Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Student Voice in Innovation Design


Centennial is in the second (and a half?) bond cycle.  The process started mid-way last year, where the design team met with Kiffany Lychock, District Innovation Specialist, the district innovation team and architects.  The process started slowly, but like a freight-train, quickly picked up speed.  After touring some of the other schools and spaces--such as Southern Hills, Summit and Boulder High--the committee decided to invest the majority of the innovation funds into Centennial's Library.  

If you have never visited Centennial Middle School, the building is bit of a Frankenstein, a kind of a mish-mosh of old and new.  It was built in 1950s and has been added onto over the years.
If you walked around the school, you may find yourself in an art room updated two years ago, with electric blinds and amazing views of the foothills or an older classroom with metal blinds an older carpeting.  Needless to say, many of the innovation bonds are going to much needed HVAC and energy saving upgrades, such as new windows.  The library was a later addition and is an amazing space, with a huge windowed cupola, yet the space is cut up with clunky computer carrels, shelving and a check-out desk resembling a Star Destroyer.

The focus of the remodel of the library was to clear out the internal shelving and carrels, open up the
space and provide furniture for more flexibility.  As we moved through this process, I first felt elated that the design team had selected the library for the focus of the funds.  Quickly, the architects started drawing up plans and discussing space use, yet I found myself asking some important questions:

 "Who is this space for?"  Yes, it's for the teachers, but more importantly, the students.  How can student voice be incorporated in this design process?

I suggested this at a few meetings and my principal agreed that we should put together a field trip to visit Manhattan Middle School, which had been remodeled recently and purchased a variety of furniture from the same vendor we had selected.  The deadline was quickly approaching, so we pushed out a google form to a select group of students before winter break.  Only one respondent stated interest.  I realized that I would have to take a more active role to form a group and make this tour happen.

I visited Language Arts teachers and elicited names of students who could be a good fit.   I wanted students who were not always hyper-involved and a group that represented the demographics of our school; 23% of our student population identify as Hispanic.  After distributing a letter, a few e-mails back and forth to Barb Miller, Manhattan's librarian, we were set to go with an eight person student group.  I created a handout to guide our tour and record some of the students thinking.  It asked them about initial impressions, how the space differed from Centennial's library and also offered a tool for recording and rating their favorite furniture pieces


The students were excited about being selected, visiting a new school and also perhaps being able to miss a few classes.  As they walked into the library, students noticed how bright and open it was.  "This place has more books than Centennial!" exclaimed one student.  What I noted was Manhattan had a smaller space, but all the books were accessible and many were attractively displayed, with covers front-facing.  

After a brief tour by Barb Miller, the students were free to interact with the furniture.  It was fascinating to see what pieces the students gravitated towards and what they had to say.  "This is more flexible than the desks at Centennial," one noted.

"I like this chair because you can move around and also stay focused on your work," said another.  "But, this stool feels like I would tip over!"

Another group of students tried out some soft-seating that had stand alone desks.  The students liked how they could reconfigure the desk to either slide over in front or beside them.  Initially, the chairs were all facing out away from each other, so I asked them to reconfigure the space as if they were working collaboratively in a group.  The students stared, waiting for me to direct them  and I replied, "Let's see if you can figure it out."  They quickly reconfigured the furniture independently.  (See video below)

Overall, the tour offered valuable insights informing the upcoming furniture purchase for Centennial.  Many times, I assume what's best for students without consulting the students' themselves.  This tour emphasized the need to increase the opportunities for student voice in classroom and school-wide decisions.

  1.  Students' voices and opinions need to be heard; they need space and structure to encourage this.
  2. I need to incorporate space in my library lessons and curriculum for student voice.
  3. When it comes to books, attractively display them i.e. front facing, spacing, keeping them easily within students' reach increases access and circulation.
  4. You learn a lot by observing how students interact in a space.

