It Is Time To Challenge Educators and Leaders

Reflection of TIC and Future Ready

The beginning of this week was a blur of three days of some really powerful learning. I was asked by my district to attend with our district team to the Future Ready Summit in Chicago. We headed out late Sunday night and after the second full day of learning on Tuesday we did not get home until late Tuesday night.

I was supposed to be at TIC in Dubuque Tuesday and Wednesday, but was only able to attend Wednesday. I got up early in the morning and headed to Dubuque. Despite only having one day at TIC I had the most amazing time and once again I am reminded why I love this conference so much.

Anytime I have a blur of learning like I had for three days it takes me a day or two to wrap my mind around it all. After a nice long run Thursday I was able to process my thoughts. Here are some of my main takeaways from my summer learning.

1. Be Prepared – I was asked last minute to attend the Future Ready. I am glad the dates worked out as I was able to go. Being ready, being flexible to doing the work to be prepared for what was to come was essential. Had I come into things blindly and unprepared it would have not been very good. Now, I could have been a bit more prepared but with doing some pre reading I was able to contribute as needed.

2. Be Ready For The Unknown – I was planning on using the days before TIC to rehearse, practice, and finalize my presentations for TIC. With the invite to Future Ready I lost those days. When I arrived at TIC early Wednesday morning I was making a few final touches. While doing this I realized I left my cable to connect my Surface Pro 3 and had a mild panic attack. No problem I told myself I am prepared and converted my slides to Keynote for my Mac. Well, everything converted in a massive mess. I had to redo two slidedecks from scratch in the 45 minutes I had before the keynote. I was shaking, stressed, and not in a good frame of mind. I was able to recreate two decent slidedecks and was able to deliver, but it was not the start to my day that I needed. This is just like teaching and life, sometimes you have to adapt on the fly.

**I later realized in my state of panic that I was a fool. I could have easily used my Mac adapter for my SP3 but for some reason that never crossed my mind.**

3. People at the conferences are not enough! – Once again I attend conferences which I love. The people at the conferences for the most part get it. They understand what is needed for education to change. What we need are those educators who do not go to these conferences, those who do not connect and build a PLN, and those who don’t a see a need for the ideas to be at the conferences. They need to attend so they can learn from others. They need to attend to be reaffirmed that they are doing great things. They need to attend to realize that what they have at their disposal is a blessing. They need to attend to realize what is happening around the state and nation. They need to attend to realize that they can improve.

4. Treatment of Others – One of the reasons I love TIC and it has become one of my favorite conferences is the way the organizers treat people. The whole Keystone AEA just rock it when it comes to bring this upbeat happy vibe. I love talking with Bev Berns because she is always smiling, happy, and excited for the opportunities for education. It is not just Bev, but the entire group who make this conference happen. It is all about delivery and making people feel good. This conference does just that! A key reminder when kicking off a new school year, developing culture in your classsroom, and just working to create positive relationships.

5. Leadership is Everything – My biggest takeaway is how important leadership is when it comes to education. I am talking at all levels from leadership among the teachers, to leadership in TLC, to admin leadership at building levels, to central admin. Without a strong leadership foundation all the amazing ideas are a waste. We must have leadership who makes the tough decisions while still giving flexibility for those working in the district and school(s) to develop their own path. I have stated this many times, but leaders need to clearly define the goals of the district and schools. Then, have faith in your staff to achieve those goals. Let them create the pathways. Let them prove that they are professionals and can get the job done. This also requires leaders to make some thing mandatory. It cannot be wide open, but give some parameters and a framework and collectively let us achieve the goals.

