From Graveyard Rows to Artificial Intelligence: EdCats Unlearn to Lead

By Tonnie Martinez, Ph.D.

“We still have a lot students seated in graveyard rows,” lamented the graduate student as she sifted through hundreds of sketches. The future teachers had been asked to sketch a classroom and interestingly, most of the sketches depicted chairs in rows with the teacher as the focal point of the classroom. There were apples on teachers’ desks and alphabet letters bordering the walls but the most prominent trait in the sketches were smiling students in single file rows.

The sketch activity reminds us, although we’re in an innovative era in education, we still have students coming into education programs with old ideas about what classrooms and instruction should look like. The challenge for progressive educator development programs like K-State’s is to make sure that deeply held beliefs– desks always in rows or one-way-my-way math problems–are replaced with new paradigms in student-centered learning. Our K-State College of Education faculty work hard to prepare educators with the expertise to develop the next generation of innovators and creative thinkers. We do this by conducting research, testing promising practices in curriculum and instruction and collaborating with innovative schools.

There can certainly be justification for all types of teaching and learning (and even putting desks in rows now and then) but innovative teaching practices are vital for teaching today’s learners– digital natives who are able to pose higher order thinking questions to themselves (and to Siri) and obtain the answers without an adult in the room.

Readers have recently recommended some great resources for infusing new ideas into stale lesson plans. The resources are listed below with links EdCats may want to explore:

Turn excitement into action with Edutopia’s 5 Ways to Bring Passion into Learning. My colleagues and I are big believers in Genius Hours–which made their list. So much so that EdCats can earn professional development hours (and get a micro-credential and badge) for implementing Genius Hours into professional practices. Here’s a link for more on K-State College of Education Micro-credentials.

Top Picks are editorially curated lists of the best ed tech tools reviewed by Common Sense Education. EdCats can browse through a full library of top picks listed by grade, subject, and/or skill.

Our own Cyndi Kuhn has some great resources on her web page. Subscribe to her Think Different newsletter for tips and tricks for integrating technology in your classroom.

The STEMIE Coalition has a goal of every student becoming an inventor. They make the case for invention education and offer a FREE curriculum divided into four grade ranges: K-2; 3-5; 6-8 and 9-12. As of this post, STEMIE says they will have the curriculum up any day. In the meantime you will get great ideas by clicking on the “resources” button.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the classroom? You bet! EdCats may want to fantasize about  using AI to grade papers while Matt Lynch offers 8 Must-Have Artificial Intelligence Apps and Tools here .

The long and important journey that takes future teachers from graveyard rows to smarter classrooms with AI (and beyond) is both exciting and possible. By the time EdCats graduate they recognize that engaging digital natives requires mastering edtech tools, inspiring creativity, and integrating future-ready skills. I hope you’ll continue to reach back to the K-State College of Education professors and resources like EdCat Chats to continue your journey as leaders in education.

 

 

 

 

 

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Closing Your Classroom for Summer

Congratulations EdCats!

Some of you are closing out your very first semester of teaching. YOU DID IT! Other EdCats are celebrating validation of the rumor they heard–the second year sails by when you know more about what to expect and have greater confidence in your teaching. The great equalizer, whether your it’s your first year or fifteenth, is it’s time to think about closing your classroom for the year. Here are some of our tips combined with advice from veteran teachers and your fellow EdCats!

1. Communicate with administration/facilities to determine what is happening to your classroom this summer. Schools begin to hum with facilities repairs and projects once the final dismissal bell rings. Perhaps your room will be used for summer school or this summer may be your classroom’s turn in the annual rotation of floor stripping and waxing. Knowing what is ahead will help you make good decisions on moving and storing items.

2. Purge. Stacy Dillinger, 5th grade, shares, I ‘pretend’ I am leaving each year. It forces me to clean out that messy desk or cabinet that I wouldn’t do otherwise. It also helps me to purge what I really don’t need. Anna Kohake, K-8 Spanish & Reading, agrees. Chances are if you didn’t use it this year, you’re not going to use it next year.

