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  • Minecraft: Research Product Minecraft: Research Product

    • From: Michael_Fisher
    • Description:

      Earlier this week, a member of my digital network, Brent Coley ( @brentcoley ), shared the following tweet where a student created a Minecraft video that represented a virtual tour of Mission San Diego de Alcala (Wikipedia link):


      Link to video outside of tweet.

      I was absolutely blown away by what this 4th grader created and I thought it was a good representation of what a research project product that wasn’t a paper looked like.  I’ve previously blogged about Infographics as a research product and I advocate vociferously for digital product replacement thinking when I work with teachers. If the outcome is building knowledge and demonstrating that students can both investigate a topic and learn from it, whoever said that research had to result in a paper?

      The research standards in the Common Core are usually just the three writing standards associated with Research to Build and Present Knowledge. However, I always lump writing standard six in there as well, as it deals with how writing can be presented in a digital format/presentation. I want to share the fourth-grade-specific Common Core writing standards here, standard seven from the Research Standards, and standard six from the Production and Distribution of Writing section:

      W.4.7. Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

      W.4.6. With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.

      As you read through the rest of this blog post (and hopefully after you’ve viewed the video), read with these standards as lenses. Ask yourself, “did this student meet the standard?” “Did this student provide evidence of what they know and are able to do within the confines of this standard?”

      In my book, Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess 21st Century Work?, I describe several questions to ask when assigning digital student work:

      1. What is the learning objective?

      2. Is the instructional task worthy of a digital upgrade? Will using digital tools enhance the learning? If so, in what ways?

      3. Will the digital tools increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task? What additional skills might have to be considered in order to engage this upgrade?

      4. Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and/or creative thinking?

      5. Are sufficient digital tools available and do all students have access to them?

      6. Are the students involved in some of the decision-making? How much are the students contributing to the design, process, or product?

      I wanted to blog about this student’s Minecraft project through the lens of these six considerations, annotating what this fourth grader was able to accomplish.

      • What is the learning objective?

        • The learning objective here was to learn about the Mission San Diego de Alcala. This student had to learn the layout, information about the different areas, and be able to speculate about the people that lived there.

        • This student also had to learn specific information about the founder of the Mission, Father Junipero Serra, as he both introduces the video and then explains several of the artifacts contained within the video.

      • Is the instructional task worthy of a digital upgrade? Will using digital tools enhance the learning? If so, in what ways?

        • In this case, I believe the learning was enhanced exponentially. Besides the research to build knowledge about the mission, this student had to do a brick by brick recreation to create the video.

        • In the comments section of the video, the student’s father includes information about the student having to develop his own system for creating the texture of the tiles on the roof.

        • This obviously had to be tightly scripted for both production and the narration, so the writing definitely occurred at some point. Everything in the video though is beyond the writing...beyond the end point of the traditional research product.

        • In terms of worth? You tell me. Was this digital upgrade a worthy replacement?

      • Will the digital tools increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task?

        • The traditional version of this research would have resulted in a paper, most likely, perhaps a diorama or detailed schematic drawing. In this case, using Minecraft, the detail involved demanded a time-intensive process that resulted in a very professional product. The decisions this student made to develop the detailed depiction all involved discernment and critical thinking in some way. Big time rigor here.

        • Additionally, the student used multiple digital tools to get to the final product: Minecraft to create the representation, an audio tool to record the narration, and a screen-capturing tool to record the video. All of these individually would raise the thinking level of the task because they all represent learning that is above and beyond the expectation of the standard and the traditional version of the research. Together, they represent problem solving nirvana.

      • Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and/or creative thinking?

        • I get the sense from the comments on the Youtube page that the student engaged in some conversation with his dad to create the video, though I don’t see specific evidence of collaboration or communication.

        • As for creative problem solving, the student’s father references an issue with the roof tiles that the student had to discover a solution too, but the entire video also represents a finished product that is the end product of trial and error thinking. If you’ve ever been in Minecraft, you know that you have to try stuff out and see if it works. Once you discover what works, you build, literally, on it.

        • In terms of creative thinking, there’s so much here. From decisions about the design and interactive elements, to details about Father Serra’s artifacts, to the layout and navigation of the Mission for the viewer of the video, this student had a lot on his plate to think about. The finished product demonstrates extremely high levels of thinking and decision making.

      • Are sufficient digital tools available and do all students have access to them?

        • This I don’t know. I’m not privy to the project’s parameters or to the population of students that were assigned this project and their access to / equity within digital tools or connected access points.

        • I do know that this student seems to be fairly comfortable creating within the digital realm, which suggests an early affinity / comfort with digital tools at a young age that allows him to demonstrate learning at this level even in the fourth grade.

        • Based on the comments from dad, I’m speculating that this student has no issues with computer / internet access and that it is just a part of his world.

      • Are the students involved in some of the decision-making? How much are the students contributing to the design, process, or product?

        • Again, since I don’t know anything about what was assigned, I don’t know how much the students contributed to the design of the project.

        • Even if the design of the Mission and its subsequent creation within the Minecraft system was with the help of his father, note that the standard (#6) advocates for “guidance and support from adults.”

      In the book, I also recommend some questions to ask when assessing student work, two of which revolve around how students are reflecting on what they are creating and how they are attributing their source material, both of which are important components of research.

