Saturday, August 26, 2017

Voices Not Forgotten

This past spring our students were studying several different themes throughout our school. To help students with their understanding of the Holocaust and the Japanese Internment we were honored to have two survivors from each of the events come and speak to our students, the staff, parents, and other community members. We recorded the event so that their voices will not be forgotten.

This is their story.

Our 6th graders were looking at the refugee crisis in Syria and writing about what the Unites States should do to help/not help. We looked at the Jewish refugees from the S.S. St. Louis as an example of refugees being rejected, and the Huguenots as refugees being accepted. We then visited a Syrian refugee camp using Google Expeditions, so that the students could see and feel a little bit about what their life was life before they wrote their argument.

Our 7th and 8th graders were writing about constitutional issues, and they were curious about the new Executive Order 13769 the the president had just issued, and had been blocked by federal judges. We went back and read and explored Executive Order 9066, and then did the same with Executive Order 13769. The students then compared the two orders, and wrote about their constitutionality of them. They investigated what Amendments they may have violated, or what parts of the Constitution supported the thinking behind them. It was a very robust, intelligent, and adult conversation. I was extremely proud about how they handled themselves about such a topic.

The other grades that were involved were our 9th and 10th graders. They looked at the science of hate, and what makes someone act the way they do. They used the info from this event to further their understanding of fear tactics and the role they play in fostering an environment of hate. They then built exhibits that show how marginalized groups in society have had to deal with hate, and what could be done to fight against hate in our society.

A huge thank you goes to the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education for their help in providing speakers for our event.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Google Innovator Academy #WDC17

A LONG Time Coming...

At my school Vancouver iTech Preparatory, we teach using a project-based learning and S.T.E.M. approach. We believe in having students re-do and fix the work that they submit to us. We believe in growth mindset, We believe in grit and perseverance. Some people that know me call me stubborn, but I like to look at it as being persistent. I really don't like being told no, especially if I believe in what it is I'm doing. I will re-think, re-plan, and re-do my work so that myself and my students will be successful. If I ask my students to have/work on this quality, it should be something that I embody as well. This begins my Innovator story...

Back in April of 2014 I first became a level 1 and 2 Google Certified Teacher. I also found out about the Google Innovator Program, which was then called the Google Teacher Academy. I felt that I fit the criteria for what they were looking for, even though I was still in my first year of teaching. So I sat down, and got to work on my application for the academies in Mountain View #GTAMTV and the one in Atlanta #GTAATL. A week later I got the rejection emails. I didn't feel too bad, so I applied again that fall for the the academy in Austin #GTAATX. I got the same response. Three applications and three rejections, still not a big deal and I was ready to apply for the next one. Little did I know that the program was begin overhauled and relaunched almost a year later as the Innovator Program. When the new applications opened I applied for the Mountain View #MTV16 cohort, and then again for the Denver #COL16 cohort. 

Along with the applications for the Innovator program, I applied for the Google Geo Teachers Institute #CAGTI16 and got accepted. This was an incredible experience that I definitely won't forget where I meet some amazingly talented and passionate people like Leslie FaginSylvia DuckworthNatalia LeMoyneJerome BurgRichard AndersonJordan O'DonnellSharon Mumm, and Brooke Whitlow. They loved what I had been doing and encouraged me to keep applying. Feeling rejuvenated, I applied to the Toronto #TOR16 cohort. One more time, I got the rejection email... I was down, but not out. Every rejection only made me want it more. I got some great advice from Desiree Alexander to just focus on what I am already doing, because it was amazing. And, that's what I did. I went back and made my application about me and my students, about what we do in the classroom everyday. I focused on why Social Studies needs to be engaging and how I can help others to do the same things. I hit the submit button, and this time... SUCCESS!!! Seventh time's the charm! I am beyond thrilled to be one of the 37 educators in the Washington, D.C. Google Innovator cohort, the only one in North America this year. 

