The Tech Squad

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techsquad2The Wissahickon Middle School student technology team, The Tech Squad, was started on a trial basis in the spring of 2015 with about 10 hand-selected students.  This group of students met a few times during the spring and we established some baseline expectations for the team but the overarching raison d’etre of this group of students is to provide just-in-time, “first line of defense” technical support in the classroom so that their fellow students do not need to leave the class to go to the Technology Office.  This group also received early access to both our Office 365 tenant and student email.  They also came up with the name for the group and the logo pictured to the left.  They did an awesome job, but now it is time to open it up for all students to join the WMS Tech Squad.

This year, we are opening up applications to all 7th and 8th grade students, with the intent of accepting about 20 or so.  Then, about mid-year, we hope to invite 6th graders to apply as well to bring the team to about 25 students for the remainder of the school year.  In order to ensure we have the best technology gurus on our team, we created an application and a teacher recommendation form, both embedded below.

So far, with applications open only one day, we have 15 applications and 10 teacher recs.  Not bad!!  Stay tuned to this blog for more Tech Squad news as the team is formed and begin their “work” this year.


The Beginnings of a MakerSpace

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As each WMS student and teacher now has a district-issued laptop, the former computer lab at the back of the library sat empty last school year.  It was used here and there by different classes, clubs and trainings, but this year the space has a new purpose – a MakerSpace!   Last year, along with school budget and grant funds, we acquired several items that were MakerSpace worthy, but we did not yet have a truly dedicated space for our Romo and Sphero Robots, our Little Bits electronic sets, Hot Wheels Speedometry Kits and our MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation 3D Printer.  However, with new building leadership and innovative drive by our librarian and several teachers, Wissahickon Middle School now has their own space dedicated to making, innovation, creativity and design – our MakerSpace!

Although we have many plans for the use of this space among teachers, students and curricula, we are starting with a few teachers and their students.  We have collected a variety of items for our space including the items above plus generously-donated Lego, K’Nex, Snap Circuits, and old electronic items to be used in the future for our “breakerspace”.  One Science teacher has claimed the lab for “Maker Mondays” and another teacher is heading up our “8th Grade Advisory Group” for 8th graders who want to be forefront of our MakerSpace and 3D printer learning.  We put together this MakerSpace Inventory of Interests to gauge students’ knowledge and collect some data before students enter the space.  We plan on having a similar “exit ticket” for students to fill out after they have spent some time in the space… more to come on that later.

So, we are just in the beginning stages of our work in the MakerSpace, but yesterday was our first Maker Monday.  6th grade science students came into the MakerSpace to experiment, learn, think outside the box, be creative and have fun with the items in our space.  We began each lesson with a few guidelines as for our expectations in the space such as it being a space for students to build, discover, create, a space where students work together and collaborate respectfully and a space where thinking outside the box is not only accepted, but encouraged!

Then, based on the interest survey they had taken, we determined that the students knew the least about the robots and the Little Bits so we showed short intro videos to Romo, Sphero and Little Bits before letting the students loose in the space.  Then, students were given the choice to choose what they wanted to experiment with, how long they wanted to stay at each “station” and encouraged to check out multiple things.

Wow!  What a great day!!  The students were engaged, solving problems, asking questions, motivated, and best of all, were learning with and from each other.  It is everything that we hoped it would be and more!  Check out the images below to see firsthand how our students spent their first Maker Monday.

Be sure to follow our MakerSpace in action through our new Twitter account – @WMSInnovates #WMSInnovates and #WissLearns .  A dedicated blog will be coming soon!


Ten Tools for Engaging Learners

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On Wednesday, September 30th, from 3-6 pm, the Montgomery County Association of Teachers of Foreign Languages (MCAFTL) held its fall conference at Wissahickon Middle School.  I was asked about 6 months ago if I would be the presenter for this conference as they wanted to once again focus their fall conference on technology.  As a former French teacher and member of MCAFTL, I jumped at the chance to share my love of instructional technology with my world language colleagues once again.  When writing the conference presentation blurb in the spring, I came up with the following:

World Languages 3.0:  Technology Tools for Engaging World Language Learners

Come on out to learn about the latest and greatest web-based tools for creating engaging and interactive activities, projects and lessons for your World Language learners.   In this fast-paced, hands-on workshop, participants will be exposed to a variety of tools and resources that can be used for communication, collaboration, creativity, formative assessment, and the blended/flipped learning environment.  Time will also be allotted for participant sharing, so be sure to come ready to share your favorite web-based technology!  Be sure to bring your own device (laptop or tablet) to get the most out of this session.

However, I didn’t really know at that time what tools I would be presenting.  As I really only had about 2 hours of instructional time, and I wanted to be sure to allow the participants some hands-on time with the tools I present, it was difficult to choose not only the best tools for world language learners, but also tools that would be free, web-based, and device agnostic, as we have a variety of platforms, devices, and student access in our county.

So, without further ado, I present “Ten Tools for Engaging (World Language) Learners“.  I put World Language in parenthesis because in no way are any of these tools solely for language class.  Each and every one of the tools below can, and should, be used by teachers from every discipline in every grade level.

What tools would you have chosen?  Please leave your favorite free, web-based tools, in the comments!

Dianne’s Daily Discoveries 09/17/2015

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  • “Enter words into the search box, “visualize a word,” to look them up. Touch a node to see the definition of that word group and click and drag individual nodes to move them around to help clarify connections.

    It’s a dictionary! It’s a thesaurus!
    Great for writers, journalists, students, teachers, and artists.
    The online dictionary is available wherever there’s an internet connection.
    No membership required.”

    tags: visualdictionary visual dictionary dictionary thesaurus ela

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

ReBoot Camp 2015

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The hectic beginning of school continues for me as I leave the trenches of Boot Camp and enter into the realm of ReBoot Camp.  While Boot Camp is for the 6th graders of WMS, ReBoot camp is reserved for the 7th and 8th grade ‘upperclassmen’.  They have a year or two of using their  laptops under their belts so they are well-versed in Wiss21.  However, each year it is important for me to meet with them once again (I feel like their Jedi master sometimes) to apprise them of any updates, new technology, and to remind them once again about the importance of digital organization and Digital Portfolio expectations.

For these lessons, I commandeer the classroom of a team’s Social Studies teacher for the day and instead of Social Studies that day, the students get their ReBoot.  The team’s teachers rotate into that classroom all day so that they also learn what the students are learning and are kept up-to-date with technology changes and updates.

Once again, I’ve created a Sway to present the ReBoot Camp.  Check it out below.

Photo Credit: