I was able to attend another NCCE (Northwest Council for Computer Education) conference this school year! I first attended an NCCE conference in 2002. It was great and I got to learn what was hot in EdTech, meet like-minded people, and bring home ideas and inspiration. It would be 12 years before I got to attend another NCCE conference when in 2014 our superintendent sent a team from the district tech committee. Ever since then I’ve been fortunate enough to be sent to NCCE every year, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and then again this year, 2018!
This year I attended sessions and workshops about Breakouts (like Escape Rooms for education), Choose Your Own Adventure, Leveling Up and Badging, Sketchnoting, Interactivity to engage students, Supporting staff in a 1:1, 20% Time/Genious Hour, 3D Modeling with 3D Builder, 3D Paint and Tinkercad, Students as Global Stewards, and Students as support teams for 1:1 schools!
I put links that I got at the different sessions and workshops into this Google Doc:
Here’s my Twitter NCCE 2018 Moment (which totally replaces Storify for those of you wondering what to do now that Storify is ending) with some more of my notes: NCCE 2018
I will try to post more details of some of the amazing things I learned in future posts.
I curate SO MANY links of resources and blogs each and every day that I had to share. So I started auto-publishing my newly curated links to Diigo every week. It came in the form of long lists of links posts. I was just happy to share all the amazing things I was coming across. What I didn’t like is that those Diigo Links posts were dominating my blog. My “real” posts were drowned and hidden by those link posts.
So instead of finding my curated Diigo links here on this blog, people can find tons of resources on EdTech, Gamification, Grading, Standards-Based Grading, EdReform, Google, GAFE, GSuite for Education, and Student Learning visit and search:
I feel much better about this; wish I would have thought about this back when I started sharing my Diigo Links! It’s just nice to see my reflective blog posts on this blog, which is why I keep blogging here.
I’ve written about the state of the Scientific Method in the NGSS era and I’ve also written about the DOING of Science. Both those blog posts are about how the NGSS is helping teachers to educate students not only in the content of Science but how Science is actually done in the world outside of education. The one dimension both blog posts have in common are the Science and Engineering Practices (SEP), which makes sense because if any part of the NGSS details how Science is actually done it’s the part that details the actual practices of doing Science and Engineering.
During another training webinar from the Olympic STEM Pathways Partnership (OSPP) that I have been participating in for the past three years, Kim Weaver, the STEM Coordinator for our Educational Service District, shared some more amazing resources with us. The stuff Kim shared with us is so amazing that I have to share them here!
One thing we have to keep in mind that Kim reminds us during each training webinar is that the SEPs are not a recipe that we have to follow in the order they are laid out in the NGSS website and nor is it a requirement that we target all eight practices in every single lesson or even every single unit. That being said, the SEPs usually work in tandem as students conduct investigations bouncing from one to another. What the NGSS hopes to do is provide us teachers a better way to expose our students to science as it actually happens.
You can compare the SEPs to the traditional steps of the Scientific Method. Instead of looking at the SEPs as a linear list, we were shown the following graphic:
Using the above graphic one can trace the SEPs in the order they are carried out during any investigation forming a web like the one below that came from the Next Generation Science Storylines website (click on the image below to go to the PDF from the storylines website).
The above graphic shows that science does not have to be linear. Engineering is a process that lends itself more easily to being iterative and non-linear yet most of us were trained to teach science using a more step-by-step method, aka the Scientific Method.
Another graphic Kim showed us is the one below from Carolina Biological showing how the Scientific Method and the SEPs are used to solve problems. This graphic shows the whole process as circular but it’s really just the line wrapping around itself so still quite linear:
So the Scientific Method itself is not necessarily obsolete, it’s just that it isn’t really done in a linear, step-by-step fashion. Taking the different ways to show how the SEPs work to do Science and using the works of Moulding, Brett D. and Rodger W. Bybee and Nicole Paulson. “A Vision and Plan for Science Teaching and Learning.” 2015, Kim put together the following graphic, still in draft mode, that many of us really liked during the webinar:
For me, the above graphic is helpful if I were to use it with students because it’s not too busy or complex yet gets the idea across. If I do use this with my students, I want them to be able to understand it without getting too confused. I’m still working out how I want to use it so that students can see how Science is done and how they can do Science in school.
