Smart List: 20 Music & Art Resources

We’ve greatly enjoyed spending November looking at topics such as how PBL unleashes creativity, how creativity is inextricably linked to critical thinking, why makerspaces can be valuable additions to a classroom or school, ways to encourage design thinking, and districts that are doing a good job of integrating and expanding access to arts programming in their curriculum.

To end the month on a strong note, we wanted to share out 20 music and art resources that can be useful for a continued expansion of your students’ creativity.

Music Resources

Art Resources

We’re sure we missed some great resources. Which would you add? Share in the comments section below, and don’t forget to check out our other recent Smart Lists at our Smart List Series Page.

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Growing Talent for the 4th Industrial Revolution

How to prepare for the automation economy? The ASEAN+3 countries (southeast Asian plus China, Japan, South Korea) recently hosted a conference in Seoul in partnership with World Bank and the Korean government to answer that question.

The focus was the 4th Industrial Revolution (#4IR). If you forgot what the first three where, here’s a handy ‘splainer from Deloitte:

Harry Patrinos (@hpatrinos) leads the education practice at the World Bank for East Asia and the Pacific and acted as co-host. In his opening comments he reinforced the returns to learning for individuals and countries. He noted that automating is shifting returns to non-routine jobs requiring analytical and social skills.

Create an Innovation Agenda

Shinchul Jang, Presidential Job Committee of Korea, described an environment of slowing growth, widening income gaps, and high youth unemployment. “We are at a turning point,” said Jang. He described the need for a shared vision of an inclusive economy centered on jobs.

Partinos added a hard earned lesson that any workforce development effort must be built on a solid foundation of strong basic skills starting with early reading.

So Young Kim, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, urged a focus on science, technology and creativity in education.

Make SEL Central in Learner-Centered Environments

Pablo Ariel Acosta, a World Bank Economist in the Philippines shared an employed and employer survey which suggested that leadership skills, work, ethic, interpersonal and communications skills are the hardest to find–all ranked higher than technical or job-specific skills. He recommends incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) into K-12 and job training objectives.

Diosdado San Antonio, Department of Education in the Philippines, described their updated K-12 approach as learner centered, competency based, culturally responsive, flexible ICT-based and global.

San Antonio summarized 21st century skills as information, media and technology skills; communication skills; learning and innovation skills; life and career skills. He shared a well developed drill down on each and said country wide professional development is supporting the incorporation of these skills into their outcome framework.

Yoonsee Park, Korea Development Institute, said SEL is very important to employment. Because their is no SEL exam there is more room for teachers to innovate. He’d like to see students exposed to more group projects to build communication and SEL skills.

Refocus HigherEd and Vocational Training

Muchtar Azis from the Ministry of Manpower in Indonesia described the process for setting

National Competency Standards and creating competency-based training programs with the goal of “Revitalizing, reorienting and rebranding vocational training.” He’d like to expand access to high quality youth apprenticeships.

In Singapore, the Minister of Skills now oversees the universities explained Lim Lai Cheng, who directs Singapore Management University. It has created an “uncomfortable tension” for university leaders who don’t want to get involved in workforce development. The move is part of a “systematic engineering of the education ecology” to better align with 4IR opportunities. She said the shift was a challenge in Singapore but anticipates it being a “Huge task for big countries like China and Malaysia.”

Jung-Woo Kim, HRD Korea, contrasted the country’s high college going rates with its low adult access to postsecondary learning. He sees the shift to a “Competency-based society with lifelong access to job training.”

Tan Sri Dr. Noorul Ainur, Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia (@NoorulAinur), described their effort to redesign HigherEd including:

  • 2u2i: a technical training pathway including two years of university plus two years of industry apprenticeship
  • CEO Faculty: 68 corporate CEOs lecture at 20 universities
  • Integrated Cumulative Grade Point Average incorporates SEL
  • Expanded use of MOOCs with learner supports and certifications
  • Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

Only 22% of the labor force in Vietnam has diplomas or certificates said Tran Thi Thai Ha from the Ministry of Education and Training. In addition to a focus on early childhood and elementary education, the ministry is taking steps to improve the quality of HigherEd and vocational training.

Patrinos recommends giving opportunities to workers to invest in relevant skills for the labor market that make them benefit from, and remain immune to, automation; and use evidence from labor market returns to education to implement financial innovations and use future earnings to finance higher education.

Create Public Private Partnerships

Diosdado San Antonio believes strong private sector partnerships can improve basic education. He sees partnership development as a core competency for superintendents and principals

San Antonio added that adequate national funding is key to equitable postsecondary access and that HigherEd industry partnerships are key to quality and alignment with job clusters.

Tran Thi Thai Ha said public-private partnerships are important in Vietnam. She seeks additional partners for funding new initiatives and building a stronger safety net.

Patrinos concluded that public-private partnerships are critical as countries upskill and reskill the workforce. “It’s a multi-sector, multi-ministry effort,” added Patrinos. He underscored the importance of expanding access to youth internships and apprenticeships in emerging job clusters and added that funding is the key.

World Bank President Jim Kim recently introduced the Human Capital Project (#InvestInPeople), a new effort to understand the link between investing in people and economic growth, and to accelerate financing for human capital investments.

Michael Staton, Learn Capital, described the role venture backed startups play in industry preparation including career accelerators, coding bootcamps, VR and simulations, skill verification, and job placement.

