Thrively- An Open Door to Strength Based Learning and Students Are Running Through

Diving into lessons inspired by the SuperYou FUNdation, students have been on a mission this year to discover exactly what makes them super.  I knew Thrively could potentially play a role in this self discovery as I witnessed this occur with my students last year.  When Mrs. Mack’s third graders logged on for the first time, they certainly made my assumption a reality.  As the shift in education towards strength and passion based learning becomes stronger, so does the need for a digital approach in reaching these areas for students.  Thrively is providing just that.

Check out their latest video.

After Mrs. Mack created her class roster, her students were able to log on with ease.  Then came that familiar magic. Each third grader began the strength assessment, an assessment like nothing they had experienced before.



Students were immediately engaged especially since the beginning of the assessment began with a young boy in a cape. I believe this affirmed their real life superhero existence and the potential each holds to be awesome.  Right off the bat, they were deeply involved with each question and quickly realized the only content was them, the only opinion that mattered was theirs, and no one was grading a thing.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 12.43.23 PM

Soon after, a strength profile appeared that sparked a similar reaction to what I witnessed in my former students. Although the language is a bit sophisticated for their age level, we encouraged asking for assistance so they could interpret each strength as well as the description effectively.  Students felt free to seek help as they were hungry for knowledge about themselves.  Who wouldn’t be?

When students were then free to explore Thrively, they entered a zone.  While some went right to reading articles and watching videos matching their interests, others explored freely and gave “Sparks” a try.  Many eventually gravitated to coding as this brought intense engagement and creativity.  Students felt liberated as they had choice in learning, could ask questions, and go to peers to receive help or to simply share the discoveries they were making in the moment.  Of course a common question was, “Can we do this at home?”


As students explored, Mrs. Mack and I eagerly clicked on the “Strength/Interest Breakdown” under “Class Options.” We were excited to see the results, particularly that students showed flexibility as a significant strength as this is such an important life skill.  We discussed the potential the data holds as well as being able to view students with similar strengths when clicking on their name in the class roster.  Mrs. Mack also found the “Class Snapshot” extremely helpful as this truly gave her a quick look into each student’s strengths and summary of each profile.

While students continued to explore, I had the opportunity to walk around and interview Mrs. Mack and several students about their Thrively experience.

Mrs. Mack– Thrively is motivating and engaging.

Her students:

The strength profile sounds just like me.

It’s amazing that it finds out your secret superpowers.

It said stuff you didn’t even know about, like “You might be good at this.”

Thumbs up!  Awesome!

It told me something I didn’t know about myself.

It’s fun, it’s educational, and you can be creative every day!

After you see your strength assessment, it makes you feel different than other people in a good way.

It’s really fun doing the strength assessment, because you can pick your own opinion.

I like Thrively, because the games help you learn about math.

The games are so fun!  You can play games that interest you!

Although Mrs. Mack’s third graders will continue to use Thrively, much like my students last year, they have only reached the surface.  My intent is to introduce Thrively to teachers in the fall as well as expose them to Genius Hour and the role Thrively can play to prepare students.

With new features like “Projects” and “Values and Skills” I believe it will be difficult for teachers to resist.  We have only seen the beginning of this fabulous tool and approach in the world of strength and passion based learning and if students are running to use it, I predict teachers will join the journey.

For any teachers interested in getting started with Thrively, please reach out to your technology integration coordinator.








Breakout EDU Gaining Following with High School Math Teachers

Photo: Breakoutbox EDU Kit

It is a plain concept really, present students with a problem, give them a series of clues to solve it, and stand back to see what happens. That recipe captures the essence of Breakout EDU.

Breakout Edu markets itself as a platform for immersive learning games, which reads simple enough but so often the simplest things can prove the most elusive.

One part locked box and another part game or scenario of clues. Breakout EDU can be adapted to any subject and offers a different challenge than students typically encounter in a classroom environment. Presented with the locked box and a back story or scenario to get them started, players must collaborate, communicate, think critically, persevere against a clock, and solve puzzles to break out successfully.

Photo: Breakout Group Working

Group of math students working to break out.

The concept is similar but simpler to the escape room craze that took off in the mainstream last year. Many in the high school math department embraced the idea and have tried it out this spring.

Jaime Hall was one of the first high school math teachers drawn to Breakout EDU. After attending a professional development conference, she shared it with department colleagues. The concept took root.

Fellow math teacher Jen Fairbanks captured the spirit of the math teachers trying Breakout EDU, “I love puzzles and figuring things out. I loved the thought of one thing leading to another thing and the entire thing being a puzzle.”

The box or kit really truly is just the platform for educators and even students to design fun-filled problem-solving activities. The games created around the kit is where all the creativity and learning begins. Still only in beta, over 200 games have been developed using the kit, ranging across all subject areas and grade levels.There are also templates for teachers to create their own games.

Fellow math teacher Mike Greco recently developed his own game as a review for the Advanced Placement Calculus test. Even though none of his sections were successful in unlocking the box, he will definitely be using the Breakout EDU again.

“A lot of problem solving is being able to figure out the puzzle and that is kind of what Breakout is. It kind of forces students to think for themselves a little bit and try something. And if that doesn’t work, try something else. And that is a lot of what math is, especially at the higher levels,” said Greco.

