30 June 2013

Toy Hack - Thomas the Train Plays Marimba

For my Making Learning Connected Toy Hack, I used a laundry clip to attach one of my almost two-year-old son's marimba mallets to his Thomas the Train toy. I had to wait until he was taking a nap because he doesn't appreciate when I fiddle with his toys.

This is exactly the type of toy hack I would have tried as a child. It started from a novel and fairly simple idea. Acquired the time and materials. Put it all together. A moment of triumphant elation when it works. Then disappointment or dissatisfaction coupled with a nagging desire to make it better, louder, faster, more complex...

29 June 2013

Introduction for Making Learning Connected MOOC

I 'signed up' a little late, but should be caught up by the end of the weekend. I'm so excited that I found this MOOC, Making Learning Connected, because it applies directly to my Independent Inquiry project and will be fun professional development for the summer. I am an elementary school teacher at an international school in Tokyo.

By way of an introduction, please visit my SoundCloud profile and listen to my music. I composed all of the music on there, and will be uploading more soon, including my current improvisational electronic project.


24 June 2013

Maiden Voyage - Global Collaboration

My first attempt at global collaboration was nearly a titanic disaster. That is to say, it was a phenomenal success. As with anything innovative and ambitious, most of what we did was improvised along the way. Nothing turned out as planned and everything went better than expected.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Philosophical Foundation
The project started as our "Sharing the Planet" PYP Unit of Inquiry, Friends in Distant Lands. The central idea and lines of inquiry centered on children's challenges and opportunities. The action goal was to help children in need. My primary inspiration was participating virtually in a Flat Classroom Conference, although action has always been a feature of my teaching.

Friends in Distant Lands Wiki

I did not want to plan a project. I wanted to provide the opportunities for inquiry that would empower my students to plan their own project(s). If we shared our opportunities with collaborators, and they shared with us, our perspective could broaden and the possibilities for taking action would expand.

18 June 2013

EdTech Unplugged

Educational technology has become synonymous with computers. However, I often remind myself that any tool is technology, and different tools work better for different people for different jobs.

Late 20th century classic, the individual whiteboard.
I've never met a class that didn't enjoy creating word problems for their peers on individual whiteboards and voraciously solving each others' problems.

16 June 2013

Focus on DES!GN - Summer Pro Dev

Watching tweets and posts scroll by about last days of school around the world is giving me that familiar 'last days of school' feeling.

It's not that I'm overexcited for vacation (yes I am), I'm excited to get to work on my Summer PD! I truly enjoy abandoning the schedules and information of teaching to focus on the thinking. The key word for my plans for the summer is Design.

Why Design? First, I would like to consider graphic design principles to make the learning environment more engaging and inspiring for my students. As my classroom becomes more internet-based, I want to avoid the abyss of screens full of text, but I don't want to create experiences littered with gaudy images or unbalanced webpages. Luckily, my wife, Yuka, is a freelance illustrator and designer, so she will be able to direct me toward good resources for my self-study project, and perhaps assign some authentic and useful assessments.

Creative Space: Mozilla London (photo cc Rock drum)

13 June 2013

Independent Inquiry - Clean personal spaces

The shoe is actually a pencil case.
Not all inquiries are particularly academic. In fact, I'm always pleased when students' goals focus on social, personal, emotional, physical, gastronomical, or any number of different categories of activities. In anticipation of the end of the school year, one student suggested cleaning personal spaces at school and at home. Many agreed to set it as a goal, although they agreed it was really a secondary goal and that no one had messy enough personal spaces to require a week of cleaning.

Lockers as neat as the first day of school.
I understand that this Independent Inquiry was particularly popular among parents. My favorite comment in their Ind Inq Meeting was that "now that I cleaned my locker, it's clean every time I look at it!"

11 June 2013

Bill Evans - Creative Process and Self Teaching

What is genius?

Most of us grew up believing that genius is inherent in certain lucky people. Similarly, "talent" is often considered to be some sort of genetic trait. Stories of savants, from Mozart to Fischer, perpetuate this idea. Particularly in music, an inordinate amount of attention is given to prodigies who play sophisticated music at a very young age.

Is genius genetic? Is talent luck?

As a Constructionist teacher and advocate for Genius Hour and 20% Time in Education, I have inquired substantially into Interest-Driven Learning, Connected Learning, Social Creativity, and Independent Inquiry. Leaders in these movements need concrete models to help inspire in learners the idea that genius is not granted, but built.

Legendary jazz pianist, Bill Evans.

10 June 2013

Express like an Egyptian

During an inquiry into the beliefs of Ancient Egyptians, students applied their understanding of Egyptian art to express their own beliefs.

06 June 2013

Portfolio Artifact: Blog Post

This is how I document a blog post for a portfolio:

On top, a simple screenshot of the post. In the middle, the long URL, and on the bottom, a QR code linked to the post on the web.

05 June 2013

Independent Inquiry: Portrait Drawing

Independent Inquiry: Gene Kelly

During this Independent Inquiry, the student used time during class, time at home, and some time during breaks to research and create a slideshow presentation with a script.

Independent Inquiry: Nature Photography

This was a perfect example of how an apparently simple goal, "take nature photos", can become a deep inquiry. The artist discovered that time of day and perspective were critical to her project, so was forced to rearrange her daily schedule to go out shooting at the ideal times.

As an added bonus, the photo was emailed to me in the evening! A perfect way to make a teacher's day.

03 June 2013

Blogging with students for authentic differentiation

During this school year, my students and I have enjoyed growing our class blog. From learning the difference between a 'post' and a 'comment' to interacting on a range of topics with other student bloggers around the world, the learning benefits have been incredible.

The greatest direct teaching benefit is the ability to differentiate tasks. To me, authentic differentiation means that students work on the same task with differentiated support, organization, and strategies. Differentiated should never be 'different'. I have discovered many ways to use our class blog to differentiate, but I would like to highlight the most powerful with an example of an assignment. Here's their current task posted on our blog:

Follow the link and watch some TED talks about children. Please choose one and post it on your blog. Be sure to write your opinion about it as well as any personal comments you might have.