3.  Think ahead to next year. After summer break, I often forget why I ordered organizers, clip boards, specific folders, specific supplies, etc. so I write down my ideas/reasons for ordering an item and staple the note to my copy of the purchase order, says Jill Rehg-Baith 5th. I keep a Google Doc going titled ‘to-do before August’ and update it.  Sarah Campbell, secondary ESL, keeps a running list of “things to buy this summer” Post-it in her planner. Angie Bretches, 6th, encourages, Force yourself to take down bulletin boards. It makes you more creative for the next year when you come to set up. Something as simple as a new board can invigorate a boring classroom. Sarah Campbell, secondary ESL, wants us to take a photo before we start taking things down. Crystal Holzer, Middle School Avid Instructor, wants to remind us that when we take things down we should LAMINATE EVERYTHING!

4. Label boxes and objects. This author lost the battle of the podium. I came back after the summer break and unbeknownst to our department, the custodians put all of our classroom objects in the hallway and mixed them all together. One podium was old and rickety and the other was newer and nicer. You guessed it, my podium (the newer one) was put back into another classroom and without sharing the drama, I lost the battle. If I had been as smart as one of our EdCats (who wishes to remain anonymous) and used painter’s tape, I could have clearly marked my classroom belongings. She recommends the blue painter’s tape and a sharpie so as not to damage any surfaces. Another helpful hint is to photograph your classroom or any important information on bulletin boards before you take it down.

Sarah's photo

5. Enlist the help of your students. We like the idea of having this year’s students make a bulletin board or wall display for next year’s students with advice for succeeding in that grade level or classroom. To get additional ideas for including students as you close your classroom, Wynn Godbold offers 5 Practical and Ingenious Tips for Closing your Classroom here.

Do you have additional ideas for the EdCat Community? Feel free to add your advice in our comments section. Here’s our advice:

ENJOY YOUR SUMMER!

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Getting on Board with the Makerspace Movement.

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K-State College of Education Makerspace

A spinoff of the Maker Faire movement, makerspaces are learning environments with tools that offer opportunities to create, learn, play, and invent. Spaces may run the gamut of non-profit, community spaces where people learn trades, to classrooms where project-based learning takes place. Many school libraries are currently being reconfigured to include areas that expose students to maker projects. Every makerspace is different because needs can be so different. Here are some ideas for getting on board with the the maker space movement.

  1.  One of our favorite websites for learning about all types of makerspaces offers a free “playbook” for getting your own space up and running. It’s a comprehensive guide and covers aspects such as what to put in your space, safety rules, and other helpful resources. You will also find photos and templates from maker spaces around the country to help you make decisions about your makerspace.
  2. School-based makerspaces are a fairly new concept for students and families. A resource we like (and it’s free on Amazon for Kindle) is Roselund and Rodgers’ Makerspaces, a great book for introducing your 4th grade and above students to the concept, content, and use of makerspaces.
  3. Want some additional tips for starting your own? Check out Colleen Graves’ article, Starting a School Makerspace From Scratch.
  4. Jen Walsh has put together 103 ideas on her Pinterest page for projects, challenges, and makerspace projects. We liked the design cycle she features as well.
  5. The design thinking process is certainly a great takeaway from the makerspace environment. keslerscience.com offers an awesome blog on the shift from making in the makerspace to becoming a maker outside the space.

Elementary teachers may want to get students involved in the makerspace mindset but have no formal space designated in the school. A corner of a classroom can certainly suffice. Supplies could be center-based or included in a content rotation. Makerspaces and students are a natural combination.  Be sure to make your materials needs known to parents and PTOs. With access to an array of materials, students may create something unique that has never been seen before.

Secondary teachers may want to meet with technical skills teachers to discuss goals and needs. School-to-community connections may be possible by offering maker nights that allow community members to work with teachers, students or on their own to develop new skills. If your building currently utilizes family math or literacy nights, how might making incorporate those contents?

Everyone has the potential to be a maker. Hopefully these ideas will give you inspiration and you will share your maker spaces with us! We would love to feature photos of your makerspaces in future blogs!