A Technology Integration Dream

The Wellness Team at Elmwood School made an important decision this year.  They realized that the method they were using to deliver lessons wasn’t working as well as they had hoped, student engagement wasn’t enough, and quite truthfully as teachers they weren’t having a lot of fun.

Traveling from room to room for two years, this dynamic and reflective team decided to make a change.  Regardless of the location, learning would be exciting for all.  Their desire to move from connecting with classrooms to connecting with each student drove them to a better place.  Through collaboration, innovative thinking, and a whole lot of risk taking, the Elmwood School Wellness Team took a leap with 21st century teaching and learning.

They knew if they could up their teaching game, students would up their learning game so they took it upon themselves to start with increasing digital tools.  They studied the ins and outs of Kahoot, Quizlet Live, BrainPOP Jr., and Google Classroom.  Playful assessment, engaging content, and digital assignments with opportunities for feedback were hugely important to each of them.  They utilized these tools so consistently, second and third graders went from waiting patiently for their health teacher to arrive with a cart of devices to jumping out of their seats with anticipation.

Of course it goes well beyond that.  The hype around 21st century skills was growing in the building and the Wellness Team decided to not only jump on board, but lead by example. Through Quizlet Live, they pushed students to work together, problem solve, use resilience, and have a blast while learning.  Each of the teachers set up their own Google Classroom for all of their health classes.  They worked together to develop a Google Slide project where students would be able to choose a particular topic in partners and become responsible for creating and presenting to their classmates what they learned.  They owned their learning, relied on each other, and became the teachers.  The results have been astounding.

After just four months, this is what the Elmwood Wellness Team shared with me:

We all have had positive experiences from our new iHealth instruction.  When we wheel in a cart of iPADs, Chromebooks, or laptops you can hear a “buzz” in the room.  Students sit up taller and you can see the them react in a positive manner – they are smiling and seem happier.  They are also more receptive to our content area and it has certainly expanded my technology knowledge. Students are taking responsibility for their learning  and no longer have to sit quietly for whole group instruction for more than a few minutes. It has made our staff more interdependent as we rely on others to help us out.  Just as importantly, students have been allowed to step-up and become our teachers OR our own “Techsperts.”   They love that title and the role/fact that they can teach/help me.  Our iHealth transition has also reinforced the fact that no one person knows what all of us know together.  Using technology has brought excitement back to my health instruction for both me and my students and I am constantly thinking and creating new possibilities for our instruction.  Developing an educational approach like iHealth is all about expanding skills and knowledge.  All you need is courage, tech support, and collaboration. Chris Basile

I feel like the relationships with my students have been more positive as I have become more of a  facilitator and coach.  Relationships have improved among classmates as well.  The students are invested.  Just in watching their recent presentations, they’ve received much more information than they would have otherwise and when their classmates ask them questions, the answers are amazing.  I’ve heard kids talk more than they’ve ever talked before.  They’re asking questions and they’re sharing.  All of a sudden kids that tend to be quiet are speaking up for the first time in health class all year.  I’ve learned a lot and it’s not as hard as you think.  It’s intimidating but once you jump in, you and the kids learn from it together.  They’ve learned so much about content and technology.  It’s really fun to teach Health again.   – Jan Gill

Now that students are actually teaching, the engagement is insane!  When we did the Google Slides projects, the kids learned new skills but had to work with others.  They dove into cooperative skills and problem solving skills and as the teacher, I had the ability to talk one to one or two to one.  I can now have a good three to five minute conversation with each student.  Because of this, my relationship with each child has been much stronger.  Just the overall excitement for learning when students see the cart-I don’t know if I could go back.  – Beth Ryder

What are students saying?

It’s better than before, because you can have more things that happen.  Before there were limits to what you could do and now, the amount of things that you can do got bigger because technology sometimes pushes the border of what you can do with a pencil and a paper.  You can do more with a computer.  

It’s more fun to play with people, do hard work, and problem solve.  

I find that it’s more fun, because you aren’t just sitting in your seat listening to the teacher.  You’re actually always doing something the whole class. Sometimes I used to get bored, but when you’re doing an activity instead of listening to the teacher explaining a topic, it’s better because you’re working with other people and also if you don’t understand something, for example, Quizlet would show us what we got wrong and it would stick more to my brain instead of the teacher going over it.  

All health teachers make learning fun by using technology.  My project partner helped me a lot with animations, background, and layout.  I worked hard at getting the facts.  He would put them all in and added extra things to make it much better.  

We get to use technology and technology is easier to use than pencil and paper.  We got more work done.  Instead of using worksheets, we got to research with websites so we learned more.  I thought that was pretty productive.  I felt proud to present.  It was our creation so it was kind of nice to feel noticed.

