Around the Table With FlipGrid

This fall I will be teaching Sustainable Food Systems at Kennebec Valley Community College.  This is a seminar course that is part of the college’s farm-to-table curriculum.

Just in time for my back-to-school planning blitz, FlipGrid has gotten even better.   And I will add talking and sharing to the course syllabus – like dinner with friends.

On occasion, our class goes “online”  –  a model of blended convenience.  Fortunately, there are some amazing films that are readily available to my students when we can not meet face-to-face.  This year I will be incorporating “movie reviews” into my course. The movie reviews (aka video reflections)  should provide a deeper, more reflective assessment of what students learned than boring question and answer worksheets.


 

An distinctive feature of FlipGrid is the time limits that it puts on users.  The options for time limits have been expanded to include a very concise 15 seconds and an in-depth 5 minutes.  This should brighten up my assignments — introduce yourself and your role in the food system in 15 seconds versus reflect on what you have learned about sustainable food production as a system of interrelationships in 5 minutes.

With the opportunity to add purpose statements to grids and attach relevant content, my assignments can now be more explanatory which is perfect since this work will be completed outside of class time and because this course is part of a bigger educational effort.

I will be collaborating with some of my favorite people to have around the dinner table – Rich Perry, Jon Jarc, and Leah Lacrosse – via FlipGrid this school year.  We will all be using phenomenon-based learning across our different grade levels (middle school to college), diverse content areas (science, english/language arts, and art)  and geographically dispersed schools (New York, Ohio, and Maine).  Phenomenon-based learning is a holistic approach that begins with teaching by topics and incorporates digital and non-digital technology. Our shared topic this year will be Why We Explore.  We will all be evaluating exploration from the perspective of our courses and then discussing how this exploration causes mankind to evolve.   Part of the collaboration – for both us and our students – will be sharing experiences via FlipGrid.

FlipGrid is absolutely committed to student privacy.  Teachers control who can view student content.  Now teachers  can share videos to the FlipGrid community and include hashtags to make the videos searchable.  With this, our experiences can be shared with the world.  It sounds like it is time to get a bigger table!

 

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“New” Technology and What It Means for the Classroom

It is not the tools but how they are used

I just set-up an Echo DOT and love the accessibility it offers.

There has been so much conversation about information versus knowledge.  And the Echo DOT taps into this.  With it, you have instant access to information. Ok, you already did via the Internet but now you don’t have to stop what you are doing or open another browser window even.  You just have to ask Alexa.

So what if you place an Echo Dot in your classroom, set up a trigger word (if Alexa doesn’t “speak to you”), and allow students to access information. The educational experience then becomes what students do with these information – i.e. the development of knowledge. Pretty cool, huh?

A #ShoutOut to mylestone.com who gifted me the Echo Dot and who have an amazing website – that is a portal into the world of AI – Artifical Intelligence. With mylestone.com, you upload a set of your photos.  After a short wait, a verbal description of the photos will be created – and can be listened to over your Echo Dot.  You can listen to it on your browser if you don’t have an Echo Dot, yet. Try it, such fun and so many lessons about what images convey.  Metadata, anyone?

I also recently purchased a Rocketbook Wave.

This is a notebook that you write in, microwave to erase, and write in again. And you don’t lose your writing when you erase it. You can easily scan pages and save them as .jpg images or .pdf files to the application of your choosing.  For me, the Rocketbook bridges the gap between the analog world – where I like to create things – and the digital world – when I like to store things. For your students, it can do the same.  PS The pen that works with the Rocketbook, the Pilot Frixion, has a great feel.

What’s next for me?

I am waiting to receive my Foldscope this month.  The Foldscope, which I purchased as a Kickstarter project, is a very low cost and yet high resolution, paper origami microscope.  Imagine the learning opportunities in schools around the world – even those with limited resources.  You can check it out at foldscope.com.

As always, it is an exciting time to be in education.

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Interview with Wired Educator

I had the good fortune to spend an hour talking with Kelly Croy about what it is I do and think about.   Here is the interview on the Wired Educator Podcast.

