Monday, July 24, 2017

Bitsbox Presentation Follow Up #ISTE17

On June 26th, I was thrilled to present at the STEM Playground at ISTE17 in San Antonio. It was the 3rd time I had attended ISTE, having been to San Diego in 2012 and Philly in 2015. I had submitted a proposal to share about how I use coding in content areas with my 2nd and 3rd grade classes. One of the programs I use is Bitsbox. It's a subscription based text coding program that my kids love!
For this presentation, I focused on the free resources available to educators. I shared my slide deck in a previous post. In it, I discuss how coding with Bitsbox supports close reading, attention to detail, and can connect to many of the subject content standards in ELA, math, science, art, music and more!

One of the exciting things that happened, was that Bitsbox was at the Start Up booth at ISTE. I was thrilled to meet the people who created this amazing resource. I was able to meet Anastasia, Sadie, and one of the founders, Aidan Chopra. Anastasia, Aidan, and I sat down to discuss the future of Bitsbox and education. They really wanted to know how Bitsbox could support students. We discussed what teachers need, how to share what the code does, how to connect to content standards, and how to package resources to make it easier for us. It's important to them to help those of us teachers who don't have any background in coding so we can give this opportunity to our kids.

I'm thrilled to be able to connect with such a responsive company. The week after ISTE, Anastasia was able to do a Google Hangout with our summer camp program and share how they come up with ideas for apps, how she started coding (hint: she learned using Bitsbox) and answer LOTS of kids questions. This is the second hangout they've done for my kids and it's been so inspiring!

Since our meeting, the folks at Bitsbox have shared a new format for the Classroom Boxes. These are sets of programming cards with support for teachers so we know the coding concepts each box is focused on. Like Box 1 below is all about using coordinates. Definitely put these on your wish list for Back to School! (This is not an affiliate link - I don't get anything from Bitsbox for sharing. I just like the company.)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Camp Innovation - Huge Success!

4 Amazing Teachers + 4 STEAM Playgrounds + 140 kids + 2 weeks = Tons of Fun!

Summer camp sponsored by The San Marcos Promise.

STEAM Playground:
Students worked on utilizing their natural curiosity to explore, learn, and create in the STEAM Playground. Students rotated through the 4 STEAM Play Areas that included coding, robotics, Makey Makey, LittleBits, circuitry, design challenges, and more!  After students  explored the different STEAM Play Areas rotations, they got to have flexibility and choice in which area they wanted to dive deeper in their learning.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Empowering Students - Tech Leadership Teams

Students as Leaders - Recently, I've been asked a few times about our Eagle Tech Squad - this is our student technology leadership team. I'll try to put as many of the resources here to help others interested in starting a program. Feel free to contact me if you have specific questions.

Background: Several years ago when we began our 1:1 chromebook rollout, I was one of 4 classes who had a class set of devices on our campus. I decided to start an after school tech class to offer more of our kids opportunities to learn about technology. I did not have all the answers, in fact, most of the time the kids teach me about new tools and great ways to use them.

Student Using Chromebook
As more devices have become available on campus, we've had a need for more teacher and student support. Two years ago, one of our after school classes, led by Christine Dixon, began a tech leadership focus. They started to create a website and some tutorials. This year, two of our schools formalized the process of selecting our leaders and began a before school tutoring session, led by the Tech Squad leadership students.

So here is what we did: First, Marla Rosenthal, from Discovery Elementary, and I met several times during summer 2016 to research other tech leadership programs and decide our focus. Many of the programs we found were geared to middle and high students but we were convinced our elementary students could do it too. We found this SWAT Team program from North Star Elementary. We also found this high school help desk example from Burlington High School. More info here about Burlington.
And amazing resources came from Mari Venturino and Alicia Johal of Mar Vista Academy

The Plan: We created a website to share our vision using ideas from all these sources and with our schools in mind. Here is mine for San Elijo Elementary Eagle Tech Squad Recruitment Website Link  My school took a little longer to get approval so my applications were pushed back till October of 2016. Interested 3rd - 5th grade students filled out the application and created a resume. Seriously, nothing is cuter than an elementary student's resume - you HAVE to include this in your process. Student Resume Sample 

This first year I received about 26 applications and resumes. Most of the students were kids I knew from previous tech classes or my own students. It was easy to accept them all and get started. We met once a week after school. The first couple meetings we went over ideas we had for the program. We created a list of topics we thought were needed based on student suggestions and teacher requests that I had gotten. I had the kids pick areas they would like to work on and create tutorials and resources for. I also gave them a tech training link to complete that I found from James Sanders: Zero to Ninja Google Docs Challenge  We added the resources to a Google Classroom group and they got to work.

Tech Squad Tasks: Student leaders started researching and created a website that will continue to grow with resources to support students and teachers in technology. They added links, slides, and screencasts to help. They also will go into classes or meet with teachers on their recess of after school times to help. We created a resource of Google shortcuts that we printed out and delivered to each teacher with chocolate :)

Hour Of Code: Our first big task was to support the Hour of Code activities at our school. As a school, we have been taking part in Hour of Code since the first year, but many teachers still feel hesitant doing it on their own. Eagle Tech Squad students were able to visit classes and help get things going, especially with the younger classes. We also started our before school tutorials that week. We had leadership students sign up to help in the half hour before school starts where kids are on campus. I had my classroom open and they helped with the coding challenges for Hour of Code. 

