A Google Community of Readers

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Independent reading is an important way to learn and grow–even when one is a high school senior. Jennifer Jacobs, English teacher at HSE High School, has taken advantage of our district’s GAFE status (see yesterday’s post) to encourage her students to connect and communicate about their reading. Jacobs created a Google Community, called (of all things!) English 12, and posted the prompt, What are you reading? 

Students have requirements to participate in the Google Community throughout the semester, by sharing their thoughts about what they are personally reading. Much like customers at Amazon, students can rate the books they’ve read, recommending them (or not) to peers as they see fit.

Many types of books are already represented in the English 12 Community, so much so that Jacobs has created subdivision tags for specific genres. Now it’s easy for students to click on a genre tag and explore other books they might like. Did you read Unbroken and love it? Just click on non-fiction and look for another similar memoir!

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HSE is a GAFE district. Start with the word GIRAFFE, now take out the IR and one F. There you have it. GAFE. That’s short for Google Apps for Education. What does this mean for our teachers and students? Read on!

What is GAFE?

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 11.47.50 AMThe Google corporation offers school districts the opportunity to create customized domain(s) within the Google universe (See: Google for Education) . Being a GAFE district means that HSE can assign each teacher and student a Google account, i.e., access to all Google apps and features, within the safe confines of a district’s own network. And it’s all for free.

What are the features of GAFE?

For starters, cloud storage. Each member of the HSE Google domain has a personal Google Drive with unlimited storage. Whether it’s video, images, presentations, spreadsheets, or documents, teachers and students can upload all of their files to their Google Drive for 24/7 access on any web-enabled device. And we never have to worry about running out of space!

Google owns YouTube. With every Google account comes a YouTube channel where teachers can upload and share student projects and presentations, building video portfolios of learning. Teachers can create lessons and tutorial videos for their students as well (sometimes called ‘flipping the classroom’). They can create playlists of educational videos for their students to watch…all without the ‘comments’ and ‘ads’ seen on public YouTube sites.

Inside Drive, Google has productivity tools: Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets. Through the ‘sharing’ feature, these apps allow for real time collaboration between multiple users. Between teacher and student, ‘sharing’ means that a teacher can provide input on a project, or edit a paper, before it’s handed in for a final grade. Amongst student teams, Google’s collaborative features foster teamwork and efficiency.

There are many other ways that Google tools complement 21st-century instruction. In future posts, HSE21 will highlight ways teachers are using Google apps to enrich and deepen learning in the classroom.

Image Source: Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata” by brookenovak – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giraffa_camelopardalis_reticulata.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Giraffa_camelopardalis_reticulata.jpg

Coding in the Real World

sce1Students at Sand Creek Elementary participated in Hour of Code during their library time with Mrs. Collier, SCE’s media specialist. After the students understood the meaning of ‘coding’ and had gotten a chance to practice, it was time to make it real, and third-grade teacher Lorena Forbes, had just the connection that was needed!

sce2Mrs. Forbes brought her husband, Randy Forbes, to school for the day! Mr. Forbes is a software engineer with Salesforce, and is experienced in all types of coding. Mr. Forbes traveled to several classes to give students some background on what computer programmers do in the real world. The biggest surprise for students was that Mr. Forbes’ job isn’t all about gaming! Mr. Forbes also worked with some students to finish an Hour of Code in the computer lab.

sce3Through taking part in fun coding activities and through hearing about the amazing things grown-up programers do, SCE students are now hooked on coding!

-Submitted by Laura Collier, SCE Media Specialist

The Pagemaster and the Performing Arts

3917_aaEach spring, the Fishers High School performing arts department showcases students in a unique way. An event, known as the Performing Arts (PA) Festival, is the culmination of a year’s focus around a common theme. During the year, all teachers in the performing arts department–band, orchestra, choir, drama, speech, and tech theater–engage their students in curriculum-driven ways to foster learning around the chosen theme. Throughout the year, learning deepens, connections are made, and collaboration grows, culminating in a stellar event that conveys a deeply understood and heart-felt message to eager audiences. Past themes include War & Peace, Love, The Oscars, and The Magic of Disney.

This year’s PA Festival will be based on the film The Pagemaster, a story of transformation from timidity to courage. Throughout this fall semester, performing arts students have been reading, researching, and collaborating. They’ve begun the artistic design process. In the spring, they’ll continue design, and begin rehearsals. In May, the Fishers community will be treated to the product of a year’s work of nearly five hundred students and faculty. HSE21 Shorts will revisit preparations for the PA Festival as the event approaches. Stay tuned!

The Pagemaster Project exemplifies 21st century learning. In the example below (from the vantage point of the FHS Bands), notice that student-choice, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, creation and presentation are all integral parts of the assignment. This fall, these factors have been at work within performing arts sectors. In the spring, these elements will still be present, as collaboration happens between the areas. HSE21 Shorts is excited to see how these groups, working together, will connect the dots and build the Festival!

View example: The Pagemaster Project – band

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Bookmarks That Take You Places

IMG_1502The ability to generate connections amongst ideas is one reason technology can be a powerful learning enhancer. Digital technologies even allow us to create new or additional purposes for traditional objects. Take the bookmark, for example. Media Specialist Carolyn Gundrum at Hamilton Southeastern Junior High has helped her students to take advantage of digital technologies to enhance learning–via the ordinary bookmark. Mrs. Gundrum explains:

“We use Word to create three tables, and then use the Table Tools Layout to change the direction of the font. Then we type in the title of their favorite book, author and keywords. After the information is complete, the students customize the bookmark to their liking.”

“The next step is to create a QR (or Quick Response Code) using a QR Code generator and linking it to the author’s website. The QR code is copied and placed by the title of the book. Now a simple scanning it through their tablets or smartphones.”