The graphic below is one such example of a complex display of Science but it is quite realistic and complete. This graphic comes from Understanding Science:
Students who demonstrate understanding can… MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. MS-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success. MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
For the Unit 1 culminating project, the Faraday Golfing Machine, I chose to focus on MS-ETS1-1 (if you haven’t read this post on the Engineering Standards and Star Wars Death Stars, with ideas for the grades 3-5 Engineering Performance Expectations, give it a read – it’s a great post). Using the NGSS website and mousing over the different parts of the MS-ETS1-1 reveals the three dimensions of that performance expectation. “Defining the criteria and constraints of a design problem,” focuses on the Science and Engineering Practice (SEP) of Asking Questions and Defining Problems. Moving the mouse over reveals that, “with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles,” focuses on the Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) of Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems. Finally, the last part of the performance expectation, “and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions,” focuses on the Cross Cutting Concept (CCC), Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World. Every performance expectation was designed to incorporate all three of the NGSS dimensions, SEP, DCI, and CCC, including the Engineering standards!
To begin the Faraday Golfing Challenge, students were introduced to Faraday’s Law, the Science behind the engineering challenge. Faraday’s Law provides the “scientific principle” of the performance expectation’s DCI! Faraday’s Law was developed by Michael Faraday in the 1800’s. It is a law of electromagnetic induction. I was not at all familiar with electromagnetism much less electromagnetic induction but to simplify the concept students were taught the idea that when a magnet is passed through copper wire electrical energy is generated! It was Faraday’s Law that led to the invention of the electric motor and also the generator.
Once students had a basic understanding of the idea of electric motors and generators and how the different types of energy were being transferred in those systems, I introduced them to their design challenge. Students were to use the motors in their kit. One motor was to work as the generator, called the remote, so when they cranked the remote the other motor used the electrical energy generated to also move. On the other motor students were build a golf club and a structure to hold the golfing machine. The goal was to hit a ping pong ball a certain distance and hit a target.
Students had two motor types to choose from, a large motor or a medium motor.
Here are the Legos students used to build their golf club and the structure that held up the golfing machine.
Here are the challenge guidelines (click here if you don’t see the embedded Google doc):
Here are a couple of designs that students created to complete the challenge (solve the problem):
I had students take photos and record videos of their designs and showing how their designs worked. Once their videos were published on Youtube something exciting happened. See, when I started this project I looked up Faraday Golfing Machine to see what it was all about since I had no idea what to expect or how to help students build their machines. There was nothing. Now, when you search Faraday Golfing Machine on Youtube, Chimacum student videos populate the search results! So future students and teachers who want to get ideas or see how this challenge works will see samples! This week students are posting their photos and videos on their blogs as well! We use blogs as electronic portfolios and they also allow students to share their learning with a much wider audience than just me and their classmates!
Here are a few of the videos that show their Faraday Golfing Machines:
This team explains their project quite well:
This team shared their process sped up so they could show more:
I have heard it before and I agree, school can be considered a game. Think about it. Those kids who do the best have the game all figured out. You show up, do what the teachers tell you to do, be quiet, pretend to listen (or actually listen), turn in your work, do your homework, maybe do some extra credit or bring in items the class needs and you get A’s. The goal of gamification is to make the game of school accessible to more students. The reason teachers are looking into gamifying their courses is to engage students and to motivate them to do tasks that they are probably not intrinsically motivated to do. People love to play games. Games are fun and motivating. Games have built in structures to keep people playing and coming back to play some more. Candy Crush anyone?
If you are new to gamification check out my post on gamification (also explains the difference between gamification and game-based learning, plus has some ideas for gamifying your courses). In this post I want to show two tools that I use to help me gamify my Science courses to both 6th and 8th graders. Using the two tools I’m sharing in this post helped to me to automate many of the tasks associated with gamification such as making sure students got the correct number of experience points (XP) for completing work, giving out the correct badges for completing groups of assignments, and keeping track of student levels as they level up.