Open Tech Time Begins: Our Hour of Code before school tutoring time was such a huge success that my admin team asked if we could continue with it. They offered to cover my duty so I could arrange it so win-win for me! As a group we decided two days a week would be a good amount of time. 

Off Campus Support: We were invited to participate in the local university STEM Saturday program. Most of our Tech Leadership kids were available to come out and build and demo robots with the 4,000 participants that day!


Recognition: Students were given ID badges (pinback buttons I made) and earned badges when they finished the Ninja mini course. Also, we had Tshirts made that they could wear at training sessions. Students really seemed to enjoy their time on the Tech Leadership Team. We completed a reflection at the end of the year and got lots of positive feedback and suggestions for the next year. 

Moving Forward: Year 2 should be pretty interesting. I'm anticipating an increase in the amount of applicants for the team just based on visibility of the program in it's first year. It's going to be tough, but I'm sure I will have to be selective to keep the number of kids manageable. I'm already thinking about how to offer those who don't make the team opportunities to support their classes in other ways. I'm looking for other opportinities for the student leaders to share - including putting in a proposal for them to present with me at SDCUE and maybe even the CUE National Conference in Palm Springs. We've reached out to our local senior center to arrange time to meet with seniors who would like some support with their devices. And we'll be planning a Back to School family tech event at our school. 

All in all, it's been a very positive experience working with kids who are interested in helping others learn more. They have worked hard to research new tools, develop tips, and spent time teaching others. Teachers on our campus have been very open to receiving the student help. I'm excited to keep this program growing and see where it leads. 

If you're thinking about starting an elementary Tech Leadership program, do it! It's awesome!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

SDCUE to You: A Teacher, A TOSA, and a Principal - Divide and Conquer Team Approach to ISTE

SDCUE to You: A Teacher, A TOSA, and a Principal - Divide and Co...Last week, I (Laurie Anastasio) was able to attend ISTE San Antonio with 2 colleagues. One is a former teaching partner, Marla Rosenthal, who will begin next year as an Innovation Specialist TOSA at her school. We actually met 20 years ago when we were in the same interview group with San Marcos Unified. The other is my admin, Carolyn Kalicki. It was Carolyn’s 1st ISTE convention.

Marla and I attended our first ISTE in 2012 when it was in our own backyard, San Diego. It was amazing and inspiring! Marla and I attended that one together and were in awe of the size of the conference and amount of amazing educators gathered to learn in the summer.

Then, I funded my own trip to ISTE Philly in 2015. It was great but definitely different attending by yourself. The hardest was not having someone to share things with or go to dinner with. Last year, while #NotatISTE Denver, Marla and I booked our hotel while following the #ISTE16 twitter feed. We just HAD to be there!

Having three of us there was amazing! We were able to discuss our plans leading up to the conference, set goals for what we wanted to learn, and divide up the information overload. I was definitely there to network, meet people I only knew from Twitter chats, and gather new ways to use technology in our classrooms that I could bring back and share with my staff. Carolyn found quite a few leadership sessions and is excited to set some school wide goals and bring resources back for our staff.

It was not Marla’s first ISTE rodeo thankfully either, and attending as the Innovation Specialist had her wearing laser focused glasses. Her goal this trip to ISTE was to see all things Makerspace/STEM related and she did just that. From the poster sessions and playgrounds to BYOD sessions and spending time in the vendor hall looking at different resources, Marla kept her new position in mind and gathered tools to take back to her school.

It was my first time presenting in a playground and also volunteering in the Google booth. There, and throughout the ISTE sessions, meet ups, and random connections in lines, I met people deeply committed to our profession and equally committed to learning something new. Learning is our business, and as Jennie Magiera stated in her keynote on Tuesday, it’s who we are. I was profoundly touched by Jennie’s keynote and the importance of sharing our ‘untold stories’. As she said, “We are wizards and this is our convention!”

I’ve attended ISTE solo and this time with a team. It is so much better with a team. We were able to see things from different perspectives, sometimes attending the same sessions, visiting the same playgrounds, or listening to the same keynotes, and other times splitting up and sharing resources. Attending with others, you have someone to commiserate with about your aching feet and share with about the one thing that you will for sure take back to school. As we come back to our real life, they are the people who can help you share the exciting new learning and spread it to others. I highly recommend everyone attend an ISTE Conference and Bring a Friend!

Laurie Anastasio

Gen Ed Teacher at San Elijo Elementary School and Tech Lead. Laurie has been teaching for since 1997. She is a Google Certified Trainer and loves sharing about technology. She writes a blog at  Find her on Twitter @LaurieAnastasio

Marla Rosenthal

Innovation Specialist Teacher on Special Assignment and Tech Lead at Discovery Elementary School. She is a Common Sense Education Certified Digital Citizenship Educator. Marla has been teaching since 1997 and is very active on Twitter as @TeachSeuss.

Carolyn Kalicki

Principal of San Elijo Elementary School and former teacher and Intervention Specialist. Carolyn established the San Elijo Elementary MakerSpace last year and is committed to our students having experiences in all aspects of STEAM education.