Learning Ecosystems

As we outlined in Smart Cities, my advice to the ASEAN+3 delegations was to update their graduate profile and support the development of innovative learning ecosystems with:

  • Breakthrough models: Support for new secondary and postsecondary models (like regional NGLC funds in the US, see blog/podcast)
  • Scaling networks: Because new learning models and 4IR job training is complex, encourage schools and colleges to work together in networks. Dr. Caroline Wagner, OSU, added encouragement for open sharing and quality improvement cycles.
  • Incubation: Provide initial support for teams developing new tools and new learning models. Not every region will become an EdTech hotspot, but every region needs to provide a rung or two on the ladder that will allow innovators to access international funding sources.
  • A vision of powerful learning: Ministries of education should share vivid in country examples of what the future looks like and how local teams achieved their success.

With all of the talk about Industry 4.0, Patrinos thinks it’s time for Education 4.0–a step beyond the early models of personalized learning to systems of lifelong learning driven by autonomy and purpose.

For more see


Ask About AI: The Future of Learning and Work

Authored by: Tom Vander Ark

Download the Paper

Code that learns may prove to be the most important invention in human history. But in 2016, there was almost no discussion of the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) in K-12 education—either the immense implications for the employment landscape or the exciting potential to improve learning.

We spent two years studying the implications of AI and concluded that machine intelligence turbocharged by big data and enabling technologies like robotics is the most significant change force facing humanity. Given enormous benefits and challenges we’re just beginning to understand, we believe it is an important time to Ask About AI (#AskAboutAI).

Through our campaign, we hosted convenings around the country to investigate the civic, social and educational implications of exponential technology. Sponsored by eduInnovation and powered by Getting Smart, this campaign was organized to investigate the implications that AI will have for employment, education and ethics—to start a conversation about how we can shape a future that works for everyone.

The #AskAboutAI campaigned took on three objectives:

  1. Employment: Describe future labor-market impacts and required competencies
  2. Ethics: Identify the social and civic implications of exponential technology, particularly the emerging issues that educators, parents and policymakers should begin addressing now
  3. Education: Advise educators, parents and policymakers on knowledge, skills and dispositions likely to be important in the automation economy. Illustrate new pathways to contribution.

After interviewing experts, hosting a dozen community conversations, and posting more than 50 articles we’re summarizing what we’ve learned in a new paper Ask About AI: The Future of Learning and Work.

The paper explores what’s happening in the automation economy, the civic and social implications, and how to prepare ourselves and our children for exponential change.

With this launch we’re also launching a new microsite on Future of Work. It includes a multitude of resources—blog posts, articles, podcasts, reports and videos. The full list of resources is a 101 course on the automation economy that will help you update your classroom or launch a community conversation.

While #AskAboutAI was the first installment of our Future of Work campaign, we will continue to investigate the development and preparation of students for the future of work and lifelong learning. Stay tuned for partnership announcements and updated resources.

Download the Publication


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Carnegie Learning Partners with OpenStax for Affordable HigherEd Math

The cost to attend college continues to rise, and doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon. Despite the astronomically high statistics showing that students cannot afford soaring tuition rates (or the hefty loans they usually need to take out to cover them), attending college still is in many ways viewed as a gatekeeper.

Beyond affording tuition, students also have to spend on devices, materials and textbooks. On average, students spend around $1,200 annually on textbooks alone (and costs are far higher at for-profit institutions).

“College textbook prices are 812 percent higher than they were a little more than three decades ago,” the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank, reports. “Textbook costs have well outpaced the 559 percent increase in tuition and fees over roughly the same period.”

In addition to the cost of college, many incoming and current students are still in need of remedial math courses. As a result, a disproportionate number of college students end up taking remedial math courses — essentially repeating high school coursework before they even get to take new classes or begin their working towards their majors.

While finding a balance between Higher Ed costs and quality mathematics education may seem like an impossible task, there are some solutions that can help students who are facing these challenges.

Carnegie Learning is seeking to alleviate both of these issues by partnering with OpenStax to offer a powerful, low-cost blended learning solution for college students. Carnegie Learning is a mathematics education company focused on delivering better mathematics learning to all teachers and students. The partnership will combine Mika, Carnegie Learning’s adaptive 1-to-1 math coaching platform, with OpenStax textbooks into a single, affordable learning solution for developmental math.

“We’re here to change the status quo in math education,” said Barry Malkin, CEO of Carnegie Learning.

“This partnership offers the best of two worlds for a fraction of the cost. Every year, roughly $7 billion is spent on remedial education in the U.S., but the average success rate for remedial math courses is only 33%. We have to do better for our students at a price point they can afford,” Malkin shared.

The full press release of the announcement can be viewed here.

For more, see:


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Holiday Gift Ideas for Teachers and Classrooms

Does this sound familiar? Your children have some phenomenal teachers and you’d like to recognize them this holiday season, but you’re not sure what to give. You’ve gotten Starbucks gift cards in the past (and let’s face it, who doesn’t love a Starbucks gift card?), but you want to take it up a notch this year. What should you get? A great place to start is to ask your child’s teacher what they might need or want for their classroom. This is not only a way to personalize the gift, it also shows your interest in the classroom and the teacher. To help you out, we have also checked with some of our teacher colleagues and friends and compiled this list of innovative gifts. Use this as a conversation starter with your favorite teacher, or consider surprising them with an item below!

Art:

  • Flair Pens
  • Sharpies in several different colors
  • Flat griddle
  • Fun paper
  • Markers
  • Coloring books (especially for middle and high school, a good mandala coloring book can be great for stress relief, anxiety relief etc.)
  • Subscription to Scholastic Art Magazine

Flexible Seating:

  • Flexible seating arrangements allows the teacher to shift to an active learning environment. Check with your teacher first to see if flexible seating is feasible within the classroom, if so consider Hokki stools as way to start building this environment.

