Project Communication and Collaboration with Sway

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I had the honor of being a guest blogger once again on the Microsoft in Education blog.  This time I wrote about how the students and staff of Wissahickon Middle School are using Sway for project communication and collaboration.  As of today, the post was not only posted on the Microsoft in Education blog, but also their “Firehouse” blog, and today, the Microsoft in UK blog.  In addition, I’m feeling the social media love for the post as it has circulated around the Twitter and Facebook circles.

Check it out below!

Wikis & Skype & Tech Squad – OH MY!

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Last week was another great week of innovation and global collaboration at Wissahickon Middle School!  Read on to find out all about our Community Organization Wikis, Global Collaboration with Skype and WMS Tech Squad.

Community Organization Wikis

6th grade Social Studies students are researching community organizations as they relate to community pride and concerns.  Each group of 4 or so students has chosen a specific community organization and will be presenting their organization in a “Shark Tank” type of proposal to their teachers and classmates.  To pull together all their research and resources for their proposals and pitches into a website, students were introduced to and have been working on Wikis!  Check out some of the Community Organization Wikis pictured below:

Global Collaboration with Skype

We have continued our global collaboration efforts with several more Skype connections last week with two more Mystery Skypes and a Skype with an Author.  For the Mystery Skypes, the first of two last week was with a 6th grade Social Studies class.  This was this teacher’s 3rd Mystery Skype but our first with another country.  As in true fashion when Skyping another classroom, it is always important to make sure your times and time zones are correct.  Well, we were off by an hour but after shifting a few things around, we managed to accomplish the Mystery Skype.  As the other class were learners of English and our connection wasn’t the best, it was a more challenging Mystery Skype, but we persevered and although we are pretty sure they guessed us as being in “Transylvania” and we thought they said “Pennsylvania”, we eventually found them in Greece.  Very exciting to have a Mystery Skype with another country!! Because of time constraints we didn’t get a chance to really get to know the other class, but maybe next time!  Thanks to Iro Stefopoulou for connecting with us!

In addition to our Mystery Skype with Greece, we had another great Mystery Skype with a school in North Dakota.  What was unique about THIS Mystery Skype is that we took it to the next level by guessing the city of our Mystery Skype partners.  Normally we stop once we have guessed the state, but this time we put our critical thinking hats on and asked and answered until we found out their city – Minot!  It was more difficult for them to find the small town of Ambler, so we had to give them a few hints.  What a great way to spend the Friday before Halloween!  Check out some photos of this great experience… can you see the smoke coming out of our ears?!

Although Mystery Skypes are very exciting, we also had another great Skype experience last Friday, and it was a Skype conversation with an author – Margo Sorenson.  What an awesome experience for our students!  Margo shared with us a lot of what it takes to be a published writer (lots of patience!) and also took some time to answer our students’ questions.  We were very well-prepared and organized and it was an amazing opportunity for us and for Margo!  Check out some photos from our Author Skype.


WMS Tech Squad

InstagramCapture_3c0025c6-d1c4-4d21-a542-e3afdf2844b0The WMS Tech Squad has been officially “hired” and we had our first meeting this week.  The 23 students who applied and were accepted to the Tech Squad have all begun their “work” and are actively helping out their fellow students and teachers with technology problems.  We are using a OneNote Class Notebook to communicate as a team.  The team is using the collaboration space to communicate and collaborate on many different items, including how to best troubleshoot various issues, how to get started with our 3D printer and other team items.  Students are using their individual notebook space to log their work with fellow teachers and students to see what type of assistance they are providing on a daily basis.  It is working out well so far!  Tech Squad members are identified with their new Tech Squad buttons.  Be sure to follow the WMSTechSquad on Instagram to follow what we’re up to!



Making Monsters to “Say Boo to Drugs”

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Our latest foray into WMS’s MakerSpace was not only festive fun for the upcoming Halloween holiday but also in support of next week’s school-wide celebration of Red Ribbon Week.  The theme of the week is “Say Boo to Drugs”, so we took that theme to the MakerSpace with a frightful challenge for our 6th grade innovators.

taskThe Task – Create a Halloween Monster that relates to next week’s theme of “Say Boo to Drugs.”


  • Create a free-standing monster
  • Must use at least 3 different elements from the MakerSpace
  • Challenge:  some part of it must move!

The students were told that they would have about 30-35 minutes to work, and then each group would present their monster.  After the presentations, each student would vote on the “Best” monster via a Google Form.  Not only were they given an awesome challenge, but there was a bit of a competition as well.  They were psyched!

The students were grouped into triads with a random group generator and were told to first talk with their teammates about a plan for their monster before heading for the supplies.  The groups were abuzz with ideas on how to tie in the theme, how to make their moster move and how to add elements of unique creativity.  They were communicating, collaborating and using valuable negotiation skills as they shared their ideas and listened to their classmates’ ideas in turn.  These students have already been to the MakerSpace twice, so were pretty well-acquainted with the items in our space:  Lego, K’Nex, Sphero robots, Romo robots, race track, magnetic building blocks, Little Bits, Snap Circuits, arts & crafts, and other miscellaneous things.  They quickly came up with their plans, had them ok’ed by their teacher and off to the supplies they went.  As the classes are 60 minutes in length and we had to save time for each group to present, group voting, and clean up, they only had about 30 minutes to plan and create their monsters.  That time FLEW by and in no time the buzzer was sounding time’s up!

Check out some of the creation and innovation in action:

Then it was time for the presentations.  Wow!  Not only did these monsters represent the theme of “Say Boo to Drugs”, but many of them also had a story that went along with them.  We had Spheros that had taken drugs and were erratic drivers, drug users turning into Frankenstein, Lego jets shooting down a big Sphero drug dealer, mechanical K’nex monsters chasing down drug dealers, a doctor whose head was a Sphero with a paper face taped on, body and arms part of Snap Circuits and flashing lights courtesy of Little Bits, and many more innovative drug-busting monster creations!

After the presentations, the voting was on!  We whipped together the Google form below for each class to vote on what they believed was the best monster.  Best could be up to them, with no real category in mind.  It was interesting to see which monsters took the prize in each class!!

Check back next week to find out the winners in our first of hopefully many “Say Boo to Drugs” MakerSpace Monster Workshop.

Want to see more photos of this amazing day?  Click HERE to access an album with even more photos of students’ monster creations!

Oh – in addition, while the students are innovating and creating, so are the teachers, including me!  My biggest challenge these days is mastering our new MakerBot 3D printer.  I’ve been learning how to design things via Google Sketchup and Tinkercad, but I’ve also been learning what happens when I change settings with items from Thingiverse.  This is my contribution to “Say Boo to Drugs”!

WP_20151023_14_25_56_Pro 1


Happy Halloween and Happy Red Ribbon Week!!

Follow the WMS MakerSpace on Twitter at @WMSInnovates and with #WissLearns & #WMSInnovates

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 – 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.