Stephanie Schroeder's Video of the Tour

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

BVSD Mobile Maker Kits - Reflection

So I was one of the BETA-testers for the Mobile Maker Kits.  There were many opportunities for learning provided by these kits--including a chance to try out new and different components--yet one of my key findings was the leveraging the power of the classroom teacher for increasing student access.

The Challenge

Upon my first introduction of Maker Kits to the school--I started a Maker Club and held open maker times in the library during lunch.  This brought in interested students, yet I was underwhelmed with total numbers.  I connected with rough forty to fifty students during those initial months and only had twelve to fifteen consistently attending the Makers Club.  A good start but not as large a group as I had initially hoped.

First Steps with the New Components

 I started by just putting out some of the Maker Kits on a table that was viewable from the checkout desk.  Curious students started expirementing with KEVA planks or trying out the Ozobots with no prompting.  This captured a few students.

The Big Question

Then I had a key learning:  In order to capture more students, I had to involve teachers.  The question remained though: How do I engage teachers who already feel stretched in their classroom duties to involve them in making?   

Curiosity drives us to learn.  Curiosity sparks new ideas.  Curiosity is the gateway to trying something new. 

I sparked curiosity by setting out a few OSMO stations before a faculty meeting and had a few teachers try them out.  Then during a Teacher Share Fair organized by our professional development committee.  This was a rotation of teacher led activities or lessons that teachers could attend.  I put out a number of stations for teachers to try.  Minimal instructions and just had teachers explore and play.  Teachers immediately were engaged and started asking questions about the kits and how they could use them.


From this event, I enlisted two 6th grade science teachers that rotated the kits through their roughly 200 students.  After seeing this success I approached 7th Grade Science teachers to see if they would want a day of Makerspace rotation.  I was then able to enlist one day for the entire seventh grade--check another 150 students.  

It was exciting to see the students' faces light up when they walked into their science classes and saw all of the kits spread out for them to try out.  Some students had some experience with some of the kits but at least every one found one they had not seen or used.

The key was this wasn't difficult for myself nor the teachers.  I just had to make sure I had enough stations for students to rotate through--seven or eight and also make sure the components were charged.  I actually brought in a charging strip so I could charge on the fly and also had four ipads ready for the Osmo station--so we could switch them out when they ran out battery life.

I would highly encourage this strategy to any teachers/librarians who would like to get the kits into students' hands.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Maker Kits Part 2: Promoting the Kits

So originally I believed, Build it and they will come!"  So if I assemble the kits, make them easy to check out and then teachers will be clambering to check them out...well not so much.  What I did discover is if I promoted the kits, then word would spread.

So here are some of the techniques I used.

#1 Create Design Challenges and Invite Classes & Promote the Kits

I used the marshmallow challenge (link to slide presentation), yet there are a number of low-tech challenges that can incorporate collaboration and easily can be fit into a class period.  My lesson before has been to show off some of the kits and then have the students work through a design challenge as a class.  This also gives you time to talk to the teachers about possibles uses and check out procedures.
#2 Seek out Teachers to Schedule Classes  

For flexible scheduling libraries such as mine, teachers will sign out times for research, yet will be unaware of the available kits.  As my grant targeted Emerging Bilinguals and students in Academic Support Classes, I sought out those classes to schedule days to try out the kits.  Initially, I held a rotation of duct tape crafts--where we made flower pens, K'Nex building, LEGOS and Ozobots.  This gave students the opportunity to explore the different kits and the teacher to see how they could use them.  Afterwards, I found teachers were more likely to check out kits for classroom use.

#3  Share at Faculty Meetings or Organize A "Share Fair"

Schedule time during a faculty meeting or just pull out some of your kits, either formally or informally, and have teachers explore.  Also, being a part of our school's Professional Development Committee, I helped organized a teacher share fair.  This was a choose your own adventure PD where teachers gave short (10-15 min.) presentations on something other teachers could use in their classroom. Teachers singed up and then rotated through presentations of their choosing.  I gave two short presentations on the kits and let teachers explore them.  This led to the two science classes signing up to use the kits for multiple days (see below)

#4  Organize a Station Rotation in Classrooms

I collaborated with a science teacher to do a rotation during her 6th grade Science classes of a mix of the district kits and some of the mobile kits I’d set up from my grant.