Maker:

  • Makerspace materials and supplies: You can purchase a pre-assembled maker kit but you can also get creative and make your own. This would be a great activity for your child to help with.
  • Small portable camera or device that can take photos and send via wifi so students can photograph/film and share their work.
  • Wikki Stix
  • PlayDough
  • Webby Loops book + 6-8 Loops (buy @ REI for $6-8 a loop). Awesome team building for just about any age and it will never be outdated. Easily made into a kit – just throw it all in a tub.

Sensory:

  • Qball. A portable, throwable, microphone. Perfect for jumpstarting and amplifying classroom discussions.
  • Oregon Scientific SmartGlobe Explorer – Augment Reality. This globe comes to life through an AR app on a smart device and it opens revealing the earth’s inner core, among other things.
  • Therapeutic toys are great – think kinetic sand kits, stress balls and essential oils.
  • Osmo Genius Kit. An iPhone or iPad transforms into a hands-on learning tool through the use of tangible games.

STEM:

  • Dash and Dot. These little robots pack a powerful punch and allow students to learn how to code while also learning the basics of applied robotics.
  • Board games and manipulative toys.
  • Science toys. There are a plethora of options available that can be placed on desks which encourages students to play and explore.
  • HTC VIVE. One teacher explained that this Virtual Reality (VR) headset “would be really cool to augment my ELA lesson plans, especially with writing. Students could “experience” certain activities and then write about the “experience.” Furthermore, students could tour settings of literature before diving into the text.” If you are considering a VR device the HTC VIVE isn’t the only device in town, Google Cardboard provide VR at a lower price point.

General Gifts:

  • Rocketbook Everlast Notebook. This digital notebook looks and feels like a traditional notebook with a modern twist. It’s reusable and connects to cloud-based services such as Google Drive, OneNote, EverNote, and Dropbox. Perfect for teachers, or an entire class.
  • Revisit the classroom supply list from the beginning of the year to see if your teacher is running low on the essentials (Hand sanitizer, tissues, etc). These items are always appreciated.
  • Volunteer. Sometimes what educators need most is time and help with preparing different projects, supplies and events!
  • National Geographic or National Geographic Kids Subscription.
  • Check to see if your teacher has a project featured on DonorsChoose.org, and if they do considering donating.
  • Stickers. I know what you’re thinking, but ALL kids love stickers
  • Gift cards. Teachers really do appreciate them. Beyond food gift cards think of iTunes and Google Play which would also allow apps to be purchased. You could also ask the teacher which app they would like for the classroom and see if the app lets you purchase a subscription on their behalf.

We hope this list gives you a few ideas on how can bring holiday cheer to your favorite teacher. While these gifts are certainly great, and will no doubt be appreciated, sometimes it is the simple things during the holidays that mean the most. A thank you card from your family would likely mean as much, if not more, than any of these items. If you need additional ideas be sure to come back, as we’ll be publishing gift giving guides throughout the month!

For more, see:


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Transforming High Schools: 8 Strategies for EdLeaders

After a discussion around the #FutureofLearning, a district leader responsible for a group of big urban high schools asked, “Where to start?”

Transforming urban high schools is enormously challenging. We’ve been involved with about 800 improvement attempts over the last 20 years. We’ve observed that the most successful efforts start with community conversations about the goals of a high school education. Here’s 8 strategies for EdLeaders:

Aims: start with a community conversation about what grads should know.

This year we did a lap around the country hosting community conversations about the future of work (see our #AskAboutAI series). We ask three simple questions: What’s happening? What does it mean? How to prepare?

Conversations like these are a great way to boost community learning about the rapidly changing world of work and it informs deliberations about what graduates should know and be able to do.

Be intentional about soliciting stakeholder participation. Like Marion City Schools, have the chamber of commerce or local EdFund co-host meetings. Engage business, nonprofit and social service partners. Hold meetings at schools; feed people and have students perform to boost attendance.

Profile of a Graduate is a great resource from EdLeader21, now part of Battelle for kids (listen to a podcast with Ken Kay) and MyWays from NGLC is a great new framework (see a comparison of outcome frameworks).

LX: build a shared vision of learner experience.

Visit as many schools as possible–it’s the best form of professional learning. The faculty at Singapore American School faculty visited 100 schools and shared their learnings in professional learning communities. About 300 people from Kansa City Missouri have visited schools in a dozen cities around the country (#KCGreatSchools).

Ask your team to study new school models. Check out our list of schools worth visiting, read NGLC profiles, QX profiles, NewSchools profiles, and Springpoint profiles.

Build your own stump speech about powerful learning. Pepper it with vivid pictures of great teachers and local learners. Paint the picture of student-centered learning: personalized, competency-based, anytime anywhere, with students driving their own learning. Include stories of learners going deep on passion projects and developing public products and community contributions.

Use your blog and social media to highlight local and national examples of powerful learning. For example, check out David Haglund on Twitter (@hagdogusc) and Randy Ziegenfuss on Facebook.

Advisory: the core of secondary learning.

One critical (we’d argue non-negotiable) element of secondary transformation is a strong advisory system–a distributed guidance and counseling system that includes a sustained relationship with an advisor. Core roles of an advisory include academic monitoring, college and career awareness, culture building and social emotional learning.

Give schools some implementation flexibility, access to content and tools, and lots of professional development.