The first tool I found is called 3D GameLab from Rezzly. I started using 3D GameLab back in 2013 after taking a course over the summer using 3D GameLab as a student. Maybe I was drawn to it because I’m a gamer but since I enjoyed taking an online course using 3D GameLab as a student, I thought many of my students would like it too. In a nutshell, 3D GameLab is a full Learning Management System (LMS) like Schoology or Moodle that gamifies any course for any grade level.
As a teacher you need to do a good deal of front loading in order to launch a course with 3D GameLab. I took all my assignments and entered them into the 3D GameLab LMS so that students can access them. This year I have all new curriculum in both 6th and 8th grade Science so I had to start all over. I spent time over the summer and at least got the first quarter and part of the second quarter all loaded, which means that soon I will have to start inputting the next part of my new course curricula. So there is quite a bit of work up front. Once you get all your assignments in, then all you will need to do is tweak here and there for the next year so it does get better.
Here’s a screenshot of what students see when they log into their 3D GameLab account (click on the image to see it larger): Students can see what assignments, called Quests, they have Available, In Progress, or Completed.
Here’s a video I made for parents showing them how they can see how their kids are doing in Science by checking their 3D GameLab accounts (you can see how it works):
Here’s a new Quest I added this summer from the STEM Robotics 101 course that I’m using with my 6th graders (click on the image to see it full size):
Students can see what they need to do so if they don’t quite get what I’m saying when I introduce the activity, they can come back to their quest to read the instructions and access the tools I provided. At the bottom of the quest you see which NGSS standard is addressed by this activity. As the teacher I can attach one, yes only one, CCSS-ELA, CCSS-Math, or NGSS standard to each and every assignment/quest I add to each course.
When students are working independently those who move quickly through the quests can go at their own pace because I always make sure there is more work than any student can complete. Just like in a game, new quests are not shown until the students complete the quests that come before it. So if a student is missing a quest, I tell them which quests they need to complete before they can unlock the one they are missing. I can use that structure to motivate students to complete quests in order to unlock current ones, especially fun ones.
As students submit assignments to me I look through their work on my computer if it’s digital, such a Google Classroom assignment, or a blog assignment, or I have students show me their work in their notebooks before I approve them. Once I approve a quest the student gets the XP and once they get enough XP, they start leveling up!
Here are some of our class levels (I have a Star Trek theme to my 6th grade Science class, hence the level names):
I can also make leveling up more attractive to students by having cool quests that will only unlock once they reach a certain level! That way students who may not normally be at all interested in doing their Science work have a little extra incentive to do their work because if they don’t level up, they’ll miss out.
If a student submits a quest and their work is incomplete or needs improvement I can send it back to them with specific written feedback letting them know what they to fix or add to get their quest approved. A student will see this in their In Progress area when a quest gets returned (click on the image to see it full size):
I circled in red the quest with a Needs Attention message. By clicking on the quest that needs attention and scrolling down, students can see what I wrote (click the image to see it full size):
This student did not correct the errors on the quiz I gave. Once he fixes the error, he can resubmit the quest to get the full XP. This feature of gamification is quite important. You see in video games, no matter how many times a player fails to beat a part of the game, once the player does beat a part of the game, the player gets full credit for it and moves on like everyone else. That is a much better practice than traditional grading where students who mess up on practice, such as quizzes or missed assignments, get a lower percentage reducing their overall grade. After a while, students will just give up once they see that no matter how much they do their overall average will still be low. In contrast, in a gamified classroom as long students complete the assignments, no matter how long or how many tries it took them, they will get the full XP and be able to level up along with their peers. So all students have access to getting full credit in your course as long as they do the work. There is always hope.
