Fueling Each Other With 21st Century Learning

In The Principal of Change post about Chapter 6 from The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros asks this question:

Would you rather be engaged or empowered as an educator? Students would want the same.

Two weeks ago,  I was able to present to staff at Center School.  With a focus on the Four C’s (communication, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration), this was a chance to share my passion for 21st century learning and hopefully fuel my colleagues to find their theirs.

As I enthusiastically created the structure for a ninety minute meeting, I realized I had an important goal. I wanted this powerful statement from Start Right Now to come to life not only for me, but most importantly, for my colleagues.

“Excellent teachers and leaders…have in common…a zest for lifelong learning, a need to share what they know and learn from others, a desire to associate with other educators who are equally energized about our noble profession, and a willingness to change and take risks.”

Here’s what happened.

3:30 All staff members and administrators were asked to join Quizlet Live to play one competitive game.  The terms were based on 21st century learning as well as tools and approaches they would have an opportunity to explore. Curiosity, intensity, and focus spread across the room as each team quickly became determined to work together and win, of course.  We listened intently when the winning team shared strategies that contributed to their success, which I highly recommend trying with students.  Here is the Quizlet set in case anyone wants to use it or edit it as I did originally.


3:50ish  We dove deeply into the benefits.  How did this activity help in terms of previewing  content?  How did it help us tap into our soft skills? How can we use it in the classroom?  I spoke of technology as an avenue to empowerment and asked my colleagues to think about the following slides.

4:00ish  Five teachers courageously shared a risk they have taken in the classroom.  They provided us with the process, the challenges, and the undeniable positive results.  Passion based learning, STEAM, and innovation, Kahoot, Seesaw, BrainPOP Jr., and Quizlet were all hot topics. Through sharing real stories and revealing engaging videos, the crowd was hooked.  In fact, when a teacher spoke, the rest of the room was completely silent.

4:20ish  We were able to take the potential energy that had been brewing and transform it into kinetic full force.  It was passion time.  For thirty minutes, teachers and administrators chose to learn about their topic of choice.  Most followed their “techspert” and went to work.  If someone had an idea that would get them running into school even more, however, I told them to go for it AND share.  Discussions sparked, accounts were created, playful assessments were developed, and a tour of passion based centers was given.  By 4:50 the enthusiasm for learning was still going strong.  In fact, I have never seen anything like it.



4:50ish  It took about three tries to get everyone’s attention and to be completely honest, I didn’t want to.  It was important, however, for us to  not only acknowledge our accomplishment for the afternoon, but celebrate it.  In addition, I wanted everyone in the room to make a commitment to it.  What I found was astonishing.  Teachers joined a Padlet I had created so they could share what they would put into action. It seems they went above and beyond.

Here are just a few responses and I love that a teacher actually promised she would explore a tool right after dinner!

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5:00ish  There was a new energy as we walked out of the room.  I spoke with teachers and quickly planned times I could come into their classroom or even better, they could see another class in action.  I couldn’t wait to come back to school.

NOW-So what’s happening just two weeks later?  What I share below and what’s yet to come I have no doubt are direct results of teachers taking risks.  In just one staff meeting they led, shared, responded to each other with enthusiasm, and demonstrated immense trust and support.  They are expanding their ideas, exploring new ones, and diving into what they’ve never tried before.  I used to say, “Let me come to your class and model this lesson!” Now I can say, “Go check out what ‘so and so’ is doing!  You don’t want to miss it!”

Several first grade and kindergarten classrooms are joining BrainPOP Jr. for the first time EVER!


           A class of first grade students AND their families are LOVING Seesaw! (In addition to the learning specialists who introduced it and continue to inspire.)

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First grade classrooms are engaged AND empowered with Quizlet Live!



As Kahoot was a tool many teachers had already experienced, they have taken it a step further and have created their own accounts.  Every day I hear of another quiz someone tried with their students.  Teachers are also starting to recognize the ease and power in the feedback Kahoot provides.  STEAM activities are spreading as well and next year, another first grade class will be launching passion based centers thanks to the brilliant group of students below and their amazing teacher.

See these young innovators in action.

In the video below, you can clearly see how BrainPOP Jr. has become a game changer for a first grade classroom leading the way with this wonderful tool.

My hope is that teachers will take the energy they gained, run into school, and continue to fuel each other.  If you are an educator, whatever role you are in, I challenge YOU with this quote from the number one selling book in educational leadership.

So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  Share who you are, what you’re passionate about, and how it motivates you to lead. -Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf, Lead Like a PIRATE




Making a Video Game “Score” with Design Thinking

Students in Ms. Barkin’s music class are conquering creativity and collecting coins as they compose scores to select Super Mario World levels. The month-long endeavor, which blends instruments and technology, begins as a cacophony of sounds and transforms into a harmonious viewer experience. Using design thinking, students create and perform original film scores that ultimately help them understand and analyze music in relation to their culture. Making music relevant truly takes this project to the next level!

While it’s typical to envision the design process with engineering, one peek into Ms. Barkin’s class reveals that designing can be as natural as breathing. Engaged and immersed, students experiment with music and video through the iterative process. First, they capture the sound effects and then they create the melody to suit the mood of their character and setting. Collaboration is inherent as they play their instruments in coordination with the Mario video. Students report the process as fun and creative. They truly appreciate the freedom they were given to express themselves, and it shows!

Behind the scenes, blending music curriculum and technology, or instruments, with digital technology grounds the project in the students’ realm. In addition to serving up the magical Mario motivator, technology serves as a collaboration and communication conduit. Ms. Barkin launches the assignment through Google Classroom and creates graphic organizers for her students using Google Docs. Videos of student performances are shared through Google Classroom.

Ms. Barkin is pleased with her first iteration of this lesson. “I think part of igniting a passion is meeting students where they are at and getting them excited about the composition process. I was hoping that working with video games would motivate my students, and I think that I was successful throughout this process.” With the excitement generated by fifth-grade students, fourth-graders are surely looking forward to Ms. Barkin’s second iteration of the lesson due to hit Spring 2018. Until then, please enjoy one of the current releases.

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

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