#1 OSMO Station
--Two Osmo set ups with i-pads

#2 Ozobot Station
--three ozobots
--bowling challenge

#3  2 Little Bits Music Station and headphones-in five way splitters

#4  Lego Station #1 w/ challenge cards

#5  K’Nex Renewable Energy w/ Motors

#6  Cubelets & Moss Robotics

#7 Lego Station #2 w/ challenge cards

I used an old library cart to move the kits down to the classroom as the library was booked for another class.

It was great to watch the kids walking in and their eyes lit up as they saw all the kits spread around the lab tables.  I then oriented students to the different kits and then they were turned loose. “They were so engaged from the beginning.  This is really cool,” noted Mrs. Scherer, the teacher.  

As I circulated the first part of each period that I oriented, I noted students working on different kits--collaborating and problem solving.  The students were respectful in sharing ideas and thoughts.  “I liked that we didn’t have many directions.  We had to figure it out for ourselves,” noted one student. Another student excitedly showed off her cubelet robot she had constructed and her partner excitedly asked, “How did you do that? Can you show me?”


Across the hall, the other science class was using the Keva Planks to construct different challenges.  “You can tell the students who are really into design and engineering really take to it,” noted Mr. Johnson, the science teacher.  I watched as students worked together and proudly displayed some of their challenges, such as making a ping-pong ball connect using a right angle.  Of a classroom full of roughly twenty seven students, I only noticed a sparse few that were not engaged.  

The other advantage of this was that once I oriented teachers to the kits, they were able to take over and I didn’t even have to visit the classroom anymore after that.  

Overall this was a great success in student choice and having the students explore the kits without much teacher-led direction.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Maker Kits Part I--Setting Up Kits/Storage

Centennial's Maker Kits and Maker Club have been up and running for the past few weeks.  The Maker Club meets after school every other Monday, for about 1 hour.  Also, the kits are starting to be checked out and I have had seven classes visit stations up in the library.  In this post I will share some of the learning about setting up the Kits--what's in them and how I store them.  The next post I will cover how I pushed out and publicized kits.

First of All--a Shout Out to Jessica West!

Jessica West, who is part of the dynamic duo at Heatherwood Elementary's Library, was fulfilling her practicum hours at Centennial Middle School.  The Maker Supplies were just crammed into a cabinet.  She helped me inventory what we had, figure out how to maximize the space and also helped roll out the Maker Space to classroom visits.  Thanks Jessica, I couldn't have done it without you!

Where Did You Get the Money?

I wrote and was awarded a National Educators Association Student Achievement Grant last year for $2,000 to start a Flexible/Mobile Maker Space.  As part of the grant, I targeted students who were in academic support classes and therefore had less access to elective classes offered at the school.  More on how this went in the next post. Click here for more info. about the grant.

What have you Purchased and What Insights Did You Gain?

So far, I've spent roughly $1,150 of the grant and definitely learned some things along the way.  Here are the kits I have set up so far and some insights on each:


Duct Tape Craft Kit

Duct Tape Craft Materials

15 Rolls Duct Tape
7 Scissors
2 Skill Scissors
1 Pen Knife
3 Measure Mats
5 Rules
6 Sharpies
Tape It & Make It Book ($15.00)
Approximate Cost: $90.00


Students love the duct tape craft tub.  There are bunches of duct tape crafts that are fairly easy to make.  I found a simple video on how to make a duct tape flower pen and have been using that as an intro. to duct tape crafts. Also, the book Tape It, Make It was a good resource although some of the directions were complicated, even for me.    I get a little nervous when students use the Pen Knife but Most are responsible with it.