Day 1: #BuddyUp, #SharingOurInspriations, and #Teamwork

To get to know one another we participated several icebreaker activities including one of my favorites, a Breakout EDU. We had all participated in a cohort-wide digital Breakout before we even got to the academy. This one was a hands-on experience as we worked our way through our knowledge of Google and its tools. As we moved on, I found out that the brilliant and creative Amy Burvall was our team's coach for the academy. Our
#ZiggyMoondust team consisted of Kitty TrippTodd DeSandoLisa BerghoffChristina Whitmire, and Tyler Capton. We each shared our Breakout boxes about ourselves as we got to know each other a bit more. Then, we sate down at dinner to come up with our team's name, an entrance song, and a team cheer. Our walk up song came to us rather easily, Fly Me to the Moon, was a pretty unanimous selection. Our team name took a little bit longer, but many of us are David Bowie fans and our team involved the phases of the moon, so Ziggy Moondust also came to us rather quickly. As we started to work through our ideas we created a Google Doc to keep track of the info. In honor of David Bowie, and in true Amy fashion, we didn't really create a team cheer. Ours was more of a performance piece. We had props, each of us had our acting roles, and it incorporated a little piece from all of us. It really was an team creative process, that I absolutely loved.

Day 2: #GoogleyValues, #MoreSoon, and #DesignThinking

It was a long day, but day two really kept our momentum going. We started off performing our team cheers/skits and had some really large, deep from the belly, laughs. Next, we learned more about Googleyness and the traits that we all possess that help make us Googley. What I loved about our cohort was the way that we were not afraid to move quickly and embrace the madness that was unfolding before us. 

There were many other sessions throughout the day that had us focusing on Innovator projects. The idea that our projects will lead towards creating something that will impact
Myself, Derek Doucet, and #LesIsMore McBeth
education is exciting and invigorating. We worked through the development process, using design thinking. This is something that I use in my classroom when I design the projects for my classes, and it was great to be able to apply this thinking to another aspect of my work. Les McBeth from the Future Design School led us through their process which worked really well. I highly recommend their workshop and training if you are in the market for some professional development in that area. 

One of my favorite activities to get us in the design mindset was to work with our booty bump buddy to design a chair. We interviewed each other, sketched out some designs, questioned them again, re-designed, and then worked together to build a prototype out of tin foil. When we went around the room to share out, we saw that no two were same. I really enjoyed this take on the design process and will be using it with the rest of my colleagues and in my classroom this year. 

The #WDC17 and #CAGTI crew, Natalia, myself, and Leslie! 
One of my other big takeaways from day two is about being present and responding in a timely manner/giving updates quickly. I am always one of those people who like to keep their inbox as low as possible. Sometimes I hold off on sending an email, because I don't have all of the answer, yet. What happens is too much time goes by and sometimes things don't get done and slip through the cracks. By taking the view of a bias towards action, you can respond to those emails quickly. By adding in the phrase "more soon" you are acknowledging the person/people in the email, and letting them know that you have received their message and will get back to them again as soon as you have more of the info. It seems almost too easy, and I can't believe that more people don't do this already. Acknowledging someone quickly with what you know, even if you don't have all of the answer, shows respect and will help foster better relationships.

Day 3: #RuleOfThree, #BringYourWholeSelfToWork, and #FailFast

If the last day was going to be anything like the previous two days, then it was going to fly by as well. The day did indeed move (Taylor) swiftly, but there was a tremendous amount of work, failure, and growth that was accomplished. We started the day learning more about what updates had just been made to Google Classroom, and we got to ask questions about certain features or lack thereof. I'd like to share more, but... 

After the updates part of our day we were exposed to the rule of three. Many people are familiar with the rule of thirds from photography, and this is a take on that. Our students' ability to engage with new learning is not as long as we'd like to think they are. Knowing this we need to make things concise and provide easier ways to retain the new info that we have just given them. the rule of three does this. It is much easier to students, and adults, to remember information given to them in three's. So, where I'm being asked about my Innovator project, or creating my takeaways for my lesson plans, I'm going to make sure there are always three.