Triggers: look for change opportunities.

Every change takes energy and often political capital. Look for triggers that will dislodge business as usual–building or remodeling a school, a change in the budget, new state policy, curriculum adoption cycle–and use it to create forward momentum.

Look for symbolic acts that will illustrate the path forward–your next hire, your next visit, your next project.

Edges: work from the outside in.

Starting from the edges and areas of non-consumption (as Christensen suggests), the Singapore American School added a weekly genius hour, a makerspace that could be used before/after school and during breaks, and replaced some AP courses with self directed research projects.

Innovating in credit recovery and alternative education are two common edge strategies. If you have a struggling alternative high school, ask an innovative teacher leader to update the format.

Another edge case is struggling schools. Working with proven school models is a reliable turnaround strategy (see the story of Oso New Tech in El Paso).

New schools: go fast, start small.

Using any available triggers and working from the edges, start as many new schools as possible. As in Kettle Moraine, they could be microschools (learn more and see 13 ideas for leveraging local assets with microschools) or small academies at existing schools (like the 8 New Tech schools in El Paso).

Look for local, regional, and national support for new schools. Based on likely support, ask teacher leaders for new school proposals. Like Denver, you could incubate and authorize innovative new school networks (listen to this podcast for more).

Networks: work together in PLCs and school networks.

Encouraging teachers to study student work and to work together in professional learning communities can promote collaboration and deeper learning.

Encouraging schools to work in vertical networks (e.g., STEM feeder pattern) or like minded school networks can leverage the challenging work of developing a learning model and supporting it with tools and professional learning experiences.

ConnectEd developed and shared the Linked Learning model with districts nationwide. NAF supports more than 600 career academies nationwide. More than 100 school districts partner with New Tech Network to develop integrated team-taught project-based schools.

Invite schools to grow into a framework.

Steve Shultz initiated a thoughtful transformation in Colorado School District 51 in Grand Junction. Like Singapore American School, the D51 transformation began with school visits. Schultz, who worked in the district for 35 years, said about their ambitious agenda, “We can’t force this on people.” Instead, he created a learning culture and built leadership capacity.

Schultz facilitated the developed a framework (a detailed vision, grad profile, design principles, and school and district roles) and invited schools to grow into that framework. Seven of the 44 schools agreed to make the transition first and serve as demonstration sites. Rather than rolling out a preset implementation, they have built a performance-based framework and have encouraged and supported the growth of their educator.

In short, facilitate a shared vision (aims and LX), build core components (advisory), work from the edges and take advantage of opportunities, start some small schools, and invite school communities to grow into a next gen framework.

This work can seem really complicated but Roger Cook, superintendent of Taylor County Schools in Kentucky, said “it’s as simple as caring about kids and helping educators do whatever is necessary to help them succeed. No zeros. No failures. No dropouts. No excuses.”

For more see


Building Student Ownership Through Community Mapping

It was a warm day in Hong Kong. Summer had hung on a little later this year, creating the perfect opportunity for students to be outdoors.

We were at Stanley Plaza, a historic fishing village and trading port that had since been modernized. There was a boardwalk, a collection of small shops, and an imposing mall set against the backdrop of the vast South China Sea.

Armed with shorts, sunscreen, a clipboard and cell phones, students were given a simple task: Create a map of the region highlighting the balance of recent modernization with the natural landscape.

They were huddled in a circle around their teacher: “Ok guys, remember your focus.” She paused to ensure she had their full attention.

“Link, who manages this area has asked us to create an interactive map of sites and places to visit. Your map will be featured on their interactive, public app that has well over a thousand users.”

Community Mapping

What if we engaged students in the community around real problems, with real outcomes? What if they partnered with organizations who benefited from their insight?

This represented the impetus for the shared community mapping activity started by the Jane Goodall Institute over three years ago. Like most good initiatives, it started with a simple vision: better connect students with the communities where they live. Since then, their initiative has grown into an enormous global project, gaining sponsorship from Google, Disney Kids and LinkReit.

Locally (for me), Disney Hong Kong and LinkREIT (a local management group) have asked students to create maps and exploration routes for the public around their nature preserves to facilitate better stewardship of the area (see the write-up here). Google has also started a “geo-educators training network” and “Earth Education community” to create a platform for students from all over the world to contribute content.

Each community map begins with a simple target. While some focus on accessibility for the elderly, others might focus on environmental stewardship. The focus depends on the aim of the project and who/what it will benefit in the community.

The Outcomes

While several international schools have been fixtures within their communities for over a decade, many remain isolated and disconnected from what goes on outside their walls. They live in a “bubble,” guarded by thick walls and an insular curriculum. Community mapping helps kids escape that bubble and better connect with the communities in which they live. Here are a few of the positive outcomes brought about by the experience:

  • Potential for place-based projects where students tackle specific problems related to their interests and community
  • Internship/Partnership opportunities with surrounding businesses and NGOs needing additional help to give students real-world experience
  • Deeper relationships with community members and key stakeholders
  • Greater problem solving and communication skills with several types of people

Getting Started With Your Community Map Project

While there are many ways to get started, I suggest making your community mapping experience as strategic as possible. That starts with a bit of foresight.

Here is a simple three-step process to ensure your community mapping experience is successful.

Step One: The Setup

From the moment students stepped foot in Stanley Plaza, students knew exactly what they were looking for, and that’s because of the work they did beforehand. Back at school they thoroughly studied the topic, focusing on the opportunities and threats urbanization posed to local ecosystems. This included visits from experts on both sides of the issue, background research from a comprehensive list of sites and, finally, a briefing by their community partner (in this case, Link) as to what the community map might provide.