6. Stop with the sit and get – So much of any conference is a long list of apps, tools, tips, tricks, and ideas to implement. What does drive me crazy is how many still want to sit and get. They don’t want to engage. They don’t want to question. They don’t want to share. We must continue to push for more interactive sessions that get people talking and sharing. For example, I ran a Sphero session with Andrew Fenstermaker and it was awesome. All participants were active and willing to participate. It was a great session. The time flew by and because of their willingness to try we had a great Q and A afterwards. On the flipside I had a session where I built in time to share, ask questions, and network and it just did not happen. I accept some of that for maybe my presentation sucked, but we must continue to push our comfort zones and engage in the content and the sessions. It confirmed my belief that I must go back to interactive sessions and not just talk the whole time.

It is time to embrace that ideas that have been going one for some time now. It is time to break free from the past. It is time to transform education where we as professionals connect with kids with where they are and learn to up our game. It is time to quit looking in the past at what was. It is time to prep the students to be problem solvers, networkers, and collaborators. In order to do this we as educators must be able to do the same.

I had three great days of networking, learning, being challenged, and exploring new ideas. I have a whole list of new blog posts that will be coming from these days. This is what summer is about. It is about reigniting ideas, people challenging what you think, and becoming better.

If interested here are the resources and slides from my PBL: It Can Be Done With 1100 Students . This is a link to the draft version, but you can access the videos in this one

Here are my slides and resources for 3 Stages to Student Voice and the draft version so you can access the videos

I will be sharing the final slides with a Office Mix recording soon as I was not happy with the last minute conversion effort. They will do for now.

 

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (3)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Why do we subject students to experiences that we would never subject ourselves to?

As teachers have you really thought your lesson or project through?

I mean have you considered it from the viewpoint of a student? This can be hard to do, but let us not forget this vital persepctive in education.

As a teacher we sometimes create to meet a standard or benchmark because we “HAVE” to. In that process of frustration and sometimes just lacking time we piece things together. On the flipside we also create massive projects with all sorts of things happening.

Don’t forget to stop, refocus your vision and go through the material as student. Would this be something you would have wanted to do as a student? Perhaps you bring in a student or a group who are not part of your class and have them review the material.

Sometimes what we teach is not the best way. Not because we don’t care or have not tried, but we have only looked at it through one lens and not several.

 

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

We Can Always Choose To Be Mad And Angry But….

what good will that really do you, your family, your work, and for the people around you?

Think about it – we only have a set amount of days here on Earth. We don’t need to waste the precious moments we have being upset about things we cannot change.

Instead of being mad, focus on how you can take the situation or issue and flip it to be a positive or at least helpful to you and what you are working on.

When you get upset, then you attract others who feel the same. This just fuels the fire of negative energy. Next thing you know people are backing out of the room because they cannot handle the negative vibe being created.

Even worse is when you are angry and upset you continue to find everything else being bad.

Flip the mindset. Flip towards being proactive. Make something out of nothing.

When we cast a positive light on things we can actually put forth quality effort on the tasks at hand. We can feel good about what we are doing. Other people with positive mindsets flock around you which just fuel the passion to do good.

This is not always easy and there are times I need to heed my own advice, but it sure is something to chew on. Speaking of chewing, if you think of a cookie you can focus on the butter mixed into the batter or the delicious taste of a chocolate chip cookie and be thankful you have a glass a milk nearby!

14538216348_5ee2e0123f_z

 

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

The World is a Makerspace, Not a Classroom

We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us.

 — Rumi

I have wanted to write about this idea for a few weeks, but just was not sure how to properly format the thoughts and still not sure I am going to do it justice. Here is my feeble attempt before I lose all my thoughts.

I love making. I am an avid tinkerer and have the typical coffee juiced brain where I have a million projects going on and typically don’t finish half of them. I love to create and my brain is always going. I am not sure what would happen if my brain actually slowed down. I have massive LEGO sets and pieces that we build at home and at school(see school challenge), I love Arduino, Sphero, and lately 3D printing.

Naturally, I am working on developing a makerspace in my room. I feel like we need a space like this since the days of industrial tech are no more in our schools. It does not replace the class, but it is something more than desk in rows reading textbooks.

