaganda campaigns and the Olympic Games heightened excitement throughout the day. Nineteen-fifties technology meant no computers – files and books were the only sources of information available! Communication? Only through ambassadors, the red phone and one’s defcon status. (I had to Google ‘defcon‘.)

IMG_3711Of course, no Cold War simulation would be complete without spies and the threat of nuclear war. KGB and CIA leaders recruited spies, who could steal launch codes, locations of bases, troop numbers, and game stats.  Spies could be caught and tried…or flipped to become double agents. Each side had the potential to ‘nuke’ the other (Translation: force the other side to take the unit test); but nuclear war has consequences for all – a retaliatory strike could lead to mutually assured destruction! A ‘box’ (with electronics, sound effects, a red button, and two launch keys) made by HSE engineering students  sat ready throughout the day, an ominous reminder of what could be.

In ten years, these AP European History alums might not remember how to spell Romania. What they will still remember (really, what they will still deeply understand), though, is far more important. Why is it difficult for nations with conflicting values and visions to work together? What potential solutions exist, and what are their costs? What does that mean for us today?

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“The simulation was a smash.  The paranoia at times got the kids so worked up they were literally yelling – they were actually fatigued at the end of the day by the whole experience.  The whole game came down to a dice roll and it was possibly the most exciting moment of my teaching career.  No one asked for “the case”; the students realized the benefits of working together.”      – Jamie Follis

Changing Lives Through Global Connections

MURCH1Brooks School Elementary connected educator Amy Murch has always been a pioneer when it comes to bringing the world to her classroom. Last year, Murch’s fourth graders participated in the Skype 50 State Challenge – racking up a total of 45 states and 5 countries! Through forums such as Skype Education and Twitter, Mrs. Murch and her students have taught Irish students about Genius Hour, celebrated creativity on International Dot Day, learned principles of flight from a NASA researcher, and written a blog post for world explorer Justin Miles. Night Zookeeper has become the class’ portal for writing enrichment; and this week, Murch’s fourth graders are gearing up for the Global Read Aloud, in which students from over sixty nations will connect through literature.

All that to say, by becoming a global connected educator herself, Mrs. Murch has developed quite an expertise in connecting her students — and is now helping other teachers learn to connect their classrooms as well. Don’t miss Amy’s new article on using Twitter in the classroom at

Then download the Murch-inspired Twitter for Educators Infographic (shown below) here:  Twitter+for+Beginners+PDF

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Collaboration Stations Foster Teamwork

IMG_0503Twenty-first century careers require the ability to work with others to innovate and problem-solve. Fall Creek Junior High students in Mrs. Hiatt’s English class gained collaboration experience this week, as they worked in teams to research  types of sonnets and create presentations to share with the larger class.

Teamwork, always an important part of instruction, has a new twist this year, though, with the addition of collaboration stations in the school’s Media Center. Each 50-inch screen monitor is synched with an Apple TV – giving students the ability to project one’s iPad screen in view of the entire group. Add PowerPoint Online to the mix, and students can work together to create a presentation in real time, with the most current version of the presentation on the ‘big screen’.

IMG_0506FCJH media specialist Mrs. Distler says, “We are very excited to have these stations for our students to use in conjunction with our 1:1 initiative.  It creates a great opportunity for students to work collaboratively while using their iPad as a tool to enhance their learning.”

Shark Tank…with Heart

IMG_0771This week’s Shark Tank at HSE High School was not a literal pool of Great Whites, but a lecture hall filled with peers and several sharks, community members who volunteered their time to listen to students pitch Genius Hour projects-in-development. Teachers Kelsey Habig and Jill McGrath have spent the last several months helping their eleventh-grade English students design and conduct research for individual projects based on each student’s individual interests and passions.

IMG_0791The next step in this learning process has been for students to offer up their plans to an authentic audience for comments and suggestions. School board members, business owners, and others have made up the HSEHS Shark Tank. Unlike ABC’s Shark Tank, though, these Sharks weren’t invited to invest in entrepreneur wannabes. The local Sharks were in the audience to listen–to ask probing questions and to provide helpful feedback: “Have you thought about what might happen if you…?” “What about contacting ___? Their office might have some resources to get you started.” “I love your energy and passion–now what might your action steps be?”

IMG_0803By the time most students reach high school, they are used to being called upon to answer questions in class and to present projects to classmates. To stand on a stage before an audience of peers and adults, however, in order to present individual work based on personal interests and passions–this is very new. Students shared from their hearts, backing up their project designs with data and research. Whether a project sprung out of a need connected to a personal past time, an issue observed in the school community, or a cultural concern with global ramifications, students revealed their ability to analyze and come up with creative solutions to real-world problems. HSE21 Shorts can’t wait to see the follow-through!

Jazzin’ It Up with Technology

photo (2)Chances are you grew up doing research by visiting encyclopedia pages. Also, chances are that you presented your learning by writing a research paper. And…(one more), chances are, you don’t remember anything you learned by doing that assignment!