As you consider your own mapping experience, determine how you will prepare students. Here are some tips for preparation:

  • Choose a focus or driving inquiry: What information will their map provide? Is it to document local problems? Provide information on historical sites? Creating a driving question/ inquiry will lead to more focused insight and evidence gathering.
  • Provide completed map models: This allows students to understand what a fully developed map looks like while also providing a context for their photo gathering.
  • Invite community partners: This embeds the experience in serving a real-world value.
  • Use Google Earth for virtual exploration: Allow students to explore 3d maps of the area they will visit. This raises the level of excitement and prepares them for what they will see.
  • Divide into groups: Rather than have the whole class searching for evidence of one issue, break your class into subgroups. Subgroups can be allocated according to subtopics or according to “zones” of the overall area you plan to visit.

Step Two: The Experience

Step two of the mapping experience takes place on site.

In our case, it was Stanley Plaza. I followed the “tourist group,” which was responsible for mapping the area according to natural sites/ locations that tourists might like to visit. They first stopped at a comprehensive map of an ecological reserve and considered how the map might be adapted to provide more focused information. They snapped photos and jotted down notes on their clipboard.

This small anecdote can help you consider how to support students in your own mapping experience. Here are some ways to ensure their documentation is thorough while at the same time focused:

  • Provide a guide sheet: The guide sheet can include symbols to help students identify various issues/ problems/ locations. Triangles might represent historical sites; circles, ecological reserves; and ?? places that may require more information. Back at school, students can begin virtual mapping according to these symbols.
  • Create minimum requirements: Students benefit from the concrete. Require a minimum amount of photos/ descriptions of each place they document in their community exploration.
  • Create job roles: Work with students to create appropriate job roles for each group member. This will ensure students are contributing equally. Job roles could include photographer, researcher, interviewer, etc.
  • Interact with local members of the community: Sometimes the greatest insight into the area comes from locals themselves. In our case, it was the group that practiced Thai Chi daily in the open square; or the group of dog walkers that traversed the boardwalk. If for nothing else, engaging these people will give your students a chance to practice their communication skills with potential community partners.

Step Three: The Sharing of Resources

Step three of the community mapping experience takes place back at school.

Students take the photos and information they have gathered and start plotting them on a shared Google Map. This comprehensive map is then subdivided according to different groups. Your subgroups will depend on the central focus for your map. They could represent different perspectives, or issues relating to the larger topic. Here are some tips to ensure your map serves its purpose:

  • Provide models: Model what an adequate “pin” and description on the map should look like. Provide an incomplete/ unclear description and counter it with a thorough, easy to understand one. This concrete example will help students in creating their own. (Include photo below)
  • Divide the mapping into phases: Phase one can include organizing and synthesizing notes/photos. Phase two can involve determining which pictures/ descriptions are most important. Phase three can involve plotting the experience on the community map. This phasing process helps ensure students are thoughtful about the information they include.
  • Provide an authentic audience: If the mapping experience is a “simulation,” student work will be sloppy, unprofessional and incomplete. If, however, you have engaged a community partner, corporation or government body, chances are students will create work of a professional caliber. In the case of the Stanley map, students’ map served immediate use to “Link,” the Plaza management group seeking to increase interest in the natural beauty of the area. In another community mapping experience, students provided maps to their local district officials to help identify accessibility problems. In essence, they did the legwork for council members, making the task of finding solutions much more achievable.

Into the Future…

I’ve got this wild vision of a global map subdivided according to issues. Users could zoom into any part of the world and understand the local problems it faces in relation to the overall issue.

Let’s take waste disposal for example. Users would have to do nothing more than select the symbol for the issue, zoom in on a location, and take a tour of local landfills, incinerators and other waste facilities. Each location would include a description of its relationship to the localized issue and the problems needing to be solved.

If this idea overwhelms you, start small.

Reserve a day, week or longer period of time for your own community mapping experience. When you’re finished, if you need an audience, feel free to send the maps my way. I have a large network of friends who would love to see the students’ work. And remember that by its very nature, community mapping is a collective experience. Make sure you don’t go at yours alone. The Jane Goodall Institute has several resources to provide support.

Thanks for all you do!

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School Library Makerspaces: the Bold, the Brave, and the Uninitiated

By Michelle Davis

“Libraries are places where people can dream with their eyes open.”

~ Stephen Abram

To some, the traditional “shush” space of the library may seem like an odd setting for the hands-on, creative messiness of a makerspace. Yet many schools are embracing maker learning within their libraries and redefining our notion of “literacy” in the process. So, why have so many school libraries become home to the maker movement in education and how did they get a makerspace off the ground?

The Bold

“Don’t mess with the library!” This is a sentiment that I have encountered frequently as a teacher-librarian. Indeed, school libraries have a rich and valuable tradition. However, the ever-changing needs of our students require us to evolve and expand the library’s educational services to remain relevant and to keep pace. Integrating a makerspace within the school library is a means “to boldly go” beyond the traditional offerings of library programming. As Peppler and Bender assert, “the Maker movement is an innovative way to reimagine education.” Therefore, incorporating maker learning within school library services is an innovative way to reimagine the library’s potential.

There are several reasons why the school library and a makerspace can be an excellent fit.