As I have worked to develop this culture of making in our school I realize that not only do I have a long way to go, but I keep missing the students I want. I want more girls involved, I want the athletic kids, I want the kids that don’t believe in themselves.

And then I realized my whole though process is wrong. My mindset was skewed.

Let me try to explain. This summer like every summer Amanda(my wife) has a list of home improvements. We did not get to half of them, but we did get our bedroom done and moved and changed things throughout the house. One thing that she is amazing at doing is drawing inspiration from her hours on Pinterest and converting the ideas into our home. She can see a bit of an idea here and another idea there and see a wall in our house and transform it. It is a gift. I cannot do it. I see what is in the room and cannot see differently.

IMG_0722

She has done three little projects that hit me like a ton of bricks this summer. She does not give herself any credit and really does not think it is a big deal. She is actually not too happy that I took pictures. I always tell her she needs her own board on Pinterest so she can inspire others.

IMG_0713

Here is the key idea: She is a maker. She has taken ideas which is basically the MIT Remix concept and instead of just thinking about it and pinning it on her page, she moved to action. This is the pivotal step. Moving to ACTION and not just THINKING about it. She goes to work. She takes this and that, paints this, moves this, transforms this, and in the end we have this whole new display and decoration. It really is great.

IMG_0723

As I was watching this unfold I came across a great post by Rafranz Davis –http://rafranzdavis.com/the-undefined-makerspace/ where she talks about makerspaces and how we don’t need this defined makerspace to make. We make all the time.

Watching my wife work I realized that we are indeed all makers. Just because it does not include a soldering iron and robotics does not mean it is not “maker”. It is sad that we have to celebrate makerspaces to draw attention to the lost art of being a kid and instilling that spirit to continue to play and tinker to see what happens.

I draw inspiration from my wife because I could probably do more ACTION. Her home is her makerspace. It is great. It is amazing and beautiful.

In education we need to take off the lens in which we view our students, our classrooms, and schools. I think we get pigeoned holed into a tunnel vision where we miss out on the amazing things that students are doing. They are making a difference. They are learning outside of the school day even if they did not turn in your worksheet. They are volunteering and helping others even if they push their friends in play. Sometimes we must remove the veteran mindset and try to see things again as if it is the first time. When we do that we will see that the world is a makerspace and we can all make amazing things. I have changed my view of makers and I hope you do too.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Do not contradict yourself

This is something that drives me more insane than anything else in life and in particular the world of education.

Don’t complain about students doing “x” and then among staff do that very thing.

Do not state that you don’t like things being “generic” and then use clipart from 1984.

Don’t complain about Hollywood movies about education and then make your key points based off those movies.

Don’t talk about the importance of data and then ask for evaluations that don’t have anything negative because it may hurt your feelings.

Don’t state you know how to read body language and vibes from audience and don’t make changes.

Instead, stay your course. You won’t please everyone. But stand your ground, BUT be consistent. You cannot make statements that you are not supporting. Nothing will lose more respect with people than contradictions.

Well, maybe one thing, making your audience clap once if you can here them.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

PLC Training Mid Morning Thought

How great would it be if teachers could create their own teams that they work with to make change?

Would that radically shift the operations behind the scenes to help the learning of students?

Just a thought. If we are professionals, can’t we choose our own squads?

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Reflection of Exhibition Nights for PBL

Our middle school of 1100 students has tackled project based learning head on this year. It has been a radical shift for some. It has had both the amazing breakthroughs and the moments of frustrations as we try new things, push our comfort zones, and find what works best. After each grade level has completed two exhibition nights I took time to talk with those who wanted to about the process of exhibition night. I spoke with students and parents as well.

Below is a gathering of all ideas shared and expressed. I decided to post the ideas here for two reasons.

1. Perhaps these ideas can help other schools as they plan

2. Other schools and educators have ideas or suggestions to help us tackle some of the thoughts.

This a collected gathering of about 40+ voices. I think that whether you agree or disagree with the ideas shared they are all worth considering as we strive to improve and make things better. You will see ideas from all angles. None of these are right nor are they wrong. These are just perceptions and thoughts of many.