Ah-Ha's/Things to Consider

One thing I am changing are the scissors I am using. I invested in Fiskar 5"Scissors for the smaller ones and they work much better than the other cheaper. batch scissors I ordered.   The other scissors gum up and I have to clean them after each use, so I invested in more expensive Fiskor Scissors and am anxiously awaiting their arrival.  The best way to clean scissors I've found is with rubbing alcohol and a sponge.

Also, consider that duct tape is a consumable resource.  Students love it because they make something and can take it home, but plan in your budget for more duct tape purchases.  I started with six solid colored tape and a 12 roll variety of patterns, that I ordered on Amazon.


OzoBot Kit

3 OzoBots
3 Sets of Markers
Random Ozobot Cards
3 Sets Small Plastic Bowling Pins (for Ozobot Challenge)

Approximate Cost: $180.00


Ozobots are programmable robots that use light sensors.  You can draw and they can follow a pattern.  Also, they can be programmed via a website with drag and drop code.  The Ozoblockly website also has challenges and classrooms activities.

Things to Consider
I've found the Ozobots to be a a reasonably priced entry into Robotics for students.  They can be glitchy at times and take a little practice to figure out.  Also, they are tiny and easily could walk out of a makerspace, so I always "bird-dog" them when they are out.  They do definitely have a Wow factor.  One of the favorite activities is the magical eight ball where you ask the Ozobot a question, and then place it on the mat and it randomly ends up on a "yes", "no" or "maybe".  I want to explore and learn more about Ozobot but am still learning.


K'Nex Building Kit

K'Nex 70 Building Set
K'Nex 52 Building Set
4 Motors
Approximate Cost: $150.00


K'Nex are plastic hubs and rods that can be snapped together to make a number of different things.  Students have made frisbees, cars, and air plane.  I really liked adding the motors to provide power.  The students have enjoyed this tub and often explore and self-explore. which I helpful for me if I'm working at a different station.  Some students enjoyed making K'Nex vehicles and having a roller derby type race with them.

Things to Consider

K'Nex have been around for awhile and there are some websites out there that offer different K'Nex Challenges.  The K'Nex are reusable but not indestructible.  I have had a few break on me.  They also can be a little difficult to snap together or pull apart for smaller hands.   


Lego Kits (3 total)

Various Legos (donated)

2-3 Lego Baseplates (10' by 10")
Lego Challenge Cards
Approximate Cost: Legos donated -- baseplates 4/$20.00

Kids love legos.  Even middle school kids.  Maybe it's the familiarity.  Maybe it's the possibilities?  Also, I was very lucky to have three large bins of legos donated to the library.  I put out an all call to parents through an school e-blast and was able to get a generous donation.  Kids love to build but also I printed up a series of lego challenge cards (link above) that students can then pick a card, and then complete the challenge.  There's also a free Lego Movie Maker App you can load on i-pads and make movies, something I am excited to try it.
 Little Bits Synth Kit 
Approximate Cost: $150.00

I purchased a Little Bits Synth Kit with Bookfair Profits from Scholastic.  Little bits are snap together circuits that are easy to configure.  At first, I wasn't sure what to do with the kit, but then I just put it out there and let students experiment.  The synth kit allows them to build different configurations to make different sounds.  One student spent the entire hour trying out different parts and experimenting.  Other students would wander over and he would show them what he figured out.  I would call that Maker space Success!

Although it's fun to let students experiment, if this was a classroom situation I would hook up the speak to headphones.  I have a five to one headphone jack that would allow a group of students to listen to the sound.  It's quite distracting otherwise.

Origami Robotics Kit

  • 26 Teknikio motor board
  • 26 Teknikio battery board
  • 50 batteries
  • 100 LED lights
  • 200 fasteners
  • 2 rolls of conductive tape
  • 1 roll electrical tape
  • 280 sheets of origami paper
Honestly, I bought this kit as I was looking for a stand-alone/already set-up kit that I could easily roll out.  I do like that this kit includes circuitry and motors and forces students to consider design-thinking when working with the materials.  On a down side,it was fairly expensive ($300.00) and I believe you could cobble together a similar kit for far less.  Teknikio sells the individual parts of the kit--and I'm sure you could find them elsewhere as well.  Also, I wrestle with the fact that students will want to bring the supplies home, but at the same time, they can be resused.  I'm still figuring out how to best utilize this kit.