The second piece from day three that really spoke to me was when we discussed bringing our whole self to work. Does our classroom/teaching reflect who we truly are? Do others, including our learners, know who we are and our story? I am proud to say yes to those questions. I beible that the relationships that we build are one of, if not, the most important things that we do as educators. Being able to share our story with our students creates an atmosphere of respect. It is also vitally important to know who are learners are. I Wish My Teacher Knew is an incredibly eye-opening way to build relationships with our students so that we can get to know who we are teaching and see things from there perspective.

The last thing that I took from our last day was the not a new concept to me, but rather a new perspective on the idea. When you walk into my classroom, one of the first things anyone sees is my F.A.I.L. sign. I believe that failure is how we really truly learn. We learn from mistakes and grow, after all it is just the First Attempt In Learning. The new take on being willing to fail, came as the concept of failing fast. If we, or our students, know that we are working through things and expecting to fail, we don't want to hold onto it. We must fail quickly, learn from the mistakes and either move on, or pivot and make the work better. If we, or our students, hold onto the failing ideas/work we are only delaying the inevitable, and our learning.

Final Thoughts: #FallInLoveWithTheProblem, #ThinkBigStartSmall, and #KaraokeMindset

My my first takeaway from the academy is to fall in love with the problem. The solution
WILL change, multiple solutions may present themselves, and that it is okay to pivot. Remember that as the solution evolves, it is the PROBLEM that we are addressing. The second one is to think big, but start small. It is as I tell my students to tackle a project you have to break things into manageable chunks. By starting small, one can utilize the resources that they have. They can show successes and then build momentum. Think of the snowball at the top of the hill. It starts small and then builds on itself and grows as it keeps moving. My last takeaway was presented to us on the last day, and was created because of how our cohort family came together. It is having a karaoke mindsetThis came from of our passion, willingness to fail, and our ability to bring our whole self to work. (We also karaoked almost every night we were there, too.) I want to make sure that I sustain this mindset because it is really brings together qualities that one needs to be successful and googley

These three plus days in Washington, D.C. were truly extraordinary. I left energized and with so many new ideas, thoughts, and friends. It was humbling to be in the presence of such passionate, talented, and engaging educators. Seeing all of the projects that our cohort are creating brings me hope that there is a shift in education happening. Empowering teachers to bring critical thinking, technology, and other skills to our students is happening. I'm proud to be apart of the #WDC17 team and the Google Innovator family. It has been a long journey to get here, but in reality the journey is just beginning. 

If you want to be apart of our projects as we test and launch them, please feel free to contact us. If you want to know what #WDC17 is up, click on the picture below to follow each of us on Twitter #GoogleEI. To see each of our Innovator projects you can watch our videos on YouTube.

Let's Innovate and change the world together!

Click on a member to see what they are up to on Twitter!


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

U.S. Artstory: Fusing History & Art

This past year I have had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. twice during the school year. Once for the NCSS annual conference, and another on spring break with 35 of my students and some parents. Both of the visits yielded some different inspirations for
project. When I was there for the NCSS conference I had the remarkable opportunity to hear Representative John Lewis speak. To say I was enamored would be an understatement. His passion for standing up for what he believed is unparalleled, along with his ability to influence others. He has authored the March Trilogy to bring the Civil Rights movement and his story to life for a new generation. These graphic novels enable young students to access the concepts and material from this important period in our country's history. I HIGHLY recommend these books for any classroom. 

It was the story about the development and evolution of the books, however, that gave me a new idea and perspective for a project. I loved how the images and graphics made this content relevant and accessible for younger children. And, as I walked around and visited the monuments and museums of Washington, D.C., including the Newseum, it stuck me. As a Social Studies educator and amateur photographer I believe that paintings, pictures, and art can tell us a great deal about our past. So, I decided that we would do a project that analyzed different events in U.S. History through an artistic lens. 

At the beginning of the U.S. Artstory, I had students participate in a Breakout EDU that I designed which revolved around important events in American history, and their artistic representation of them. Then, students were given an event/image and they had to put themselves in chronological order without talking. This served a couple of purposes, one it builds non-verbal communication skills, teamwork, and it serves a content pre-assessment by showing me how they can interpret an event/image by just looking at it. Once the students put himself in the order that they thought was correct, I had them sit down and conduct some research on their image/event. They were given the title of the image, and that was it. They then had to find the 5 W's of the image. Who created it, what the event was, where did it take place, when did it take place, and why they thought the event took place. They could not talk, and only had twelve minutes to do the research. At the end of the time, they then had to put themselves back in chronological order without talking. 