What I would like to do after sharing this is move into an action phase where we start to figure what we are going to do next year.

Please let me know what you think.

Overarching Issues To Think About

  • Students who are pulled out from classes sometimes don’t have projects or are not completely on the same page as other students. Their curriculum is more skills based. How do we help merge their levels of learning with the classroom subjects when there are times they don’t have the opportunity for all the interdisciplinary opportunities due to their schedule?
  • Communication – this is a far reaching concern that has always been around. I am working on some solutions to possibly help, but here are some areas of concern
    • Communicating with special education teachers in advance so they are aware of projects and expectations. I think this goes beyond special education teachers to all teachers not in the core subjects so that everyone involved understands the scope, sequencee, and expectations. Many people are being left out. I personally don’t believe it is intentional, but we will need to come up with ways to help bridge the miscommunication pockets.
  • Grade level vision – Can we get grade levels to have same vision and expectations?
    • Perhaps we start at department level
    • Bigger idea is that of equity to ensure that all students are gaining the necessary experiences to reach that deeper level of learning
  • Group Projects(in perspective of strictly projects for exhibition)
    • Do we need group work for the larger/exhibition project
    • Are we grouping properly? When we put one high level student with others who are not high level are we striving for deeper learning or equal learning?
    • Can projects have group components but solo end result?
  • Commitment to PBL Exhibition Night
    • Some teachers/staff spend a lot of time preparing, organizing, etc.
    • How do we strike a balance for all staff to play a role?
    • How do help all staff feel part of the PBL movement and not standing alone on the outside?
    • Clarification of job roles and duties i.e. team leader, teachers, students, etc.
    • Perception of some doing everything and some doing nothing.
  • Showcase project NOW
    • What if our projects don’t align with exhibition night?
      • make video of project in the moment that students could present during exhibition.
      • host our own smaller exhibitions
      • what is too many events for students, teachers, families

Structure of Exhibition Night

  • Format of not moving was well liked and perceived by parents and teachers
  • When we group by TA we must not forget about the TA’s that have BD and At Risk. How do we make sure that these rooms have audience, how do we make sure that there are shining moments, and making sure we don’t forget that these TA’s have possibly more work than others. How can we streamline this process so they don’t stand out, but can still be part of the night?
  • Many people liked the format of one room, no movement, and presenting for x amount of minutes. However, just because we liked it does not mean it is the right format.
    • helps elderly not having to walk
  • Placement of rooms and hallway displays
    • as we cannot please everyone when we bundle up a lot of hallway space by classrooms being used it can congest the halls
    • finding that happy balance of flow in the school
  • TA structure format was nice because we could see all students. As a teacher you are able to see your own TA students that you don’t always get to see in the classroom
  • Assessment for presentations to hold it accountable – Some houses grade and others don’t. We need to think equity. Either all grade or nobody grades. Must be equal in expectations
    • Can there be one presentation rubric that we all use?
    • Is grading even the goal of the night?
  • Splitting students in half
    • two sessions works so much better than all at once
    • some students have expressed that by house with smaller audience would be nice
    • 45 minutes standing at one station was too much
    • If interactive 45 minutes is fine
    • Repetition can be issue hearing same thing over and over
  • Monday night does not work
  • Our Exhibition Night should be most important event of that night.
    • Need to mark on calendar and stick to it.
  • Clean up Process after the night
    • how do we make this easier simpler and more effective
      • students to help
      • assign jobs and duties
      • ownership in the whole night by staff and students
  • Open space where it can be free flowing and open. Students able to see that work was good receive proper attention.
    • allows chance to mingle, but see all work
    • classrooms look full you don’t want to go it
    • don’t want to be stuck in one room all night
  • Formal vs. Informal
    • can we have one formal with presentations and one informal that is more laid back
    • adjust to time of year and busy schedule of everyone

