Sunday, June 19, 2016

Can We Please Get In Sync #KidsDeserveIt

I think we need an Education Drill Team - let me explain.

The more I read, the more I watch, the more I hear from other educators around the country and world - the more I realize we're all kind of on different pages. We may be reading the same book, or even the same series, but we're really not in sync as an education community.

Some districts focus on these initiatives, some focus on others - some have 1:1 in their schools, some technology/innovation isn't even talked about - some have implemented amazing strategies/programs for writing and reading, some haven't at all.

Can we please get in sync! Maybe forming an Education Drill Team would help?

Look at those guys - 

- they're on the same page
- they trust each other
- understand where each other is going next
- they're focused - like super focused
- they have a mission
- they're in sync
- they have a vision
- they practice together endlessly
- they're constantly tweaking and refining and sharpening and communicating and doing what's best for their team

Maybe just the mindset of a drill team would help the educational community - to do what's best for ALL our kids, no matter where they live or what school they attend. 

The gif above is 'game time' for the silent drill team. They've practiced together endlessly and their mission has been drilled into their psyche so there's no confusion on what they need to do. There's no politics getting in the way - budgets that they don't have - training that hasn't been completed - materials that couldn't be purchased - they're ready to go!

We need an Education Drill Team!

A group that studies what's relevant in our world, practices and practices and practices so we can get in sync like the team above, analyzes what's really beneficial for kids - not what you did in school twenty years ago - but what's really beneficial for kids, asks the right questions without worrying about getting the alien look for their idea.

A team like this needs trust which has to be built over time, to 100% make the right decisions which will positively impact kids, schools and districts.

I really hope we can get in sync, so ALL kids can experience what's best for them!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Shoe Dog #edchat #savmp #principalsinaction

Education books have never really appealed to me, business and military books are genres I've always really been drawn to more. Shoe Dog by Phil Night who is the founder of Nike is an absolutely awesome read for educators. 

Learn how Phil night innovated his company, innovated an entire industry, came from behind and built a huge company, had so much grit throughout the early days of Nike as you read you're not really sure if he's going to make it.

A few of my favorite takeaways......

"Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results."

How true is this for education. Tell kids where you want them to go, but don't tell them how to build the road, see what they come up with.

"This is - the moment. This is the moment we've been waiting for. Our moment."

Basically everyday in education - don't waste a moment for kids, you never know when/where you'll connect with a kid to inspire them!

"Fear of failure, I know, will never be our downfall as a company. Not that any of us thought we wouldn't fail; in fact we had ever expectation that we would. But when we did fail, we had faith that we'd do it fast, learn form it, and be better for it."

Mindset over all else, show kids and teachers it's totally ok and encouraged to fail. If you're not failing you're too comfortable and comfort never made anyone famous!

"No other shoe company was trying new things, so our efforts, successful or not, were seen as noble. All innovation was hailed as progressive, forward-thinking. Just as failure didn't deter us, it didn't seem to diminish the loyalty of our customers."

Innovate innovate innovate. Try new ideas, push the envelope, lead from the front, you make some mistakes and get in trouble but kids will benefit at the end of each day!

Lebron James to Phil Night - "Thanks for taking a chance on me!" 

Sometimes you just need to believe, go out on a limb and double down. Believe in kids, believe in teachers, believe in yourself!

Check out Shoe Dog by Phil Night, you'll be motivated for sure!

My Friends Don't Know #KidsDeserveIt #tlap #edchat #leadupchat

Seeing a 12-year old sing her heart out while playing the ukulele is awesome, especially when she has a voice that could be measured in pure inspiration instead of decibels.  What really struck us about the video below is what she said before playing for the judges:

"Most of my friends don't even know I sing."

Crank up your speakers and check this short video out!

How many kids in our schools have talents that we as educators don't even know about? That their friends don't know about?! We should be in the business of helping to make our students famous for their contributions to the world, but first we need to know about them.

I (Brad) have always believed that our classrooms could have the next Mia Hamm, Steve Jobs, Pablo Picasso, or J. K. Rowling sitting inside them right now.  At this very minute.  Think about it...the next worksheet we pass out could be going to the next Albert Einstein.  In other words, we just might be assigning some form of rote learning or other misaligned work to students who are capable of devising new ways to prove the Pythagorean Einstein (true story).

Will we rob the world of the next philanthropist, artist, or engineer in our unyielding pursuit to “educate” kids?  Will we all miss out on our children’s brilliance because we fail to ask our students what matters to them?  How many missed opportunities have there been for kids because their passion and talents are hibernating inside of them without anyone aware of the sleeping bear inside!

This raises some very important questions:
  • How will we know?
  • How will their friends know?
  • What is the world counting on us to discover about our students?
  • What’s YOUR talent or passion?

We (Brad and Adam) are ready to expose a couple talents that some of our own friends don’t even know about.  If our passions surprise you...imagine the true talent that our students possess.  Our goal in sharing this story is to shift the message in our classrooms from, “My friends don’t know…” to “My teacher noticed…”

I (Adam) have always loved cooking and baking. In middle school I made every single cake in the Betty Crocker cookbook and would have all my friends and family taste test for me. We kept detailed notes on taste and texture and would always try to improve each time with a new cake.

Fast-forward twenty years, and the kitchen in our house is definitely my domain. When my wife and I went to the open house for the home that we now own, I actually sat down in the kitchen for twenty minutes and pictured myself cooking and baking for our family. Culinary discovery has been such a passion of mine for so long it’s something I hope carries over to my own children, and something I need to let me friends and students know about also!

I (Brad) have always loved woodworking.  When I was in elementary school my dad taught me how to use all of his power tools.  He even let me try to construct wooden replicas for pieces of furniture that had been broken around the house.  He was a mentor and encourager who really encouraged my passion to create.  

Fast-forward to today, and when I’m building in the woodshop there is something special about the smell of fresh cut sawdust and my favorite song blaring on the radio that gets me everytime.  My latest projects include building a custom dollhouse for each of my three kids.  My two girls requested multi-storied dollhouses that stand taller than they do.  My son decided he needed a “G.I. Joe” army-themed dollhouse base with a working jail, helipad, bunkhouse, and latrine.  

These are a couple of the passions we have.  Tell your friends something special about you - show your colleagues and school some vulnerability and they will reciprocate.  Most importantly, relentlessly pursue your kids’ hidden passions.  Protect, nurture, and celebrate your students’ strengths.  The world will be glad you did...and their friends will know.

Innovate Your Organization - Ask Your People #KidsDeserveIt

Innovation is pretty simple - think about your organization differently, look down the road to where you want to go, look at a problem that currently exists and find a hack to simplify and make things easier or more streamlined. There's more to it than that, but it's really that simple to get started with your mindset.

The video below came through my YouTube yesterday and I also had to check out the link - a few things struck me about the message.

1. A Lieutenant General was featured in the video, which means someone with lots of power and reach still feels innovation is important! Talk with your leaders and start an Innovation Challenge in your district, you never know what hack or great idea will be born!

2. Asking your 'people' for ideas is powerful, they're in the trenches (classrooms, cafeterias, busses, offices) and interact with their jobs on a very intimate level. Three years ago I rode our school bus for the first time and had really great in depth conversations with our driver. That conversation and some follow up, allowed us to innovate some parts of the route she drove. Get on the ground floor with your people and ask their input - even challenge them to think differently like the USMC.

3. I love the challenge, the footage of Lieutenant General in action and a deadline of July 1st. When you hand people a timeline along with some marching orders and a great visual of them in different settings, it puts them to work and gets their ideas flowing. You're telling them what they think is important and then you actually listen!

4. Just simply asking people for their ideas and input is awesome. It helps them to be heard, think about their day and how it can be improved!

5. Ask your people and innovate your organization - Google has been doing it for years and they're doing pretty well!

I want every teacher to be a leader in innovation!

Who's next? What's next? What do you need? Let's do this!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Code With Kids and See What Happens - written with Karly Moura!

Just a few weeks ago Adam was talking with some Principals and one commented -

“I’m surprised people are still talking about coding. Do you think it’s here to stay? Most of the kids at my school won’t be programmers or work for a tech company.”

“Gasp!” from  Adam -

Why teach coding with kids?

Image created by Sylvia Duckworth based on the work by Brian Aspinall

It’s really everywhere!

Supermodels - President Obama - Kindergarten students and even NBA stars. Coding has been around for years and within the last few has become much more mainstream with awareness about the possibilities for jobs and creating cool things really at the forefront of the conversation.

We both talk with lots of teachers on a daily basis from all over the country and the amount of coding going on is actually really low. Many teachers participated in #hourofcode or have done some type of ‘extra’ coding lesson and it kind of ends there. We believe coding is the new foreign language and kids need as much exposure as possible.

Kevin Honey (Middle School Principal) has a coding class for all 6th graders at his school, way to go beyond just #hourofcode - how about #yearofcode!