So we have set up storage using plastic tubs that are bar-coded if they leave the library.  Jessica, Ziploc 44 Quart Tubs.  These are perfect for fitting in the cabinets and also transferring the contents of tubs.  We labelled the tubs and also bar-coded them so they can be checked out to teachers.  They also fit neatly in the cabinets.  I just ordered another set of smaller tubs--Sterilite 30 Quart-- to maximize storage space. Also, some of the kits do not require such a big tub such as the Origami Robotics or Ozo-Bots.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Library Orientation, QR CODES, Digital Citizenship & G-Mail...Oh My!

So the first few weeks in the library have flown by and it's been fairly busy.  By the end of next week, almost all classes have had some kind of orientation to the library.  See below to see what's been going on in the library...
6th Graders

Sixth graders all had two days of orientation.  One day we toured the library using QR Codes.  I made a series of short movies linked to QR codes.  Students then went on a scavenger hunt around the library scanning the codes and watching the movies.  Each student was required to fill out a sheet answering questions about the different places.

The second day we discussed digital citizenship related to the  image below.  All students participated in a discussion related to this image and we shared some great ideas.  I was reassured when discovering most students have discussed this previously in school.  Also, when surveyed, about 50-60% of 6th graders said they used social media--instagram, snapchat, musically--before.

 The rest of the period we instructed students how to create and change their own password, as well as how to log-in to their g-mail accounts.  It's always a steep learning curve, but most students have mastered this by the end of the first semester.
7th & 8th Grade

I visited a number of 7th & 8th grade classes where we focus our discussion around this question:  Why is it important to think before you post something online?  Consider not only now but also your future.  Students pair discussed this and then we held a whole class discussion.  Not surprising, I found that many more 7th and 8th graders are using social media regularly.  They had many insights and through our discussion, we left with a few key points:

  • even when you think something is private (i.e. just between you and your friends) it isn't.
    • Example:  Anyone can take a screenshot of a text/snapchat message/instagram post and then share with whomever they like.
  • sometimes when we post something "for fun" or "as a joke" not all viewers will see it as one
    • Example: Taking a "selfie" with a beer as a joke can be misread as you are actually drinking.
  • employers/organizations/schools often research you online before hiring or admitting you, so represent your best self online.
We also watched a snippet of a video from Flocabulary on the Top Ten Things to Think About Before You Post. (1:07-2:56)

Thanks for reading..and stay tuned for my next post.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Makerspace Marshmallow Challenge

So we kicked off the Centennial Makerspace by having a four classes conduct the marshmallow challenge.  Students self-selected teams of no more than three--although we did allow four in one class, and then were given the challenge.  The essence of the challenge is students are given the following materials:
  • string
  • 20 stands of spaghetti
  • tape
  • a marshmallow
The Challenge:  Create a stable-freestanding structure that can suspend a marshmallow. They had 18 minutes.  To learn more about the challenge click here.

The students loved the challenge.  They were engaged from the start: sharing ideas, prototyping, collaborating and talking.   The biggest challenge was not helping out the students by giving them advice.


The students were also introduced to some of the other projects they will be able to do in the Makerspace.  They were particularly excited about the duct-tape craft projects and the littleBits KORG synthesizer set.  Check out the presentation below:

The students had a great time.  I look forward to working with more classes and the future.  The Makerspace will be open for some free make time starting next week April 11th.  Listen for the announcements!

Another book I am listening to with my daughter (9) and son (5) is George by Alex Gino.  George is 
in the fourth grade and has always felt she is a girl, even if she was born a boy.  She wants to play the part of Charlotte in the fourth grade production of Charlotte's Web, but boys are only allowed to try out for male parts.  George's teacher and mother and understanding, but not supportive of his gender identity.  This is a great book for bringing up discussion on gender, but not for every reader or family.  To learn more about the book, read the Common Sense Media Review.