Today’s digital tools make possible a plethora of multimedia information resources for research study; these same digital tools also enable new, highly creative ways for students to share their learning.

imageA project recently completed in Brandon Spidel’s, general music classes at Fishers Junior High offers a great example of how technology can unleash creativity to make learning fun and meaningful. Mr. Spidel’s general music classes are studying jazz–both the movement and the musicians. Instead of learning about jazz greats through likely outdated books, Spidel led his students to sites like The Radio Hour, where they could not only read, but also listen the work of the musician under study. All in one location.

photoThe eighth graders augmented their learning with key images, using these to create unique PicCollages of their chosen jazz musician. Through an app called ThingLink, the students were able to link segments of their PicCollages to music and information on the web–links that could easily be visited by others wishing to learn more about the particular musician. According to Spidel, the ability to research online has given students a much fuller picture of jazz music and jazz musicians. Being able to use their own creativity and digital apps to display their new-found knowledge…well, these eighth graders won’t be forgetting what they’ve learned any time soon! Sometimes you need to write a research paper. Sometimes you don’t.

HSE Schools Spoke Up!

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.11.57 PMEarlier in the year, HSE21 Shorts noted our district’s participation in SpeakUp, a national educational technology research study. Since 2003, the Speak Up National Research Project has provided “participating schools, districts and non-profit organizations with a suite of online surveys and reports to collect authentic feedback from students, educators and parents.” SpeakUp and its parent organization, Project Tomorrow, also summarize and share the national findings with education and policy leaders in Washington DC.

In the coming days, Shorts will be highlighting Hamilton Southeastern’s SpeakUp data. For today, we want to acknowledge the stellar participation and follow-through of our district buildings in this endeavor. The screenshot above is taken from the SpeakUp website. You’ll note that our district placed fifth in worldwide participation, and that our high schools were both top five individual schools. Quite an accomplishment–one that will give us important local data to drive decision-making in the area of educational technology!

HSE21, Historically Speaking

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been over three years since HSE21 first got off the ground. It was the fall of 2011 when a small group of HSE educators and administrators met to research new possibilities for teaching and learning–possibilities in which classrooms would no longer be bound by four walls and static textbooks. Digital technologies and the World Wide Web were leading to major instructional shifts around the nation. Clearly, the world was moving from print to digital, from local to global, and from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy.


The original HSE21 Pilot Team in 2012.

Fast forward a year, and a pilot team composed of dynamic HSE teachers was selected to roll out classroom innovations. These twenty educators represented each school level (K-4, 5-6, 7-8, and  9-12) and a variety of subject areas. Their charge was two-fold. First, these teachers were to begin to shift their instruction from the traditional (teacher-centered, lecture-reading-homework-test model of instruction) to a 21st century best practice learning model (student-centered, inquiry-driven and problem-based). Second, they were to incorporate digital tools for learning into their daily classroom practice. Each teacher received a cart of thirty iPads with instructions to use this technology to deepen and extend learning.


The HSE21 Pilot Team reconvened recently to reconnect and share experiences. It was a time to reflect and to look forward.

Over two more years have passed. Our pilot teachers are in their third year of teaching forward–that is, preparing our students for the world they will soon inherit. Many other faculty have joined suit. This year, our fifth and sixth graders use iPads every day. Our 7th through 12th graders will add digital devices for learning next year as well. The most important thing to remember is that these devices are not an end in themselves. They are learning tools that provide for up-to-date information access, teacher-student collaboration, communication, global connections and creativity. Taking advantage of our 21st century advantages. The pilot team led the way. They have much of which to be proud.

Power Rankings and More!

On Day 36, HSE21 Shorts introduced you to FHS English teacher Kyle Goodwin, who encourages his students to investigate their passions through a project known as Genius Hour. HSE21 Shorts just returned to one of Mr. Goodwin’s classes to check in on the students–to see how their individual projects were shaping up. What we found was no less than stunning! Here is just one example of what can happen when students are enabled to learn through the disciplined pursuit of their individual interests and passions:

IMG_2781Matthew loves sports. When Mr. Goodwin let students select a project topic, something sports-related was Matthew’s natural choice. He ultimately decided to build a blog that would aggregate rankings of major sports teams into one site. Within the space of one semester, this blog, PowerRankingsAndMore, has become a go-to place for sports fans. Matthew explored various site-building platforms, created a domain, designed, and launched!

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Visit Matthew’s site:!

Matthew admits that to build and now maintain the site has been lots of work–both during Genius Hour blocks at school and in his own time. But the experience has been rewarding. Matthew now has web design skills, experience in writing for web publication, and an understanding of time management and workflow…not to mention the plethora of up-to-date sports knowledge this amazing sophomore holds! Recently, a local ESPN radio station even featured Matthew’s blog – interviewing him in a live radio spot.

PowerRankingsAndMore is an example of HSE21 tenets in action: personalized, passion- and inquiry-driven learning, in which students master content area standards in ways that are relevant and engaging. Love sports? Visit!