As we went around the room and learned a bit about the different images and events students started to ask questions which would become the catalyst for the project. We then hung the images up on our wall so that we could reference them throughout U.S. Artstory. Over the next week students had the time to play around on Google Arts and Culture, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and other sites as they looked at different events and how they were portrayed. At the end of the week that had to select an event that would serve as their research topic of the project. 

As we moved forward in the project we analyzed different images using different tools and techniques. This allowed students to see how each way had pros and cons. They then had to choose three (3) different images/representations of their event to analyze and conduct research on their event. This occurred over a couple of weeks with students working at different paces. Since this was our end of year project, I was very hands off as they were demonstrating all of the research, citation, writing, organization, analyzation and other skills we had been working on throughout the year. 

The objective of the final product was for students to synthesize their learning into an artistic interpretation of their event. We then held an art gallery night that was open to the public where students showcased their learning through art. Per usual I was blown away! The students rose to the occasion, just like the always do, and everyone left more educated, more cultured, more confident, and we had fun learning and teaching about history. This is why I LOVE project-based learning. Are there some things I will tweak the next time I this, absolutely. However, this is one project that will definitely stay in my rotation.

Recreation of Norman Rockwell's "The Problem We All Live With" and a modern take on the event.

Dr. King during his "I Have a Dream" speech.

A collection of pencil drawings of images from WWII.

An interpretation of the "Falling Man" complete with flickering L.E.D. lights and dry ice.

A modern interpretation of the "American Progress." 
A clay model of "NEXT!."
The first footprint and moon landing photos made out of cake.

A soldier going into harms way during battle in WWII.

Life size re-creations of "We Can Do It" and "Rosie the Riveter" had audience members dressing up!

Using a green screen and Photoshop to re-create "The Assassination of President Lincoln."

Needlepoint cross stitch of the "Migrant Mother."

An interpretation of life in a Japanese internment camp using pastels.

A colorized representation of the atomic test at Frenchman's Flat.

A collaborative piece to show the different perspective of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

A mixed media piece title, "The Arms Race." 

"The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor," painted with tea.
A Van Gogh inspired version of "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper."

Lego sculptures of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address.

Replica pistols of the Hamilton/Burr duel, and a word cloud made of the insults they used towards each other.

They made a music video for John Lennon's "Imagine," which they played the piano and ukulele, and the 9/11 poster.

Some pencil and mixed media pieces about the Vietnam War.

A laser etched and painted map of the California gold rush and mining locations.

A wood burning interpretation of "American Progress."

A pixelated art piece of Fort Vancouver of the Hudson's Bay Company.

A pixelated representation of the "Pile of Bison Skulls."

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

PBL & Inquiry with National History Day: Year 1

National History Day. When I first heard about it, I was thinking it was a day where the government decided to recognize History teachers, or our country's history. Little did I know that not only was I wrong, but I had come across a program that inspired and influenced what I do in the classroom.

In the 2015-2016 school year we were working on IMPACT!, our project on Mount St. Helens and how it has impacted our local community in Southwest Washington, the state, and the world. I knew I wanted to try and do NHD, so I designed a project that would incorporate one of the products for the program. Students made documentaries about the the many different impacts it had on science, including how it changed what we now about how life restarts, how glaciers work, and of course how volcanoes erupt. There are many other threads that can be pulled as well, like how it personally impacted the people who lived around the mountain and how they lost everything, but gained new perspective. The students got to choose what the focus of their film would be, as they told one of these perspectives. To launch the project we took all of our 7th and 8th graders to Mount St. Helens so that they could experience first hand themselves.

