Friday, November 6, 2015

Makerspace in Elementary Schools

We are very excited about our previous computer lab being transformed into a Makerspace. The new space will benefit students’ learning and creativity including content/learning outcomes, an opportunity to be creative and solve problems as well as being able to articulate ones thoughts. 

Makerspace is space for students to be creative in solving a problem. Students use a variety of objects, tools, and technology to create a solution.  Mrs. Trowell's first quarter School News Elective has created a wish list:  items needed for Makerspace start up. Problems come in many forms and we are wanting with our students with their use critical thinking in a problem solving. Students will be planning, designing and creating their solutions. 

Some Examples near us and additional information.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


What is success?

I was asked recently what I felt success looks like for our students. Success to me is when a student is confident in their ability to work through a problem with others and prepared for challenges that may come in the act of solving that problem. This doesn’t always look the same in every subject or grade but the characteristics and skills are similar. Success isn’t a student’s ability to break the test code or how fast they can read a grade level problem, rather it is using grit to work through a challenging situation, seek out assistance from experts when they have questions and the perseverance to figure out the solution or answer to the problem.

True success is the ability to persevere, articulate ideas and solutions, collaborate and reflect on the learning that is taking place and hopefully learning from mistakes. This is the success that I am working towards for all our students and teachers. This type of learning outcome is something that we will continue to strive for daily! We are continuously preparing our students to be problem solvers, building their grit and learning to work hard until the best solution is figured out.

We are at that time of the year where we start making financial and human resource decisions and changes to the school’s appearance. We are in the process of making changes to our learning spaces and classrooms. Often our discussions are focused on what the educator wants to do to make it easier or safer for them as the leaders of the learning and not always focused on how to support the child and their learning, but if they are not the focus then who is it benefiting? We need to continue to focus on what's best for our students and their future.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How do you learn and grow as an educator?

We are continuously trying to improve our teaching and to increase our students’ learning for various reasons, which include increasing test scores, improving our evaluation standards and most importantly to prepare our students for their ever changing world.  But what is the best way for educators to learn?  For many years it has been a speaker or company coming to the schools or trainings and going through a presentation (Death by PowerPoint) to all of the educators in the room.  This goes against everything that we preach is effective teaching and shouldn’t professional development be a learning opportunity?

I remember one of my first professional development opportunities that I had where I felt like a traditional student and less like an educator. I was in my second year teaching and I was attending a county supported running record workshop.  As I sat in the training the presenter spoke about the how to’s and what to look for.  The problem was that I had the responsibility of completing 75 running records the year before. Was this a benefit for my learning, maybe, but it would have benefited me more to talk to my peers about what they do after the running records to talk about mistakes that I may have made, because my first year teaching I made LOTS of mistakes.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend #NCTies15 to listen to speakers and talk with peers about their learning and how they were growing their craft. I hope that #edcamps continues to take off and we move away from the traditional sit and get workshop that is a one sided discussions. What I liked about the NCTIES workshops is that many of them moved away from the power point and one-sided discussions and incorporated back channeling (a way to ask questions and discussion without taking away from the presentation). There were discussion boards, resources to try out with others, and more network connecting to build off of the two-day workshop.  Many times when we leave a PD training or workshop we don’t continue to reflect and evaluate what we heard or worked on in the training. We usually just go back to our comfort zone. We as educators need to continue to surround ourselves with people that will ask questions, challenge our thinking and support us in our continuous growth. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How do you assess your students learning? Summative and Formative assessments in Elementary Schools

A couple of weeks ago I was listing to a #EDCHAT podcast on assessments (formative and summative) while running on the treadmill (one of the best ways I have found to get past the boredom) and it made me think more about how we assess our students in schools.  A few of the discussion points focused on standardized assessments based on geographic locations whether it was an end of course/grade or ISTEP.  These assessments are the most natural summative assessments as teachers and school leaders do not receive scores that impact the students’ learning and most of the data is very vague in assisting with the planning process.  This just strengthens our need to have a way to assess our students that impacts our teaching and more importantly their learning. 

At #NCTIES2015 I had the opportunity to hear from a group of educators from Flat Rock Elementary in Surry County who shared their top 8 ways to assess without a formal test. Here are some of them (I added in Socrative)

Some great tools to use:
QR Codes codes
kubbu (have to log every 180 days) --
Socrative – 3 types of ways of giving the assessments – self paced, groups paced, or teacher paced
Plickers - no ipad app yet just phone
Jeopardy Labs - create jeopardy games with up to 12 teams

All of these tools are good to use with kids, but to truly be a formative assessment and impact learning students need to receive immediate feedback.  Feedback needs to be more than “good or not correct”.  Each of these tools starts the conversation but isn’t the whole conversation.  It is important for our teachers to create assessments that start the conversation and then have the power to extend the assessments and not just move to the next question.  If you just move on the next questions are teachers needed?  I continue to see more and more nicely wrapped educational software and sites that will “fix” students.  Many of these sites are neat and provide great practice for students, but do we want to teach our students through a one-sided computer?  

I hope not…

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


What is collaboration? - Collaborate is defined as to work, one with another; cooperate, as on a literary work: Collaboration is defined as a product resulting from collaboration:

What characteristic are needed to have a collaborative culture? Trust, open to ideas, safe space, tough skin, open to feedback and discussions,

What are the tools needed to create a learning environment that supports and encourages collaboration?  time, space and people

tools - join me, Google Apps, Skype, Google +, Google Hangout. Projector Apple TV or Chrome cast, to showcase the product that you are working on to the group. If you are using a Google Application such as Drive (document) collaborators are able to see the changes as they happen or through the comments section in the document.

 How do you collaborate successful?