WEP 0077: An Interview with Julie Willcott

 

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What does STEAM really look like?

First it was STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) as an educational buzzword and now it is STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Art-Math). What does STEAM look like in the classroom?

I am sharing this video – created with the amazing new Apple app, Clips – to give a peek into my world of STEAM learning.

Download here

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A Sense of Belonging in A Digital World

“A student’s sense of belonging is not confined within the walls of the classroom. As teachers, we are reminded to teach our students to be mindful of their digital footprint and its permanency and to emphasize the importance of appropriate and responsible behavior online. These are critical lessons. As teachers, we must also acknowledge the positive use of our students’ digital tools in fostering a sense of belonging. …”

I am excited to share my recent blog post for Sevenzo – A Sense of Belonging int a Digital World.  It contains my thoughts and experiences with balancing my student’s sense of belonging within the classroom with their sense of belonging within the digital world.

 

 

 

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Highlights of my visit to the White House

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I was honored to be selected to attend South by South Lawn: A White House Festival of Ideas, Art, and Action on October 3rd.  The day-long event was both a celebration and a call to action.
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After multiple security checks – it is 2016 after all –  I entered through the White House to the music of several inspiring – and rocking – bands including Black Alley and Gallant.
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The celebration continued onto the South Lawn where the crown of 2,000 was joined life-size Lego figures.

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In a tribute to what is possible, sustainably produced food was served.

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And in recognition of what is possible,  a giant wall of post-its invited people to contribute their future actions.

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Interactive booths invited attendees to explore Yosemite with President Obama through virtual reality, to create light-up pins in the spirit of the maker movement, to discover robotics with Sphero, and more.
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 By mid-afternoon, a series of panels addressed explored how leaders in art, technology, food, innovation, and social change are helping to move the country forward.
As I sit down to learn about how we can feed the future, the rapper Common took the stage.  He delivered a powerful message about the incarceration of black men in the United States – it’s magnitude and it’s negative impact on America society.

The panel about how we will feed ourselves sustainably in the coming decades included Will Allen and Caleb Harper.  Will Allen of Growing Power has been working for social justice through urban agriculture for four decades.  Caleb Harper of the OpenAG initiative at the MIT Media Lab is pushing the boundaries of modern agriculture with the use of open-source data.  The message was one of serious challenges mixed with an optimism that we have the power to address these challenges.  And I had the chance to talk with Will Allen, who had just been to Maine for the Common Ground Country Fair.

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The celebration and call to action continued into the evening.

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The  Lumineers took to the main stage followed by Leonardo DiCapro, President Obama, and Dr Katherine Hayhoe, who discussed importance of protecting the one planet we’ve got for future generations.   The evening concluded with a preview of DiCaprio’s new climate documentary film Before the Flood.  
It was an incredible day that touched both my head and my heart with positive innovation taking place and moving into the future.
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Reflections on Not Returning to School

At the end of the 2014-15 school year I left my twenty year “gig” teaching high school science full-time.  I wanted to step out and focus on my work helping teachers and pushing forward best practices for the use of technology in the classroom.

It has been an amazing 15 months.

I haven’t completely left the classroom as I continue to teach sustainable food systems and chemistry as an adjunct faculty member at Kennebec Valley Community College.  In case you missed the news, amazing things are happening at community colleges which provide post-secondary educational opportunities that are often more affordable, more agile, and more connected to the workplace.

And I continue to work with student interns as the Lead Academic Advisor for a Sustainable Year-Round Agriculture project.

But much of my time is now spent training teachers across the country on the use of Apple technology and on the immersive virtual reality of zSpace.

 

Travel has filled my soul as well as my camera roll.

My New Classroom: Travel has filled my soul as well as my camera roll.

I have presented in Italy, Mexico, Austin, Boston, Denver, and at home in Maine.  My presentations have allowed me to share my love of science and creativity through such topics as robotics and coding, creating special effects, making sound visible, fostering empathy in the classroom, and using mobile devices as portable makerspaces.  I have more presentations scheduled in upcoming year with a focus on bringing science and its cousins (STEM, STEAM, and STREAM) to digitally active classrooms at all grade levels.