Exhibition Night w/ Audience

  • How do we develop more discussion/conversation?
  • Ambience – how do we get more perspective/decoration in hallways
  • What exactly is the goal/expectation of exhibition night? There are various opinions about this night. Clear vision
  • Parents
    • Perhaps parents are not the audience we should be focusing on? Perhaps the audience should be community or experts in that specific field
    • Parents don’t care about others kids. We have worried about this since day one. Is this something to worry about or just accept? As an educator I care about all kids and how they do. As a parent, I only care about my own.
    • Still a divide between what parents know/understand vs. students and staff
    • Parents view the night as a social event/gathering where they have a chance to connect and not be running around all over
      • Do we embrace this mindset? Do we offer a social gathering at the beginning and then give them some quick reminders before we send them off?
      • Do they have to go through and get stamped before they get cookies and punch?
  • Consistency to make sure students, teachers, and building are on same page
  • Parent Confusion – Open House vs. Exhibition – can we work language
  • Have we done enough to help teach, prepare, and guide parents about PBL and what this night is about?(no)
  • Educate parents ahead of time
    • bring them on board
    • help them see the power of PBL
    • teach them, guide them, and don’t assume they know how to ask questions and interact
  • Use college students in the education department as part of their hours to be audience for exhibition
  • Weave in student body as audience? Give them time to see projects during day and then community at night?

Students

  • How do we help students see the importance of exhibition night
    • Honors class students present all the time and exhibition night is not a big deal because they do it all the time. They are at a different level and this is just not as heavy of a load compared to others so they don’t view this night as important.
    • Low end kids to help find their voice and confidence to do well.
    • Raise kids in the middle to a higher level
  • Clear expectations for students
    • Must eliminate the tacking on as we go because it causes stress on kids
    • Clear agenda of where product will be placed, used, presented, etc.
  • Students – stressed with projects
    • some stress is good
    • find a balance so big projects not happening at once
      • work towards interdisciplinary projects
      • Instructional Coaches work with coordination(I have some ideas)
What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (1)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Students Can Actually Think?

At the beginning of the year we launched a Choose2Matter project with Angela Maiers and Mark Moran. We developed our own #BettPassion projects and a simple search here on the site will give you all you need to read the journey.

The class of Mrs. Dierickx has continued to pursue their projects all school year. Recently one of the groups composed a piece on their project and learning to be published by Huffington Post and to help spread their ideas and message.

I am just so proud and honored to work with students and staff who are working to make change. I am even more proud by the type of the work that students are creating. This article below composed by 8th graders is so well written that I am just amazed.

I will share the link when it goes live on Huffington Post. For now it has been posted to Choose2Matter.

This article reminds that we have a generation of students ready to change the world and I am so proud to be part of the journey.

The Launch of FWE – a Choose2Matter Project from Bettendorf Middle School – http://choose2matter.org/portfolio/the-student-choose2matter-journey-and-project-development

This is a guest post submitted by Andrew Del Vecchio, Ryan Fleming, Maxwell Herrmann, Christina Lothrop, Luke Soko, Jackson Stamper, and Joshua Turner. They are all 8th graders at Bettendorf Middle School, which hosted a Choose2Matter LIVE event in September 2013.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

– Lao-tzu

Although the origin of this quote is disagreed upon, its message has been found to be true in many facets of life. We have personally experienced the verity of this saying on our excursion through Choose2Matter, a project centered around giving students an opportunity to reach out and help their community. As eighth graders, we have been given an extraordinary opportunity to make a difference.

The day we were acquainted with Choose2Matter, we were broken up into groups according to our passions and skills. The seven people on our team all have a fascination for green, efficient energy production. We have taken this time and thought of many ideas for how we can assist our  society, and we saw one conclusion; building a machine that can produce energy and remove waste. This was the idea that had birthed our company.