So I am reading Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles.  You can tell by the cover that this is an edgier book, I wouldn't recommend it for 6th or 7th Graders.  It tells the story of different high school students or recent graduates all surrounding the same day.  Their paths intersect and each story gives you an inside view of how difficult it can be.  I'm really enjoying it so far and would recommend it for 8th graders or above. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Screen Time Part 1

Screen Time: A Rationale for Research

Being a librarian and technology proponent, I recognize the power technology can have in education.  There are amazing things technology can accomplish.  I see how quickly students, and my own children, adopt technology tools .  My nine-year old daughter is a faster typists now than I was at thirteen.  My son can navigate an i-pad or i-phone like it's second nature.  Yet, I struggle just with many other parents do, on wondering how much technology is too much?  
What is the appropriate time allowed on a screen?  I've dabbled in research on times allowed on screens and have found some interesting articles, for example this one from CNN Health, but I always felt I needed to go into more depth.  Luckily on one of my regular family visits to the NO BO CORNER LIBRARY (yes a shameless plug for the Public Library System) I came across a book published in 2015 titled Screen-Smart Parenting by Jodi Gold, MD.  I started reading it and thought it had some great suggestions and ideas on this timely topic.  

I've decided to synthesize some key parts but do recommend, if you have the means, purchasing the book.  Or, you could reserve it from the library.  Mine is due soon.

Research on Home Media Environments

 In a 2013 study, Northwestern Center on Media and Development survey 2,300 parents of children from birth to 8 years of age.  They also surveyed focus groups in California and Illinois.  Some key findings:
  • Children under 8 often use technology with their parents and more likely to use educational games and apps.  
  • At ages 9-10, children become more literate and social.  
The study also identified 3 types of media environments that these parents of young children were creating.  I added the percentage and some descriptors of each below:
  • 39% Media-Centric Parents--love media; spend on average of 11 hours/day.  Tend to keep TV on at home even when no one is watching.  44% have TV in bedroom.  Children spend an average 4.5 hours on screen media.
  • 45% Media-Moderate--parents spend approximately 4.5 hours at home.  Play limited video games, tend to prioritize doing things outside as a family.  Children in media-moderate spend 3 hours per day of screen media.
  • 16% Media Light--spend fewer than 2 hours/day on screen media.  Less likely to use TV to occupy their children.  Children spend and average of 1 hr. 35 min. per day on screen media.

Chart Your Own Media Diet

One of the first steps Dr. Gold suggests is that we assess your own family's technology diet.  Her main point is to understand your children's usage, you must first identify your family's use of technology. She challenges the reader to find out how much media you and your children really use.  She encourages you to try to keep a media diary for each member of your family for 3 days.  If your children are over 8, they could keep their own diary.  In this diary document how much time is spent each day on:
  • TV: real time, delayed and Web-based
  • Computer/tablet: online and offline activities (including homework, but star it)
  • Phone: include voice calls, texts, games and surfing
  • Gaming consoles: handheld and stationary
  • Music is not counted unless listening to while online or gaming
She encourages not to "sweat the details" but instead looking for a general idea on how much time each member of your family spends with technology.

Some tips for keeping an accurate record:
  • Track hourly.  If you can't do three days in a row; pick a few days a week.  Include a weekday and weekend.
  • Send a text, put a note in your phone, or mark a calendar each time you use technology.
  • You can look at phone usage data or use RescueTime for online activities
You may be surprised what you discover.  "Children learn by example.  We all know that if Mom and Dad are texting and checking Facebook throughout dinner, then it is hardly shocking that the kids will follow suit" (Gold 25).  

I plan to chart my own families' media diet and will share the results in a subsequent blog.  I also plan to summarize Chapter 2: The Facts Behind How Technology Affects Your Child's Development.  

Thanks again for reading.