We can show our class that we’re teachers.  It also gives us the chance to put our expertise to work.  We are using iPads, laptops, and computers at home and some students are really good at it!  Also, if we were just taking a test instead of playing Kahoot, we might get stressed out, but when we do the game, it still tests our knowledge, but it’s fun.  

I hope others are inspired not only from this technology integration dream, but most importantly from this Teacher Dream Team who I can’t wait to write about again next year.




Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.

“How do you shine?” is too often a question left unanswered, and a question that’s too important not to ask.  For even our youngest students, we can blend learning to empower and when third graders walk into “Superhero Headquarters for Empower Hour” it’s what they expect.

Elmwood students started a journey last year to discover their “superpowers.”  This year, five classrooms have taken on the challenge of activating their superpowers and passions through a series of lessons on Thrively called Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.®

What is Thrively?

Thrively is a personalized learning platform enhancing Genius Hour all over the country.  From receiving a strength profile to learning through videos and collaborative projects, Thrively opens the doors to strength and passion-based learning in a way we haven’t seen before.   Students as young as third grade become engaged in their strengths, interests, and even career paths using a variety of features catered to who they are and wish to become!

What is Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.®?

Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E. is a cutting edge approach to learning focused on asking students to discover what makes them special and what they are passionate about.   Students learn that by unleashing both, they can make an impact on themselves and others.  In fact, one third grade class at Elmwood School refers to themselves as “The Illuminators.”  They are very proud as LaVonna Roth, creator of Ignite Your S.H.IN.E, assigned them this powerful name.

Within a unique set of lessons on Thrively, LaVonna reaches students through videos that ask them to dig deep into who they are (Self), what they love (Heart), and who and what inspires them (Inspire), especially when life gets hard.  She challenges students to begin thinking about their path in life (Navigate), and the importance of putting each letter together so they can be Exceptional human beings.

Students love how LaVonna becomes a part of their lives within seconds.  She is able to connect with them by providing interaction as well as by asking thought provoking questions.  In the first lesson, she asks students to use sign language so they can participate with her when trying to grasp what each letter of S.H.I.N.E. represents.  They are given the opportunity to choose their favorite letter, helping them personalize not only the acronym of S.H.I.N.E. but the process.

Throughout the lessons, students are able to capture their thinking in journal entries, which teachers can then view and offer feedback for.  In addition, they are asked to create a Thrively avatar and reflect on who they are externally, and most importantly, internally.  

Students’ favorite activity so far is in Lesson 4, when they are given the following prompt:  Interview three people in order to find out what makes them light up with excitement.  This is when teachers begin to see the hype for passion and connection that students so deeply crave truly come to life.  It’s this excitement that makes the leap to Genius Hour not such a leap after all.


What are third graders saying?

Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E…

-teaches you about yourself and it brings out the S.H.I.N.E. in you and teaches you about things you like and new things about yourself. It’s just happy.

-tells me I can be who I want to be. I won’t worry that people won’t let me fit in. I just don’t worry about it.

-lets us express our feelings and find our passions.

-makes you explore your passions and you can see who you are. It makes you a better person.

-makes me happy, because my friends and I can help each other.

-helps me feel good, because it helps me help others feel like they’re included and equal to everybody, because we all S.H.I.N.E.

-makes me passionate about myself and feel good inside!

-helps me find my passions! It also helps me understand the passions of my friends and others. I felt like now that I interviewed a couple people in my class, it makes me want to interview more people so I can find their passions!

-helped me find my passions and learn more about me since I never really knew about me until I tried it and it made me feel good that I know about myself! The lesson where you interview someone let me know what my friends like so I can be more comfortable with them and hang out with them.   Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E. has brought me closer to my friends!

-taught me my passions and superpowers and now I can use them to change the world!

-helped me to know what goals I want to reach and how to reach them and that I can change the world and help others!

-helps me S.H.I.N.E. and helps me feel confident!

-helps you know what you enjoy about the world!

-tells you your personality and it’s who you are and it helps you succeed in your goals in life!

-challenges you to tell about your goal in life and how it challenges you to tell how you are special!

Students have only completed the first four lessons and “The Illuminators” are launching Genius Hour next week for the first time at Elmwood School as both Thrively and Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E. have prepared them.  I can’t wait to write again soon about Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E. as students continue with each lesson and am thrilled to add a Genius Hour journey to the next post!

To become more familiar with Genius Hour, please check out the video below!  Third graders recently found it incredibly helpful.


Digital Learning

Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.

Monday, May 1, 2017

“How do you shine?” is too often a question left unanswered, and a question that’s too important not to ask.  For even our youngest students, we can blend learning…

HPS STEAM: A Call for Expertise

Friday, April 28, 2017