We are F.W.E., and this is our story.

Once our group came together, we took the first step that you should take in any project; research. We did not know exactly what we were going to accomplish at the beginning of this project, other than the fact that we wanted to create a machine that would turn waste into energy.

  • Our first idea was that we wanted to use a catalyst that would take carbon dioxide and turn it into carbon monoxide.
  • To do this you would have to use bismuth and put a charge through it.
  • When this happens the CO2 molecules become just CO molecules. Now it is carbon monoxide, which is combustible.
  • We now have a fuel that we could use to run a generator.
  • In this process the carbon dioxide was the waste that we were attempting to turn into energy.
  • After this, we had the idea to use artificial digestion, which would use organic material and change it into energy, similar to how the human body works.
  • Food waste and animal waste that has been thrown into landfills produces large amounts of methane that contributes significantly to the greenhouse effect.
  • We had several plausible plans that we could use.
  • The first one was a project we nicknamed “Frankenstein”. We gave this project such a nickname because it replicates the human body.
  • We would use acids to decompose organic material (the stomach) into raw nutrients that we could change into ATP, which is cellular energy (small intestine), and that could be converted into electricity similar to how the brain works.
  • The reason that this idea did not work is because we do not have the necessary resources or technology.
  • From the idea of using artificial digestion, we got our name; From Waste to Energy, or F.W.E.
  • Still sticking with the idea of artificial digestion, we delved into deeper research to try to find a way to turn a waste product into energy. At this point, we found out about anaerobic digestion. This is the decomposition of organic matter in the absence of oxygen.

 

Source: “Anaerobic Digestion.” Anaerobic Digestion. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <http://3ad3.com/anaerobic-digestion>.

This would be perfect to use, as its main source of fuel is leftover food and animal manure. After learning more about anaerobic digestion and contacting various professors, our group began to analyze the idea more thoroughly. The process starts out when food is put into air-tight containers with manure. The actual digestion occurs at this phase. When the food is decomposed by anaerobic bacteria that is housed in the manure, a vapor called biogas is released. This biogas is very similar to natural gas. It contains about ninety percent methane and the other ten percent is made up of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and hydrogen.

This biogas is now taken through tubes that lead to a filter, so that we can have a result of pure methane. To filter the biogas, we must lead the gas through a container of water, and as the biogas rises to the top of the water, most of the carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and hydrogen will stay in the water while the pure methane continues through the piping. Also, during the filtering process, very little methane is filtered out.

Now that we have nearly pure methane, it can be used for many purposes. Our system would combust the methane to produce electricity. Although, there is a problem with this, for if we combust the methane we would produce a byproduct of CO2. Considering the whole point of this project is to make energy that would not damage the environment, we had to analyze more research to solve this problem.

Soon, we decided to use a greenhouse. At this point is when we came across aquaponics. Aquaponics is a system that grows plants and raises fish in a cycle.

 

Source:  “Aquaponics.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaponics>.

Water from a tank holding fish is pumped into a container that holds plants, so the plants are watered and any fish feces would fertilize the plants as well. When this machine is connected to a greenhouse, we can release the CO2 and the plants would absorb it.

To summarize, our machine would take in organic waste and convert it into methane, which would then combust in a generator producing electricity and small amounts of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would go into our aquaponics system that would allow the plants fertilized by fish feces to suck it out of the air and grow. Now, our machine creates a cycle of energy and food without any other byproduct but oxygen given off by the plants.

 

Our system could be used for various purposes and in many places.

Revolutionary it may seem, but this machine needs a purpose; it needs to be used just as effectively as the process within the machine. Farmers could use this machine to turn any organic waste (hay, animal waste, grass, corn stalk, etc) into energy that could not only heat and light their house, but heat their barns, too, on a brutal winter day.