As we went through IMPACT!, we partnered
with @MtStHelensNVM, @MSHInstituteand @USGS to bring in geologists, hydrologists, biologists, authors, and forest rangers. We also had parents, and other community members come in to share how they had experienced Mount St. Helens in different ways. That year the theme for National History Day was Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History. I wasn't sure exactly how to implement this, so I just kept it posted in the classroom as we researched, inquired, and worked. Some of my students. Some documentary teams focused on one of these ideas, such as how we have shared what we now know about predicting volcanoes with others around the world to help prevent loss of human life. Some looked at how we have explored the mountain to see how life begins, or how some people explore and climb it to learn about perseverance and themselves.

One team, however, took on all three of the topics and we decided to take their film to the Southwest Washington Regional event. I was not exactly sure what to expect at our first NHD competition, but myself along with all of my students and parents had an absolute "blast!" The girls presented their film, and then answered questions from the judges. At the break, we found out that they had qualified for the finals for that day, and that they would present again in the afternoon. They presented again, and we waited... Finally, the awards ceremony took place. In our category, group/team documentary, the top four (4) teams would move on to the state competition to represent Southwest Washington. Low and behold, the girls placed fourth at regionals, and it was on to state!

This is where the girls really took to heart all of the skills they had learned throughout our year and, with their perseverance, put everything together yet again. The judges left the team some really nice feedback, which the girls were able to absorb and break down into usable pieces. (We work on teacher and peer feedback all the time using the Glows and Grows technique) The re-worked different sections, removed and added captions. They re-recorded with new pacing, switched out images, and really strengthened their overall product. 

The last step in our process was heading to the state competition in Auburn, Washington. The team was ecstatic and in that perfect place between nervous and confident. We decided that we would make sure to support all of the other teams that were competing in our room, so we camped out and watched all of them. And while I have  bias, I believe they knocked the presentation out of the park. When we left to wait for the finals results we were very confident that they had a top three (3) film from our room. 

While we waited for the results, we explored some of the other categories. The one that impressed us the like no other were the exhibits. As we meandered through them all, and saw the excitement and curiosity that they generated from our students and parents, I know that we would have to create some of our own for the next competition. This would become Get Up, Stand Up!, which I will detail in an upcoming post.

Unfortunately, only the top two (2) from each room move onto the state finals. The girls were grinning ear to ear after their experience and I marveled at not only what they had done, but what ALL of the students there had done. As we left that day, the parents and students thanked me for a tremendous experience. From that point on, I knew that I would not only be participating in National History Day, but I would also be advocating for it to be done in as many schools as possible.

Here is their film, Beyond the Blast!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Teaching Civics/Government Through Project-based Learning

For a long time, even in my own schooling, learning about how our government and the civic process works has been a process of memorization and not very engaging. I firmly believe that because of this, our society has become apathetic towards civic responsibility and civic engagement. I have seen firsthand people trying to get out of jury duty, people not voting, and in general not wanting to get involved for they do not understand / see the value in our civics processes. This is a problem. In order for our country to fully function we need our citizens to know and understand what is going on in their local, state, and national political arena. So how can we create an engaging way to learn about our government and how it works? Enter project-based learning and design thinking.

When this past school year began our U.S. iHistory class hit the ground running. I had the students participate in a government themed Breakout EDU event that I created as part of our project launch. Our first project, How It Works, was going to have our students learn about the branches of government by engaging them with the Constitution, having them write an explanatory essay, and then working together to create a game (board, video, or other kind) that will teach others about a governmental process. When the students figured out all of the clues and got into the Breakout box, they got a URL to our project sheet, and their very own pocket Constitution that I even covered in some faux leather to make it more appealing and lasting. These are middle schoolers, after all...

Using the DEEPdt process as my springboard I posted the following question on our whiteboard. 
"What do we need to know about _______ in order to create a _____game that teaches about ________?" 
This served as our guide throughout the project. By posing this question to the students, we were better able to focus our work and understand why we were working on certain content, criteria, and pieces during the project. When a student asked why do we need to know about the Electoral College? I pointed to the question. When they asked about Judicial Review, I pointed to the board. 