School Libraries Offer Open Access and Equity: One of the library’s noblest traditions is its commitment to equitable and open access to its library patrons. Positioning a makerspace and its resources within a school library ensures that all students and staff can access both the resources and the skills required to use them. School libraries are natural and accessible resource hubs. Incorporating a makerspace diversifies the library’s resources, moves its offerings beyond books and technology, and provides ready access to all.

School Libraries are Centers of Learning and Inquiry: School libraries are discovery and inquiry hubs for student learning, research and personal interest. This makes the library an ideal focal point for maker education.  Furthermore, the library can easily connect students’ maker interests with further reading and research, helping them to engage more deeply with a topic or a newly discovered passion. For further reading on the rationale for makerspaces within school libraries, Stephen Abram offers several excellent reasons and examples in his article, “Influence–Real Makerspaces in School Libraries.”

The Brave

Educational makerspace offerings within the school library represent a “brave new world.” Makerspace programming has the potential to extend the relevance of the library for a new generation of learners. It also increases the library’s ability to meet the diverse needs of a greater range of learners. For example, when we installed a giant Lego wall adjacent to the main entrance of our library learning commons, this new resource engaged our students and staff in new and creative ways. Students who did not identify as “readers” were suddenly keen to engage in their class novel study when they were invited to build a Lego mural based on the book and then write about their ideas, adding QR codes that linked to their writing. Teachers have generated unique and innovative lessons built around this new resource, ensuring that they reserve the Lego well in advance due to its increasing demand. When it’s not reserved for a class assignment or project, this Lego wall makerspace resource acts as an empty canvas, encouraging the community’s creativity. A library makerspace promotes brave thinking.

The Uninitiated

Undertaking the development of a makerspace within a school library can be a daunting task. When our school teams initially set out to establish makerspaces we were replete with enthusiasm but lacking in experience and direction. Thankfully, there were many experts who had previously blazed a trail to help fill the learning gaps. Engaging with the maker and library community while reading the testimonials of the many educational maker pioneers who have gone before can help move you beyond “the uninitiated.” Laura Fleming’s book Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School is a great read to get started. Other valuable resources are Diana Rendina’s Renovated Learning and Colleen Graves’ create+collaborate innovate blogs. For a detailed account of one school library’s makerspace development, you can access my e-book, Making Space for New Library Learning: A Makerspace Journey.

Our makerspace teams sought out a maker mentor from another school district and worked together with other local schools to pool resources and increase our learning curve. We listened to the wisdom of “starting small” and building up. Human resources are the most valuable of all resources in the school library makerspace–making connections, sharing expertise and learning from each other– these are what develop a maker community, one step at a time.

School library makerspaces have powerful potential to help students become innovators, problem solvers and creators. Building one has but two requirements: be bold; be brave.

For more on makerspaces, see:

Michelle Davis is a secondary school teacher-librarian. You can follow her on Twitter @mdavisetad


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Getting Smart’s Educational Gift Guide for 2017

Well, it’s that time of year again… time to rock the giving season with the gift of knowledge, that is!

Webster defines technology as “the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.” This means that experiences that ignite a love of STEM are not limited to computers, tablets and smartphones, but instead can be focused on creating, inventing and making.

This list is designed to be more than just your typical list of bots and batteries–this is a set of gifts for kids of all ages that help in the development of skills such as observation, creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and persistence.

Ages 0 – 3

Budding Builders. The basic idea here is building sets for toddlers, which means they are designed for little hands and require limited coordination. A couple of options to check out:

Cute Little Counters. At this age, most “counting” is more memorization than a deep understanding of quantity, but kids are never too young to play with numbers, even if they are really just increasing awareness:

  • Munchkins Letter & Numbers: You have to do bath time, why not throw some letters in there? Not only does foam stick to the bathtub, it also floats. As kids get older, playing with letters and numbers can increase to identifying colors & building order. Extra bonus: While in the tub, throw some measuring cups in there so that they can play with volume and measurement.
  • Geometric Animal Shape Puzzles: Speaking of bath time. How about helping your little one learn geometric shapes while in the tub?
  • Learning Resources Jumbo Magnetic Numbers: Just like the foam building blocks, putting numbers on the refrigerator (and then taking them back off) is great for building fine motor skills.

Abstract Artists. You may not be able to tell what it is that they have created, but giving toddlers the space to make is important and fun. The key to picking your “first” art supplies is all about what they will be able to control and hang on to:

  • My First Crayola Crayons: The shape of these crayons make them perfect for little hands to hold and they doesn’t take much pressure to work which makes them just the right first crayon for your little one. Here’s a star shaped option as well.
  • ALEX Jr Finger Paint Party: The great thing about finger paint is that there is nothing for little hands to hold on to. Keys to remember: they WILL want to eat it the first couple of times so don’t forget to check for washable and non-toxic. You can also find bubble bath options for bath time.

Can’t Forget the Classics. These “oldies but goodies” are the toys we all remember and still love. These were the things we were playing with before STEM was a “thing:”

Ages 3 – 5

Creative Construction. This age is where you may actually start to recognize the things your toddler is creating. From tools to blocks to art supplies, they will love transforming their ideas into reality–make sure they are set up with all the supplies they need to do so (and don’t forget to head to the recycle bin for lots of free inspiration):

  • Picasso Tiles: Take building to the next level by starting to construct 3D shapes through these magnetic tiles.
  • Educational Insights Design and Drill Activity Center: Power tool sets are great, and a blast for this age, but can sometimes be hard if they don’t actually get to build anything. This is a great option for kids to use tools to design and create.
  • Learning Resources: Gears Gears Gears: Take a different spin on building with these colorful gears that promote reasoning and problem solving while putting together moving objects and shapes.
  • Imaginarium Connect and Create Bucket: There are tons of possibilities with this bucket of shapes and connectors. Create a car and push it along on different surfaces (carpet, tile, hardwood), then have your kiddo describe why they think the car traveled different distances on each surface and how they feel different.