Source: “November 2012 ABe-Notes.” ABE Newsletter. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <https://engineering.purdue.edu/ABE/Abo

Also, the farmers could grow corn within the greenhouse that they could later sell. Schools and/or large businesses could use this machine by separating their food and organic waste from other materials in their trash, too. The food and other organic waste that would have originally been wasted into a trash can and gone off to a landfill to emit methane and contribute to the greenhouse effect, will know be converted into energy. This energy will be used to help heat, light, and power the school.

Also, considering produce is very expensive, the school could then grow their own produce, such as lettuce, within our machine and it eat during school lunches. Lastly, developing countries and small villages could really put this machine to use. An entire small village within a developing country could deposit its animals waste and any other organic waste they could find into the machine to provide light, heat, and electricity for radios or any other device that may be used in developing countries. Also, the machine could help the village grow crops along with supplying a source of fish for protein, once the fish begin to reproduce. By understanding how our machine works, one can see how our machine, tested, commercialized, and perfected could revolutionize our world today.

Through the uses of this contraption, we can make current jobs more efficient and environmentally safe. As you have read, there is proof of concept in our machine, but we lack the funding required to create it. The potential in this project is astounding and to see it go to waste would be devastating to us.

We understand that we do not have the means to continue creating FWE, so if anyone has an interest in furthering the good of such a machine, by all means, do so. As long as our names are recognized, we have no problem in seeing our blueprints come to life. What we find most important is to see our machine working and helping people, no matter the personal gain. At its core, the goal of FWE is to convert waste into energy to provide clean energy to those in need.

We now have a system that takes in food and/or any organic waste and converts into oxygen, electricity, and food. Revolutionary it may seem, but this machine needs a purpose; it needs to be used just as effectively as the process within the machine. Farmers could use this machine to turn any organic waste (hay, animal waste, grass, corn stalk) into energy that could not only heat and light their house, but heat their barns too on a cold winter day. Also, the farmers could grow corn within the greenhouse that they could later sell. Schools and/or large businesses could use this machine by separating their food and organic waste from other materials in their trash, too.

The food and other organic waste that would have originally been wasted into a trash can and gone off to a landfill to emit methane and contribute to the greenhouse effect, will know be converted into energy. This energy will be used to help heat, light, and power the school.  Also, considering produce is very expensive, the school could then grow their own produce, such as lettuce, within our machine and it eat during school lunches. Lastly, third world countries and small villages could really put this machine to use. An entire small village within a third could deposit

The most practical place for this system to be used is on a farm. With the energy it produces it could be used to heat buildings or barns, it could be used to fuel stoves, and any type of plant can be grown in aquaponics. Now the farmer will be getting electricity to use on his farm, and he will be producing crops and fish. Not to mention that this machine runs off of organic material and manure, so if a farmer has any livestock he can use their manure to fuel the machine. Anaerobic digestion paired with aquaponics could also be revolutionary to third world countries.

Through the uses of this contraption, we can make current jobs more efficient and environmentally safe. As you have read, there is proof of concept in our machine, but we lack the funding required to create it. The potential in this project is astounding and to see it go to waste would be devastating to us. We understand that we do not have the means to continue creating FWE, so if anyone has an interest in furthering the good of such a machine, by all means, do so. As long as our names are recognized, we have no problem in seeing our blueprints come to life. What we find most important is to see our machine working and helping people, no matter the personal gain. At its core, the goal of FWE is to convert waste into energy to provide clean energy to those in need.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

What are the shortcomings of project based learning?

I was searching around on Quora as I do for interesting ideas and conversations. One concept I never searched was PBL. So I did and I came across this thread: What are the shortcomings of project based learning?

As our school has moved to this model I gave this question some great thought because I think it is a good question to reflect upon and work to overcome those shortcomings the best we can.