Teachers can setup their own course for free but 3D GameLab is one of those services that has a paid version. With the free service teachers can create one course, called a Quest Group, for up to 75 students. To create more quest groups you would need to update to a paid version. Full Disclosure, I decided early on that I wanted to use the paid version so I have been paying for this service. I have used my school supply budget money as well as my own money. I even got one year free because I have enjoyed this service so much that I have shared it at conferences so Rezzly gave me a year for free! That being said, I do not work for Rezzly. 🙂
Here’s what Badges look like from the students’ point of view (the ones that look generic are badges this student has not yet unlocked or earned):
Here’s what students see when they click on a Badge they haven’t unlocked yet, they see which quests they need to complete in order to get that particular Badge (I use this for having students set goals – they tell me which Badges they plan to get for sure this year): Click here to see my 6th grade course map. Click here to see my 8th grade course map. These are both new courses so I haven’t developed any alternate routes to success. They are very linear so once I get a feel for the curriculum and what students will need to do, I can offer different paths to success and learning. In that way gamification helps differentiate learning for students.
In order to “play” Classcraft students need to be in teams. In each team students must choose to either be a Warrior, Healer, or Mage. The roles are meant to help students collaborate and come together as a team. As students do work and behave in class, they get XP much like in 3D GameLab only not automatically. It’s not difficult or very time consuming but it does require that the teacher take some time to give students XP for doing well in class (as opposed to 3D GameLab where once you front load how much XP each assignment/quest is worth, then you just go about approving them and 3D GameLab handles the rest). If students misbehave or disrupt class they can lose points. The points they lose are NOT XP but rather HP or Health Points. Students also have what are called Powers that allow them to do real things in class. That’s the playing part. Using Powers requires AP or Action Points. Are you still with me? There is a learning curve here, especially for those who don’t play video games, but it’s doable if you’re willing to invest some time (yeah, sorry to say that using Classcraft will require putting in time).
Here is how students “play” Classcraft. Warriors can defend their teammates when damage is taken. So if Billy disrupts his teammates and takes 10 points of damage (damage is done by the teacher just as giving XP is done by the teacher), the Warrior can defend! Since Warriors have more armor and more HP they only take 80% of the damage intended for their teammate! The Healer can then heal the Warrior replenishing HP. And lastly, the Mages replenish AP so that the Warriors and Healers can continue helping their teammates by using their defend and healing powers! It’s a pretty brilliantly simple yet effective system! And kids LOVE it. I was very hesitant about using Classcraft this year because we went from five periods to seven periods and classes went from 82 minutes to 53 minutes so I wondered whether giving up time for a gamification strategy would be worth it in the end. What made me decide to use Classcraft this year, even with much shorter class periods, was two-fold. First, I really wanted to give students opportunities to have fun while motivating them to do their work a bit more than just 3D GameLab. Second, I had been using Science openers, which I loved, but they took way too long, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how much discussion they spurred. Classcraft has been taking anywhere from five to ten minutes so it gave me an opening activity for students to do while I take attendance and not taking as long as the Science Openers I have been using. Students also rush into class and get right to their laptops, I have a laptop cart, to log on to their account and check their Classcraft character. I can’t say the same for my Science Openers. Using Classcraft has been a huge success so far in giving students something fun to do at the beginning of every class.
Besides the collaborative Powers of Protecting, Healing and Restoring AP, students can also unlock other powers by leveling up!
As if all the above isn’t complex, and fun, enough, Classcraft has another game feature that adds another level of excitement to each day – Random Events!
So the teacher calls forth the Rider of Vay and selects an event such as the following:
Random Events add a layer of surprise to each class! Like in the above example, a random event can give some students extra XP while costing other students XP. Sometimes they get extra HP or AP but they also run the risk of losing HP or AP! My morning classes tend to be better behaved so rarely does anyone take damage from me. The Warriors in my morning classes really want to use their protect power so they ask me to give damage to their teammates! That’s not very collaborative or cooperative so random events give them the opportunity to lose HP without misbehaving! Kids are on the edge of their seats waiting to see what will happen to them each day!
Here’s what students and teachers see as part of the dashboard. You can get a view of each team this way.
Another aspect of Classcraft that kids enjoy is getting to customize their characters. When kids gain enough XP they will gain another level. At each level their characters get different gear they can wear.
Kids can look ahead and get an idea of what new gear will look like at higher levels.