The latest addition to my consulting world is my appointment, along with fellow independent educational consultant Audrey O’Clair (@audreyoclair),  as an EdSurge fellow.  It is an honor to work with EdSurge connecting teachers, administrators, and others interested in education and technology with information that allows us all to move forward in service to students.

So I am not sitting in the traditional back-to-school faculty meetings, setting up my classroom, or attending Open House nights.  But with September comes the promise of new beginnings and exciting new experiences in learning.

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Moving Beyond STEM

Over the past few years, there has been movement to transform science education into STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) education.

At iPadpalooza and ISTE this June, I noticed, with great delight, an increased emphasis on the importance art and creativity in learning.  I have brought art including creativity, design, music, and visual art into my science teaching.

 

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So I have been thinking about STEM and its role in education. The STEM movement has at its core the identified need for more workers in these fields and the importance of education, including early education, to provide training and interest.

What got me interested in STEM was the integration of curriculum across content areas. And once I got started with cross-curriculum integration, it was hard to stop. I have moved beyond STEM to STEAM (science-technology-engineering-ART-math) and STREAM (science-technology-READING-engineering-ART-math) and STHEAM (science-technology-HUMANITIES-engineering-ART-math).

I think cross-curriculum integration can engage all learners while meeting their unique needs and interests.  It also prepares all learners to be citizens of the future where the real world is not kept in discrete content areas.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

willcottjulie@gmail.com

@willcottjulie

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What should learning look like in a technology-rich world?

 

 

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As the best education prepares students for the world beyond the classroom, this question should be the starting point for decisions on incorporating technology in the classroom.

 

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Learning in today’s world should be based on clear specific learning objectives (the teachers role) and on  asking questions (the students role).  With this model, the teacher brings wisdom and the student develops understanding.

Good questions cross content areas and so should good teaching.

IMG_1130Learning should be collaborative as problem solving requires working together, whether we are teachers or learners.

Learning should incorporate those aspects of technology which are most important in the “real world” – ready access to huge amounts of information, visual and audio content, mobility, and sharing.

The ready access to huge amounts of information should certainly not be confused with knowledge or understanding.  Through education, students should be learning how to analyze, i.e. make sense, of the information so readily available to them through the Internet. Students will thus develop a skill that will be absolutely necessary in the world beyond the classroom.

Information and analysis in today’s world is no longer limited to words or numbers or even well-drawn graphs.  It is possible, and even easy, to capture high-quality still images, videos, and sound bytes.  With this rich content, students can create a wealth of digital content including graphics, movies, books, courses, and apps.  Creation is another skill that be important in the world beyond the classroom.

Computers are no longer limited to devices which sit on a desktop.    Powerful computing devices are now mobile.  This mobility of devices allows learning to take place anywhere and anytime.  Learning will move out of the classroom walls and into the broader community where  students will live out the future lives we are preparing them for.

Human knowledge has only advanced when information has been shared.  If digital content is created and not shared, does it exist?

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The Beauty of Circles as expressed with Circuits

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Copper tape, along with batteries and LEDs, can be used to incorporate electricity into writing.  For me, this illustrates the potential of integrated learning, learning that crosses the boundaries of curriculum.

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Here is an example of my recent writing using these tools.

 

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The beauty of circles is that they have no end,

that they are immortal.

Recently I have been observing

the circles in my life,

circles spanning over decades,

circles in travel,

circles in agriculture,

& circles in chemistry.

 

What are the lessons in this for the classroom?

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It takes time to learn from

our experience – life experience,

certainly, but also classroom experiences.

The beauty of life & learning &

experiences is that they will circle back around.

They will be there when we need them and when

we are ready for them.

 

We never know exactly when the lessons we prepare will circle back around and connect.

 

With connection there is illumination – in electricity and in life and, certainly, in the classroom.

 

 

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