Now all of the content and concepts weren't integrated into every game, but they weren't intended to be that way either. What it did allow is for students who choose to have a game that talked about checks and balances to know how each branch of government worked with one another, and how they provide balance so that no one branch becomes too powerful. It allowed students to dive into the election process and create a portion of their game that dealt with the primaries as well as the national election. It allowed students to see how members of a jury (and local community) play a role in determining the outcome of a case that may have national implications.

I've been made into a game piece... life goal accomplished.

When it came time to design the games, we spent several days playing different board games, online games like iCivics, and card games. Now some may see this a waste of time, but in reality it was an integral part of our process. If we were to create a game of our own the students needed to understand different design element and how different parts of games did things well, or poorly for that matter. 

In the end, every team had a game that they showcased and presented to one 
another. We took turns playing them and had blast learning for them and giving feedback to the creators. I watched as the students learned from one another not only about governmental process, but also how to use the 3D printer, and laser engraver. A couple of the games will be tweaked and possibly turned into actual products that could be put up as kickstarters for other classrooms to use. 

Not only do the students have a deeper understanding of our Constitution, the branches of government, and civic/governmental processes, but they also engaged with their own learning, grew their communication skills, and had fun. 

Monday, September 5, 2016


About a month ago I attended a Digital Bug Washington Summit featuring Google for Education.  This was not my first time at this event as I attended one earlier in the year up in Seattle the day before NCCE's yearly conference.  This time around, however, it was right in my backyard of Vancouver, Washington.  I was asked to present at both, which is flattering, but the best part of these conferences are the connections that one makes.  I wasn't presenting at this summit until the last session, so I got to really sit back and soak in the other presenters and their amazing information.

Along with me this time, was my teaching colleague, Brad Lehman.  He and I were there to chat, have some fun, and learn some new things.  Sometimes at conferences it becomes very easy to become joined at the hip with the few people you may know.  This can be both good and bad.  It gives you a sense of security, but it also may keep you and your collegue(s) from branching out.  Brad and I did branch out on our own for a couple of the sessions, which was beneficial to us both.  However, we started the day at the same one.  He saw the name of the the session and found it intriguing.  I wasn't sure what it was about, but I had met the presenter, Brandi Snow, on a couple of other occasions and was excited to see her again.

Little did Brad and I know what Brandi had in store for us....

Brandi's session was entitled BreakoutEDU, and this is what the description said. "Have you heard of an Escape Room? This bring that experience into the classroom!! In this session we will beta test a Breakout game! Breakout is a game where a small group of educators will have 45 minutes to complete a series of challenges, reveal clues, and unlock mysteries in order to "win" the game. This can be used with all ages and all content areas!"

As we entered the room I saw some familiar faces.  We said our hellos, chatted about our summers, and talked about some of the things we were working on for this next school year.  Then, Brandi put a single box with several differnt locks on the table at the head of the room.  She said that we had 45 minutes to work together, find all of the clues, and open the locks and eventually the box.  She gave us a couple of "hint," cards and started the timer.

After some brief introduction and some stumbling around, we started to hit our stride.  We found most of the clues, and even got one of the four locks off pretty quick.  We were feeling good...  Then we got stuck.  We eventually found the last clue, and we were able to solve the puzzles to unlock the box.  We were all thoroughly impressed with the thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork that went into this event.  Brad and I immediately began thinking of how we might be able to use this in our classrooms.  Brandi showed us the menu of pre-made BreakoutEDU games and we were blown away.

To me though, my mind went to adapting the ideas to fit our school, Vancouver iTech Prep, and our project-based S.T.E.M. approach.  Needless to say, I have already created two of my own that I will be using for our project lunches for my different classes.  The first one, How It Works for U.S. History, gave clues to students that had to do with the branches of government, the Constitution, and map reading skills.  The students were engaged, collaborative, thoughtful, inquisitive, and did I mention energetic?  The best part of having it be a part of our project launch was that they were dealing with concepts and content that I want them to learn during the project.  As the "prize" for completing the event, each student got a pocket Constitution, that I made for them, and a link to our project launch sheet.

To say that I am a fan of BreakoutEDU is an understatement.

On to the next one!

Voices Not Forgotten

This past spring our students were studying several different themes throughout our school. To help students with their understanding of the...