Here’s a copy of the letter that Classcraft provides for teachers to share with parents. Classcraft, like 3D GameLab, is also a service teachers can use for free. To get all the features though you would need to upgrade to a paid version. Among other things, the free service has fewer options of gear for students so students might end up frustrated that they can’t get all the gear that is available. Another feature only available to the paid accounts is gold. Yep, gold. Students can earn gold for behaviors that teachers choose to give gold instead of experience points. The students use the gold to purchase all the gear that the free version cannot access. Again in the spirit of full disclosure, I upgraded to the paid version this year. The last time I used Classcraft I only used it for one quarter with one class. I used the free version and it was fine. Since this year I wanted to use it with all my classes, all year, I decided to splurge and pay.
The paid version of Classcraft also has the added feature of adding quests! So I added quests to have students complete their 3D GameLab quests on class so they can earn XP and gold, motivating them even more to do their work! (See below.)
Quest chains laid out visually for students. Very fantasy-based.
Using both these tools together during a year where I am learning and using a brand new 6th grade curriculum AND a brand new 8th grade curriculum seems absolutely crazy and I am spending a LOT of time updating and barely keeping up. I have to say that I am enjoying though. Seeing the kids have fun and rush to get into class is worth it. Plus Classcraft has been adding an extra bit of motivation to kids to complete their 3dgl quests so I am finding the time I’m investing to be worth it. We’ll see. It’s only been seven weeks and if this excitement keeps up, then I will certainly be a happy camper.
What do you think? Too much? Or do you see something here you might consider looking into?
I participated in a webinar recently as part of my work with the Olympic STEM Pathways Partnership or OSPP. We focused on the dimension of the Next Generation Science Standards or NGSSknown as the Science and Engineering Practices or SEPs. One of the things we discussed is the focus of the Science and Engineering Practices: to have our students DOING Science! Basically, the SEPs are the things that Scientists and Engineers actually do as part of their jobs.
Here are the practices right from the NGSS:
SEP K-12 Progression
On the NGSS website, Appendix F, you will find a PDF document with 33 pages of information and details on using the SEPs with students. Something you’ll be able to use from that document is a K through 12 scope and sequence for each of the SEPs! On page 6 of the PDF document for Practice 2 on Developing and Using Models, for example, you will see a scope and sequence for how students develop and use models from K through 12! That way teachers can see how the SEPs build and develop showing what kids should be able to do before they come to your grade level and after they leave your grade level.
This is very helpful in planning on how to incorporate these practices with your students in Science. Students need a balance of reading and learning about Science with DOING Science. Making sense of phenomena requires doing, such as working through labs, to deal with what can often be discrepant events. Hands-on helps us make sense of Science and designing solutions to problems in Engineering requires making things It’s important to note, as with the Disciplinary Core Ideas or DCI’s and the Crosscutting Concepts or CCCs, that the order of the SEPs does NOT constitute importance. There is no SEP that is more important than any other. So when we refer to Practice 2, it is not less important than Practice 1. We are also not expected to address every single practice in every single lesson or even in every single unit either. We wouldn’t want teachers burning out or burning out their students by trying to cover every practice in every lesson or unit! This is especially helpful when you are creating your own NGSS-aligned units or aligning current curriculum to the NGSS yourself.
Scroll down the page and find the PDF download button (see below).
That PDF document was a hit during the OSPP webinar and could be a great help as teachers look for ways to incorporate the SEPs and also to assess how students carry them out! Pretty cool. Here’s how it works:
And here’s an example of some of the tasks for Practice 2 on Developing and Using Models:
Definitely a good document to take a look at if you are or have been incorporating the SEPs into your Science classes! It’s full of ideas for having students do what Scientists and Engineers do. Let me know what you think in the comment section, and if you’ve used it or have ideas for using the SEPs in class, share what you do.
Do you listen to educational podcasts? If you do, see if you listen to the same ones I listen to, and if you don’t, then try some or all of the ones I’m sharing here. The BAM Radio Network is just awesome and here are my go to podcasts:
Larry Ferlazzo hosts his Classroom Q & A show, and I have had the honor and pleasure to be on two of his episodes! That’s not the reason I’m including his podcast here, I really do listen to it. Check them out, so many great topics!
