WMS Innovates!

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Wow, what an awesome day yesterday!  In addition to all the great 21st century teaching and learning that happens on a daily basis at Wissahickon Middle School, yesterday was a day for global connections, innovation, creativity and making.

The day started with a 6th grade teacher conducting her first ever Mystery Skype with another class from Georgia who also experienced their first Mystery Skype.  Mystery Skype is a 20-questions type guessing game played by both classes to figure out where the other class is geographically.  As the classes take turns asking and answering the yes/no questions, they are not only reviewing geography but also practicing speaking, listening, critical thinking, and most of all – laughter and smiles.  It was a great first Mystery Skype and the classes are both ready for more.  Maybe we can connect with a class from another country next time?  If you are interested in connecting via Skype, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Mystery Skype in Action!

Mystery Skype in Action!

After the Mystery Skype, I headed up to our MakerSpace to get the Sphero robots all charged up and the rest of the space ready for the day’s Science lessons.  In 6th grade Science, the students are learning about the layers of the atmosphere – troposphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, thermosphere, etc.  Their task in the MakerSpace was simple, but complex at the same time:  work in small groups to create the layer of the atmosphere assigned using any materials from our Makerspace.  As these students had already been into the space last week for their first “Maker Monday”, they were knowledgeable about what was in the space already that could be used – Lego, K’Nex, Sphero, Little Bits, track, magnetic building materials, paper, glue, cardboard, etc.

Task for the Day

Task for the Day

As the teacher and I anticipated the first class to come in and get started, we were very curious to see what the kids would come up with, and I have to say that EVERYONE was very impressed at the results.  Check out some of our great layers of the atmosphere!

First, some live action sequences – these three groups created mechanical representations:

Now for some photos!


If you’d like to keep up with the great innovation going on in our MakerSpace, be sure to follow us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/WMSInnovates and through the hashtags #WissLearns and #WMSInnovates

Follow us!

Follow us!

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!


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:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/3/37/Reboottitlecard.gif/225px-Reboottitlecard.gif

Wiss21 Summer Institute 2015

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wiss21-white-bkgrdLast week, during the very last days of summer vacation, while most teachers are trying desperately to soak up the last rays of sunshine, riding that last adrenaline-pumping roller coaster, or savoring the cuisine of backyard BBQs, a group of teachers from the Wissahickon School District were devoting their time to personal and professional growth at the Wiss21 Summer Technology Institute.  The Institute ran Monday-Thursday, from 8:30-11:30 am, offering 2 sessions each day on technology integration and 21st century learning.

As technology integration and 21st century learning are large and broad topics, we put together and sent an interest survey in the spring to gauge interest for the Institute and its offerings.  From the list we provided and other “write-ins”, we determined the sessions and schedule for the week.  As we are embarking on Office 365 this year, it was important to include those as topics as well as other Microsoft tools and resources.

Therefore the sessions included:

  • Flipped Learning
  • Office Mix & Sway
  • Formative Assessment Tools
  • OneNote for Beginners
  • OneNote for Intermediate/Advanced
  • 21st Century Learning Design
  • Office 365 Introduction
  • Office 365 for Collaboration

As usual for Professional Development these days at Wissahickon, a OneNote Notebook was created to provide session agendas & slides, resources, areas for participant notes,  and areas for experimentation and exploration.  In addition, the OneNote Notebook is available to any Wissahickon faculty member (or anyone else, including you!) to access, even if they were not in attendance at the Institute.

Front page of the Wiss21 Institute OneNote Notebook

Front page of the Wiss21 Institute OneNote Notebook

For the session presentations, a mixture of PowerPoint, OneNote, Sway and Padlet were used throughout the Institute.  When it comes to tools, it is always best to use the tool to teach the tool, so we did so when it was appropriate.  Check out some of our session resources and presentations below:

Overall, the sessions were well attended, especially the ones towards the end of the week on the newer tools and resources to WSD.  Teachers were engaged during each workshop and are looking forward to utilizing what they’ve learned as they design their learning activities and lessons this year with their students.

Kudos to the teachers who gave up those precious last mornings of summer to come and learn about some of the great tools, resources and best practices for technology integration and 21st century teaching and learning at Wissahickon School District.

welcome sign

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