“When the bookmarks are complete, they are printed on heavier stock paper and laminated. Each student receives his/her own bookmark, and the library keeps a copy too. Now a simple QR code scan–from a bookmark–leads to extended learning!”

“I started this project this year with the eighth grade students; now the seventh grade students want to do it too!  So, this is going to be a new semester project for the seventh grade students!  What fun in learning.”

-Submitted by Carolyn Gundrum, Media Specialist, HSE Junior High

Supersteakie, on the Significance of Upton Sinclair

The Progressive Era was a fascinating time of political and social change in United States history, but sometimes it does not seem so to distracted sixteen-year-olds. Embedded within this unit of study are many key terms–people, events, and actions–that must be understood in the context of the times. In addition to class discussion of this era and its place in the overall story of our nation, Mrs. Gelhar-Bruce of HSE High School recently incorporated a fun digital tool to actively engage students in the learning process.

Watch and listen as Supersteakie and the Seventeenth Amendment describe the roles they played in the Progressive Era. Far from being superfluous side trails, digital tools like ChatterPix can enhance instruction by providing opportunities for students to learn actively. As students build creative presentations to showcase facts and concepts, learning deepens and students build understandings that will more likely endure.


“Calculating” Change in Math

Once upcalculators paston a time there was the abacus. Then the slide rule. By the time I entered high school, handy multi-function calculators were all the rage (pictured at left is a TI-30, circa 1976). Calculating machines, like other technological tools, have slowly become more sophisticated.

ti-nspire-cx-casSlowly, that is, until the computer age took hold. Today’s calculators are no less than specialized mini-computers, designed to assist scientists–and students–in performing complex calculations and solving mathematical and scientific problems. What’s more, these calculating ‘systems’ can easily be networked, making the once silent, straight-rowed math class an interactive, responsive mathematics lab! Take a one-minute peek into Kathleen Robeson’s room at Fishers High School to see how TI-NspireTM calculators and the CX Navigator SystemTM combined with the leadership of an excellent teacher, have transformed instruction.

*Image sources: Wikimedia Commons

Catapults, Collaboration and Creative Design

Youngimage004 children are naturals when it comes to creation and design. Catapults, rockets, roller coasters…just mention these words, and creative constructions are not far behind! Sand Creek Elementary recently provided a wonderful opportunity for   budding engineers and designers to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The event, known as Family Engineering Night, brought together over two-hundred-and-fifty members of the SCE community.  

Family Engineering Night came about through the vision of SCE third-grade teacher Holly Miller, who was awarded a grant for the project from the Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation. Attendees of the event witnessed a packed gymnasium where students and their families visited their choice of thirty hands-on engineering stations. Side-by-side, children and adults practiced creative design, critical thinking, and problem-solving. What type of boat will hold the most pennies? Can we design a roller coaster that will keep a marble moving for 5 seconds? Which materials make the most powerful catapult? Inquiry, design, and family interaction were highlights of the smashingly-successful evening…the photos shown here tell the story best.

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Day 63 – The Reading Royals Partnership

IMG_2597Being a large and growing school corporation may have its challenges (for instance, higher traffic volume at certain times of day!). But size also has its advantages. School buildings are popping up close to one another, which opens the doors–literally–to connected learning opportunities!  HSE Freshman Campus Media Specialist Kristen Distler decided to take advantage of her advantage, in that her building sits right next door to Fall Creek Elementary. Knowing the impact that motivated older students can have on our youngest learners, Distler designed the Reading Royals partnership.

IMG_2599The new club is open to all freshman campus students with a desire to share their love of learning with their younger peers. As of this month forty freshman are involved in the partnership. Freshman Lauren Swenson sums up what motivates Reading Royals:  “I joined because I thought it would be fun to help out kids.  I like spending time with them.  It’s fun because all of the freshman are together reading with the kids.”

IMG_2596Reading Royals walk next door twice monthly to read and learn with Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Blount’s classes.  Says Distler, “The high school kids usually do a learning game for the first fifteen minutes and then read with the third graders for fifteen minutes.  We hope we can foster the love of reading along with building some good mentoring relationships.” Learning together and sharing our learning. HSE21.

Day 61 – Google Hangout with A Martian?

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Twenty-first century technology has given students new ways to connect–with each other, their teachers, and with experts from around the world. But with Mars? Not quite… However, Megan Ewing’s Astronomy students came close on school Day 61, when they experienced a Google Hangout with Andy Weir. Weir is author of The Martian, the NewBook-Review-The-Martian York Times best-selling science-fiction novel, slated to be released as a major motion picture in November 2015.

Ewing, Astronomy teacher at Hamilton Southeastern High School, originally connected with Weir through Facebook. Says Megan, “I was just playing around one night on the Internet and found his web page. I followed him on Facebook from there and took a chance by messaging him. He replied within five minutes asking me to email him the details; he was immediately on board for the Google Hangout from there.”

weir 3The multi-class Skype was held in one of the HSE High School’s small auditoriums. Weir shared his background with the students, including how his career has evolved from computer programming to full-time writing. Weir began with a blog. One thing led to another and, several years later, The Martian was born.

weir 2Weir also took questions form the students. To the question, “What advice to do have for aspiring authors?” he responded, “It sounds simple, but just write. Don’t give away the ending or share your work. Most writers want to have an audience or someone to share their work with. If you hold off on sharing, this will act as motivation to finish your work.” Students also wanted to know who inspired the book’s main character, Mark Watney. To this, Weir replied, “Mark is very similar to me. A nerd, sarcastic and a smart-alec. I guess he has all of my good qualities and none of my bad qualities.”

Mrs. Ewing hopes that her students will have found some inspiration from this experience. “If space, or even science, are not their “things”, perhaps contact with an author will inspire them in reading and writing.”