Well, more like Watershed Guardians. Last year I found out about this NOAA project called Ocean Guardian School. When I read the description I knew Chimacum Middle School had to apply to be an Ocean Guardian School! Our Environmental Stewardship Project was perfect! Even though we focus mostly on our neighborhood creek, Ocean Guardian Schools don’t have to focus entirely on oceans! An Ocean Guardian School, “provides project(s) for students related to the conservation of local watersheds,” and that was right up our alley.
So last year I applied to add Chimacum Middle School to the Ocean Guardian Schools program. My proposal did not get accepted but I got an email from them saying that they loved my project and that I should apply again this year. That was awesome news so I applied again this year and got it! You have to be persistent in writing grants as I’ve learned.
This is exciting! Starting this fall, 6th graders will have some excellent learning opportunities. Not only do they get to participate in our long-standing environmental project but they also get to learn with Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots! SO COOL! Now I need to see if, or how, I can incorporate robotics into this environmental project. 🙂 Any ideas? Let me know in the comments section.
At the beginning of the 2015-16 school year I was feeling some desperation. Our middle school had been pitching a plan to go 1:1 for all students and it just wasn’t happening. I represented our school on our district’s technology committee and the money wasn’t available to make our 1:1 happen.
At the time I really thought that if that campaign reached people with money, we would actually be able to fund our 1:1 plan. I pitched it as far and wide as I could, but it just wasn’t enough.
Some very generous and wonderful people donated money to our cause and even though it fell way short of how much it costs to purchase enough computers for every student our campaign idea reached some organizations that raised even more money. When you put together an Indiegogo Campaign you need to detail a Plan B and Plan C to show what you will do with the money you actually get when you don’t get enough. Plan B was to purchase enough computers for one grade level. We fell way short of that goal too. Plan C though was an idea I got after attending a NW Computer Conference (NCCE) where we put devices into the hands of a small group of students who volunteer to become tech support for their school. That was how our Chimacum Middle School Student Tech Support Group or ChimTech started!
By January I shared the online application with students and we got our first ChimTech group! Ten students were selected and each student received a ChromeBook Flip to use for the rest of the school year. ChimTech students met every Thursday after school to share ways they were thinking of using their devices in their classes and learning new ways to share their learning with tech. They were also learning how to help teachers and fellow students with any tech problems that they were experiencing in class. The idea was that when we did go 1:1, the ChimTech students would have experience with their tech to help!
Students learned about screencasting and using Google Keep and Google Calendar to stay organized. I had a Remind group to alert the ChimTech kids of upcoming meetings and deadlines. We had a great first year. We did lose four kids for different reasons and ended up with six kids by June. We learned that the ChromeBook Flips were great for getting work done but they weren’t very sturdy – three of them got cracked screens! They also were pretty much useless as tablets because we could not download Andriod apps yet. By the end of the 2015-16 school year I applied for a CenturyLink grant to continue and expand the ChimTech program and I got it! I purchased more devices, this time laptops running Windows 10 because those were the devices the district was purchasing for the school. We were moving from Chromebooks to full fledged PC laptops so I needed ChimTech kids using those devices. We hit the ground running this past 2016-17 school year. Of the six who finished their first year in ChimTech, four returned for 2016-17. We got nine new applicants so started out the year with 13 ChimTech kids. Of those 13, nine made it through the entire year. None of the devices broke this past year so we have enough devices to run this tech group again next year. Even though we will have enough computers in every class for all students, ChimTech kids get to take their loaner computer home and keep it until June.
They also learned how to make their own music on SoundTrap to add to their screencasts (see above video). We encouraged students to start a Blogger blog as a record of their learning and work in ChimTech. An ePortfolio of sorts. Here are some of their blogs:
We also worked on creating a short video to share what ChimTech kids do. Here’s what we came up with:
This student tech support program is going so well and I’m so glad that it all started after what seemed like an epic fail trying to get more computers for our students. After all this work, we are finally getting our 1:1 and we have a group of students who are willing and able to help teachers and students solve any tech problems as well as give ideas for using tech to do their work and share their learning!