Coding Unwrapped:
  1. Coding is fun, but that doesn’t mean it should be relegated to one hour a year in school.  Fun can be leveraged and channeled.  Fun can often be a signal that something is relevant to students.
  2. Coding taps into a different level of thinking.  This mindset, if properly nurtured, can transcend spelling, math, language arts, and PE.  When kids have real actual practice with algorithms, cause-and-effect, and problem-solving they are more inclined to apply these skills throughout the day.  Coding cultivates this mindset!
  3. Coding is a language of it’s own. "Coding is the new literacy.” Students who learn to read and write code are actually learning a new language. Programming is a universal language and knowing it helps prepare students for jobs that don’t even exist yet!

Coding Isn’t -

  1. Coding isn’t some amazingly complex program that only a coding expert can understand. The adult that’s facilitating the coding experience for kids at your school doesn’t even need to know how to code! Five years ago coding was a much harder experience to create for kids. With and other resources, block coding is an excellent place to start, especially with Elementary students - check it out!
  2. Coding isn’t some fad that’s here for now and will fade away. Code has been in our lives for years, and thankfully has now been mainstreamed so everyone can have access and learn. From the cars we drive, our mobile phones, refrigerators and even tractors - they all run with code and the number of jobs in our marketplace for people who can write that code is staggering!

If you’re still unsure about the benefits of teaching coding, perhaps the kids themselves can convince you. Students at Karly’s school, Sun Terrace Elementary, program all year long and they know how important it is to learn programming. We asked them to tell us why it’s crucial to know and they gave us terrific reasons why kids think kids should learn to code!

  1. “You will have a lot more options in college and in your career.” Elijah 5th Grader
  2. “It helps you learn step by step and figure stuff out.” Jenna 5th Grader
  3. “It makes your dreams come true! If you dream it, you can make it by coding” Robert 3rd Grader
  4. “Everyone should learn how to code!” Jonathan 3rd Grader
  5. “Because it’s fun!” Alejandra 3rd Grader

Getting Started With Coding in Your Classroom

Most of us are new(er) to coding and most likely have students who are brand new as well. Luckily there are a lot of resources out there to support those of us who are just getting our feet wet in the world of computer science.

Online Resources:

HyperDocs: Coding lessons and activities created by educators. Go to “file” and make a copy to save it to your Google drive to remix or assign as is to your students.

Computer Science Clubs/Programs:
  • Google's CS First (Computer Science First) a FREE program that increases students' access to  computer science.

Going Deeper Than Drag and Drop

Coding is more than just drag and drop. It's important for students to understand that visual programming, like blockly, is the beginning and that text based code like, Javascript, is next step. Check out "Why does use Blockly, a visual programming language, for its intro to Computer Science course?" which gives a MUCH better explanation for why we should begin with blockly coding. If you or your students are ready to take the plunge into text-based languages there are many resources out there for you to get started.

Khan Academy has an Hour of Drawing with Code that teaches drawing using JavaScript and ProcessingJS. Check out the intro video to learn more.

If you're a novice yourself but looking for a resource that will take you and your students farther into the world of computer science check out A curriculum that allows you and your students to learn python at your own pace. It is completely free and you can start setting up your classroom by logging in using your Google account! Check out this article New EdTech Resource. Pythonroom: Help All Students Become Coding Literate to learn more.

Taking Coding Above and Beyond!

Robots are cool. Drones are awesome. What better way to take coding to the next level than to code a robot to drive or roll or to program a drone to fly? These amazing tech tools give kids an incredibly engaging and fun experience as they are learning to code. Watching students draw a track then reason logically through the steps as they write the code to get their robot to drive on it it is one of the coolest things we have seen!

Dash from Wonder Workshop is an adorable little robot that can be programmed using 5 different apps available on IOS and Android! The various apps make it possible for students from pre-k+ to begin programming a robot. Dash starts at $149.99 and will need an app compatible device to be used with it.

Students in the STEM Lab at Karly’s school use programming every day! Combining coding robots with geometry gives students hands-on experience with angles and shapes. Check out this kiddo coding Dash to make a right triangle.

SPHERO makes an app enabled, you guessed it, sphere shaped robots (although Ollie is more cylinder shaped) that work with both IOS and Android. There are a few different kinds to choose from including the new Star Wars robot BB-8! Also check out the SPRK edition made to be used in an education setting to give students a "crash course" in programming with this awesome robot.

The New Yorker magazine even had an article last week about Sphero’s, check it out here!

Parrot Drones come highly recommended from those on Twitter (like Brian Briggs) who have been using them in education. Need ideas for using Drones to teach? Check out 7 Ways to Use Drones in the Classroom by Edutopia and join the Drones for Schools G+ community.

Have more resources? Please share them in the comments below!

Happy coding everyone!