Optimistic Observers. For young explorers, the world is full of surprises. These toys are designed to help them take their observation skills to the next level:

Robots for Rugrats. Stu Pickles shouldn’t be the only inventor in your house. Even though robotics toys tend to be aimed at middle and high school, there are lots of great resources for the young robotic enthusiast that can help support building an innovation mindset:

Terrific Tablets. Sick of sticky finger smudges on your tablet? Here are a couple of options just for them (both under $100):

  • Amazon Fire Kids Edition: When it is time to get your first year of FreeTime Unlimited (a library of 10,000 vetted and kid-appropriate apps, ebooks and show) plus a protective case, a comprehensive 2-year warranty against accidents, and best-in-class parental controls.
  • LeapFrog Epic: Parent controls that allow you to manage what, when and how long each of your children are playing for (up to 3 profiles) and also includes the LeapFrog Just for Me Learning technology that personalizes the experience for each kid.

Can’t Forget the Classics. These oldies, but goodies are the toys we all remember and still love. These were the things we were playing with before STEM was a “thing:”

Ages 6 – 8

Mini Makers. A quick search online will yield more maker kits than you can count. They vary in complexity and cost, but no matter what your budget there is definitely something for your mini maker:

  • Marbleocity Mini Coaster: Fat Brain Toys is a great starting spot for unique, maker type sets for kids of all ages. This is a great option for beginners as they follow illustrated instructions to piece together wooden parts to build the ultimate roller-coaster marble run experience.
  • littleBits STEAM Student Set: A toolbox containing LEGO-like electronic building blocks that connect via magnets to build basic functional technology. For more check out our recent review.
  • Makey Makey: A simple invention kit designed for beginners, experts and everyone in-between.
  • ZOOB BuilderZ S.T.E.M. Challenge: Design and build cool, wacky creations such as a catapult, zip line, trampoline and more.
  • Osmo Genius Kit: 5 games that incorporate an iPad to develop skills such as visual thinking, problem-solving and creative drawing.

Creepy Crawlers. You may not love bugs, but chances are your kids do. If that is the case, here are a couple options that let your kids explore and observe, but keep the bugs well contained:

  • BugWatch Boxed Set: This set includes a Double Viewer cone and scope, three collecting jars with magnifying lids and two pairs of tweezers. Great for collecting and viewing insects and other small creatures.
  • Celestron 3D Bug Specimen Kit: These are real bugs encased in crystal clear resin for easy viewing. You can choose from 3 different kits, each containing a different set of insects.

Dare to Design. No matter what the age, there is a series of tools that help young people design, build and create. Find one that’s perfect and unique so that they love the experience:

Captivating Coding. Our kids will need to learn to code, but it is for more reasons than you might think. As Grant Hosford puts it, “Computer science is the perfect gateway to 21st-century skills. The logical problem solving and algorithmic thinking at the core of computer science force kids to think about thinking–a process referred to as meta-cognition that has proven benefits related to self-monitoring and independent learning:”

  • CodeSpark: This app teaches the ABC’s of computer science while igniting curiosity and allowing kids to learn at their own pace. The curriculum follows the Common Core Standards for Mathematics and the Computer Science Teachers Association’s Computer Science Standards.
  • Move the Turtle: This app teaches the general idea of coding by completing step by step tasks that move the turtle around on the screen. Successful completion means that newer and more complicated tasks are introduced (think next-gen frogger).
  • Daisy the Dinosaur: This is a free app that uses a drag and drop interface to make Daisy the dinosaur come to life while teaching the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events.
  • PloBot: Get in early by supporting this Kickstarter campaign. Plobot is a robot companion that teaches programming logic through storytelling and play–with cards instead of screens.
  • Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit: Electrical parts provide students with hands-on experience designing and building models of working electrical circuits.

Can’t Forget the Classics. These oldies, but goodies are the toys we all remember and still love. These were the things we were playing with before STEM was a “thing:”

Ages 9 – 11

Ask About AI. There is no doubt about it that Artificial Intelligence will have a major impact on the lives and livelihood of our kids. Here are a couple of examples of how AI is already working its way into our kids’ toyboxes:

  • The Wild Robot: This wonderful book (see our review) tells the story of “Roz”–a robot who washed up onto the beach to find remote island wilderness after the cargo ship transporting her, and dozens like her, sank.
  • Anki Overdrive: This is the next generation of racing cars. Not only can you use a smartphone to control it, but you can choose whether you want to race against friends or AI controlled cars.

Maker Mindsets. We are big believers that allowing students to create, construct and value their unique passions is a great way to get them to think critically about the world around them. Makers make the world a better place and these gifts encourage the mindsets needed to do just that:

  • Monthly Maker Kit Subscriptions: Make tinkering and creating a regular family event with a subscription from Creation Crate or Tinker Crate. Each month you will be mailed everything you need for the perfect at home maker experience.
  • KNEX Intro to Structures: Bridges: KNEX has a ton of great sets, but this one is particularly cool as you are setup to build 13 fully-functioning replicas of real-life bridges. Builders learn about infrastructure by demonstrating key bridge types, such as truss, arch, cantilever, beam, suspension, movable/bascule and cable-stayed.
  • Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Craft Kit: Get your kids to build moving machines that solve real problems. This kit comes with 80 pages of instructions, 33 LEGO pieces, instructions for 10 modules, 6 plastic balls, string, paper ramps and other components.