One of the contributors to this question suggested the following four shortcomings

  • Teachers have to be taught to use the method.
  • Time and resource scarcity.  Project based learning requires more classroom time to present (often).
  • Challenge and/or difficulty of assessment.  What skills to assess?  How to assess them?  How to be fair and just on more subjective projects?
  • Its possible to water down PBL to be just “fun” without learning

These four items are spot on. I wanted to expand my thought on this topic a bit. In the Quora discussion I shared the following:

 I agree with a lot of what is shared here. As our middle school has transformed our teaching the PBL model we are working very hard to help shift the thought in learning for students, parents, and the community. PBL looks much different than how we all learned. However, the best learning memories are from programs after school that had elements of PBL so the question becomes why is it so hard to deliver in the classroom? It takes time to develop the culture and the mindset to make it happen. Many students have been trained for that one right answer and to follow a formula for success. PBL is open ended and the journey to an answer is where the learning takes place.

Over the course of this year we have to take time to celebrate all progress no matter how small it might seem. It does take time, effort, and special attention to help teachers move to this system if they are not used to it. The hardest part is helping them realize that their prior ways are not wrong, but can be tweaked to develop deeper learning opportunities.

PBL does take a lot of time. The projects are time consuming to launch, implement, and wrap up. Creating and developing that authentic audience is essential. However, I don’t believe that you have to have every student present to the class. That gets old real quick for everyone. Give them a real audience like the community during an exhibition night, invite professionals, have them present to a panel, etc. Move away from just the class.

The hardest element is assessment because the learning is invisible. What I mean by that is the learning takes place during the journey. A student could end up with an ugly looking project, but that does not mean he/she did not gain extensive knowledge about the topic and themselves. We have to be careful when assessing to make sure we are looking at everything to ensure the grade does reflect the learning.

Finally, I think you avoid the projects just being fun when you do project tunings and do the project yourself before you launch the project. We have students on our project tuning groups to give teachers feedback before they launch the project. It is important to critique and offer feedback prior to the project so that you make sure a crappy project does not happen.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

bow chicka wow HOW: Moving from What to How

Yesterday I delivered my presentation to my staff in an attempt to help them think differently about projects. I offered two HOW suggestions

1. Use the Common Core Appendices to work backwards in project development

2. Walk the hallways and think location of project first before planning

Speaking to your own school is tough. I always think it is the hardest audience to prepare for because they all know you. I think it is much easier speaking to strangers. I always reflect upon my presentations and share out. I think this one went pretty good. This time of year is tough for educators as students start to shut down, weather is up and down, and we are in the midst of final exhibitions and making sure we dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

My goal was to help educators think in a new perspective. Often time when we are stuck we cannot find the answers we keep searching for. We keep resorting to the same path of thinking that has always worked in the past. We sometimes have to go a different route. It does not mean that our original mode of thinking is wrong or invalid. I am not suggesting that we add one more thing to our plates that are already full. Rather, just taking a step back and looking at things differently. As I watched my high school art teacher do the other week when I visited her classroom sometime you need to take your art, step back, and rotate the work to gain new insight.

I suggested working backwards. I hope it works. I think it caused some gears to turn. I would love to share more and learn from others who are doing this type of thinking. The hardest part of HOW is that there is not a formula. The only way to discover HOW is to do it. It will never be perfect, but you won’t know how good an idea is unless we try. Teachers must be given time to think, learn, fail, and experiment. We must be given the same opportunities as our students. If classroom instruction is going to improve, then they have to feel comfortable stepping out of their comfort zone.

This is a great topic and I wish I had more time to dig deeper on this. I was brainstorming last night how I could easily make this whole topic a workshop. Perhaps that is my next goal to develop my first workshop. I have achieved the goal of making myself present a session and now maybe it is time to plan for something a bit larger in context.

My slides are above. They are not my best work as my Macbook Pro died and I am waiting for my new Macbook Pro to arrive. I had to resort to Google Presentation. But, they got the job done. If you have any questions please let me know.

And now it is back to finalized my keynote to the National Honor Society students coming up in a few weeks on leadership, service, scholarship, and character. My first keynote and the most stressful of all things I have done.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)