Hall explained, “What’s interesting is when you give the activity to the class the first time. I know even when I did it, you’re walking around like, ‘I don’t know what’s happening.’ It’s uncomfortable because we are not often presented with situations where we are not given a specific set of instructions.”

Photo: Breakout EDU Locks

A number of different kinds of locks
used with a hasp.

The games or scenarios can be tied to any subject matter. Yet, the skills and requirements to successfully break out transcend any one discipline. The thinking, teamwork, and inquiry-based learning are all central to the activity.

“In the first activity, the main focus wasn’t on the math. It was just about trying to get them to be thinkers and trying to get them to problem solve as a unit, which I think is a major life skill, being able to work with a team to problem solve a task that you do not know how to get to the solution for,” Hall said.

“I am toying with the idea of doing a non-math based one, maybe the first day of the year. It depends on the course,” Greco said.

Another element required to be successful is determination. As students run into increasingly difficult problems, where they must first figure out the puzzle, a range of responses can be observed.

“It has been interesting to watch the differences between some of the groups who persevere and push through that. In math, that is one of our practices – perseverance. That is not something that we ask the kids to do a lot. We can be so procedural sometimes,” Hall said.

Greco observed the need for coaching perseverance as well. “It went differently than I expected. I expected them to be able to open the box. They didn’t persevere through the most difficult stuff. It was the same clue, in all four classes, that stopped them and it was the most difficult one. We talked about that. So, I think next time, they will understand they can’t just leave it for someone else to do and have to tackle it,” Greco said.

Photo: Breakout Group with Blacklight

Some clues are only detectable using a black light.

Yet, focusing on the mathematics has immediate possibilities. As Fairbanks explained, “It is more of an interesting way to review than just worksheets. There is always sort of a back story and I was thinking a carnival where we could have the polynomials being the roller coasters and the Ferris wheel being the sine graphs and doing a lot of math problems within that.”

Greco added, “There are a lot of ways to bring math in and make it relevant, even if it is a lesson opener. We are going to talk about the Pythagorean theorem. Let’s do something on Pythagoras and the ancient Greeks.”

More event than a regular lesson, Breakout EDU offers students something different. Cooperation and collaboration become paramount in a highly focused way for the duration of a class period. Plus, it is a way for students and teachers to work with content in a playful way.

Another option potentially on the horizon would challenge students even more. “I think it would be cool to bring it to the point where kids are actually making breakouts, as a review, to see if they can put the puzzle together that their peers can work their way through. I see potential in it. I think there are a lot of skills outside of the content that are important,” Hall said.

The Breakout EDU kit offers a foundation for a range of problem-solving activities across grades and subjects in a way that is engaging and fun. Plus, Greco summed it up, “The students love it.”




Hopkins Students Captured in the Stream

At first glance, it appears that students in Room 212 are performing plays directed by their English Literature teacher. However, a closer look behind the curtain reveals that this performance was extraordinary in more ways than one. Just how did this fifth-grade show at Hopkins School come to be?

Students Create Magical Moments

Co-teachers Mrs. Moran and Mrs. Siegel gave students two short, read-aloud plays from Scholastic Storyworks: The Sword and the Stone, based on the legend of young King Arthur; and The Monster in the Cave, based on  The Odyssey. Students were only instructed to collaborate and assign their own parts. With reader’s theater, students generally run through the script a few times before reading their parts aloud in front of the class. However, this group took the read-aloud texts to a whole new level by turning them into full productions. Students designed the set, made props, created backdrop presentations with Google Slides and rehearsed during their limited free time and indoor recess. They were driven by passion until what unfolded on the stage were two stellar, student-directed performances with two compelling causes. According to our young King Arthur, “It’s fun to do and it’s for an educational purpose.”

Teachers Conjure Up Technology

Caught up in the current of their students’ excitement, Room 212 teachers arranged an audience of parents and peers from the classroom next door. Since the performance was not planned ahead, the teachers were hoping to record the show and share it with families that could not attend. Enter the technology integrator. We used Google Hangouts On Air for the first time at Hopkins School to stream the live performance. Mrs. Moran set up the Hangout event on her Google+ page and emailed a link to parents letting them know they could catch the plays live or use the link to watch later. That is the magic of Hangouts On Air. As the camera rolls, the feed is live streamed while it is simultaneously recorded to YouTube. It’s a technology that defies both time and valuable disk space. It’s a technology perfectly suited for sharing.

“Thank you so much for arranging the online broadcast, it worked perfectly. I am in Los Angeles for work today and was so happy to be able to see [my child’s] performance.”

~Hopkins Parent Email

Google Hangouts On Air has the potential to open the school up to a world of possibilities. For this first adventure, we used a stationary MacBook Pro to handle the entire stage. In the future, we hope to improve our recording technology so we can capture all the drama as it unfolds. Stay tuned!

By: Steph Doty
 Technology Integration Coordinator
 Hopkins School
 @HopkinsTechLib / @BlendedTeaching
Cross-posted to blendedteachingtimes.wordpress.com

Tech Tip

Try VoiceThread

Friday, December 19, 2014

VoiceThread is Now Available What is VoiceThread? VoiceThread is a free web-based tool that enables you to create simple video projects. It runs inside your web browser, so…