Smart Scientists. Science class can be really fun, especially when you actually get your hands dirty. These gifts bring the science lab home and allow you to dive into and explore deeply scientific principles:

  • SmartLab Ultimate Secret Formula Lab: This formula lab comes with 40 experiments that teach kids about scientific principles such as air pressure, fluid dynamics, acids and bases by exploring chemical reactions with different substances from around the house.
  • Edible Chemistry Kit: Enough said.

Can’t Forget the Classics. These oldies, but goodies are the toys we all remember and still love. These were the things we were playing with before STEM was a “thing.”

Do you have big kids in the house too? Innovation doesn’t have to stop when you leave school. Think about a maker kit a month or a Polygon Teaspoon set for your adult STEM lovers.

What’s your favorite STEM gift for kids? Share in the comments section below!

For more at-home STEM resources check out:


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Restorative Practices Just Might Be the Secret to a Good Night’s Sleep

Dr. Margy Jones-Carey

“The night before the students come for the first time, I never sleep well”. I have said this every year of my career. There is something about the new beginning that has us playing over and over in our heads how we will begin the class, how we will introduce ourselves, how we will set the expectations for learning and so often, how we will set the expectations for student behavior.

I remember so well my professors in college and my first principal telling me “You can never do the first day over. Start strong and firm and never let them see you sweat. You can always loosen up later.” I have often wondered if those were the words that kept me awake every year. I may never know for sure, but I prefer to think it is the anticipation of the new beginning that was my reason for being restless.

Educators know that you have to set those expectations right away for student behavior and student learning. Educators also know that until student behavior is “managed” student learning is often interrupted and as a result, the classroom of students lose out on learning when just one student is disruptive, disengaged, or bothersome in some way to either the teacher or the classmates. In addition, getting to the core of why students demonstrate the behaviors that they do can often be looked at through the lens of Social Emotional Learning. We need to work with students on the 5 core tenets of social-emotional learning offered by CASEL. The idea of assisting students in understanding him/herself (self-awareness) is a key component of changing behaviors. The framework of most discipline programs that schools buy, promise to engage students in some understanding of the impact of the choices (decision-making) that the student makes on others (social awareness). In the end, however, the ultimate goal of classroom management practices is that they last beyond the adult-supervised areas of the school and become a part of how students act no matter where they are (self-directed and self-managed).

So, what is a teacher to do? How do we create safe classrooms and schools?

Schools have implemented many ways of dealing with student behaviors. A few examples of the more widely known programs include PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports), and Safe and Civil School’s CHAMPS (Class-wide Positive Behavior Supports).  While both of these have been shown to be effective in reducing student behavior referrals, there is not much research that supports that these programs change student behaviors beyond the classroom.  The whole premise of Social Emotional Learning is to change the core of how the individual interacts with him/herself and the community at large. To better reach the tenets of Social Emotional Learning many schools have taken to using restorative justice. These schools believe that engaging students in creating a community of learners who hold each other accountable for the classroom and school learning environment will ultimately achieve increased positive connections with the school community that will ultimately reduce behavior referrals within the school. In addition, the research demonstrates that these restorative practices assist students with changing their behavior beyond the school as well.

Restorative justice can be traced most recently the criminal justice system’s approach to trying to engage prisoners in rehabilitative practices around the ideas of empathy and a greater sense of the importance of belonging to the community. I prefer the title restorative practices as it lends itself to the idea that we are able to teach the core values of self-management, self-discipline and empathy, which are essential skills for success in school and beyond.  In addition, the notion of practices means that if we do something over and over again (practice) we will get better at it.  So, the title restorative practices allows for us to “try it” and “try it” and “try it” until it finally becomes a part of how we live our lives in school and outside of school.

For the classroom teacher, following the direction of the school in any of these programs or any other the school might adopt, is essential to helping students with a consistent approach to classroom management. However, absent a formalized school-wide approach, a teacher is left to create their own approach in the classroom. If you are at this place, I recommend trying restorative practices. The research on the use of restorative practices by Dr. Tom Cavanagh, Katherine Evans and Dorothy Vaandering and others, demonstrates how the entire “feel” of the classroom (and the school as a whole if they adopt it) changes and how students behaviors are intrinsically changed by bringing these practices into their school lives. Restorative practices allow students to learn to manage their own behaviors as well to learn the language of creating a community that holds each other accountable for following community norms such as safety, respect, responsibility, the classroom is key to learning and whatever else you and your students determine is essential to creating a supportive classroom that allows for learning to consistently take place.

Creating a restorative practices classroom involves the use of circles that engage students first in creating the community, establishing the norms, and then when behaviors get in the way of the learning, using different types of circles allows for the teacher and the students to engage in a dialogue about how to get back on track with student behavior, student learning and keeping to the norms that were agreed to. This video shows you how to use circles and also shares student perspectives, and Gaby’s Story highlights the use of restorative practices within schools and classroom.

The goal here is to reduce our sleepless nights as teachers and to create classrooms and schools where students are safe, engaged, learning and believe that they are a part of the community of learners. “When people collectively come together and strategize and plan, working together and acting together, they create a power that they can effectively use in their situation to effect change.”(Rev. Dr. James Lawson, Jr.) Engage your students, colleagues and leaders in creating the solutions through restorative practices.

For more, see:


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