      In this case, there is little evidence of either. I was hoping to learn from where the student found his information. (And I was secretly hoping to discover that he used multiple verified sources.) I was also hoping to learn why he chose to use Minecraft to create his product versus other available web tools. Perhaps eventually this could be added to the Youtube comments. If I were the teacher, I might ask for this as a separate component of the task.

      All in all, though, I must say, that this effort is serendipitous. I’m struck by both the level of quality and the apparent level of learning of this student. I hope that those reading this are understanding that this is what a 21st Century demonstration of learning looks like. This is what is possible when we relinquish the limits of traditional practice. This is what is possible when we begin orbiting the boxes that we’ve asked students to think outside of for decades. This is 21st Century Learning.

      Kudos to this kid and his dad. What they created was future-forward and just plain awesome. I subscribed to their Youtube channel. I can’t wait to see what they will do next!


      Follow Mike On Twitter: @fisher1000

      Mike’s Website: Digigogy.com

      Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess 21st Century Work?

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  • Word to the Wise: 10 Inspiring Word to the Wise: 10 Inspiring Leadership Quotes for Principals

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      principalOver the past couple of years, I’ve been collecting any sort of quote or aphorism that relates to leadership. This week, I browsed my list and grabbed 10 of my favorite quotes to share with you.

      Word to the Wise: 10 Inspiring Leadership Quotes for Principals

       “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”
      ―Ronald Reagan

      “You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence. And the good that is in you must be spread to others....”
      Gordon B. Hinckley

      “A man can only lead when others accept him as their leader, and he has only as much authority as his subjects give to him. All of the brilliant ideas in the world cannot save your kingdom if no one will listen to them.”
      Brandon Sanderson

      “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”
      John C. Maxwell

      “The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
      ―Colin Powell

      “Power isn’t control at all — power is strength, and giving that strength to others. A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make him stronger; a leader is someone willing to give his strength to others that they may have the strength to stand on their own.”
      Beth Revis

      “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
      ―Theodore Roosevelt

      “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
      Rosalynn Carter

      “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.”
      ―Tony Blair

      “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
      Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

                                Download our FREE Principal Coaching Gui

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  • R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Pla R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Plan Elementary Level or Beginning Foreign Language

    • From: Judy_Willis
    • Description:

      R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Plan

      Elementary Level or Beginning Foreign Language



      By Paula Berlinck and Luciana Castro

      2nd grade Portuguese Teachers

      Graded School

      Sao Paulo, Brazil

      March 2014



      Unit Title:  Where does the bread come from?

      Subject(s):  Portuguese  Grade Level(s): 2nd grade

      Lesson Concept/Topic:   Reading and Writing Non-fiction

      Lesson Goals/Objectives:  Reading and Writing Non-fiction


      Lesson Elements:

      (and how they will be Neuro-logical)







      Getting Attention:

      How will you begin this lesson to engage learners’ attention?


      The attention filter (RAS) gives priority to sensory input that is different than the expected pattern. Novelty, such as changes in voice, unusual objects, songs playing when they enter the classroom, will peak students curiosity and increase likelihood of the related lesson material being selected by the RAS attention filter.



      1-As soon as each student arrives in the classroom they will find one wheat stalk on top of your own desk.

      2-The students are going to watch and listen to the music “O cio da terra” de Milton Nascimento e Fernando Brandt






      Sustaining Attention:

      What will you do to sustain students’ attentive focus throughout the lesson?


      The brain seeks the pleasure response to making correct predictions. When students have the opportunity to make and change predictions throughout a lesson, attention is sustained as the brain seeks clues to make accurate predictions. Individual response tools, such as white boards, can be used to make predictions and reduce mistake anxiety.


      1-Make the link with the Field trip to the Bread Factory and list the Previous Knowledge about “Where does the bread come from?”

      2- The teacher will start to read the book “Kika: De onde vem o pão?”

      3- Treshing the wheat and grind to find out the flour

      Motivation and Perseverance:

      Which dopamine boosters will be included in your lesson?


      The brain seeks the pleasure response to increased dopamine. Incorporating dopamine boosters (e.g., humor, movement, listening to music, working with peers) increases attention, motivation, and perseverance


      4- Finishing the reading aloud of the book

      5- Watching the video “Kika: De onde vem o pão?”

      6- Using a Graphic Organize to compare and contrast the information in the book and the video  








      How will you help students see value and relevance in what they are learning – so they want to know what you have to teach?


      Positive climate and prevention of high stressors promote information passage through the amygdala to the PFC. Motivation and effort increase when the brain expects pleasure. Buy-in examples include personal relevance, prediction, and performance tasks connecting to students’ interests and strengths.


      7- Bake the Bread in the classroom

      Every student will take part on the process, in group of 4 students at a time.

      Achievable challenge:

       How will you tailor the lesson to address students’ differences in readiness, learning profile, and interests?


      Differentiation allows students to work at their achievable challenge level.  The students who understand the new topic, if required to keep reviewing with the group, may become bored and therefore stressed.  If it is too challenging they will become frustrated. By providing learning opportunities within their range of achievable challenge, students engage through expectation of positive experiences.


      8- Students will be able to choose one of the videos from the series “Kika: De onde vem?”, (Kika: Where it comes from?) where they can find different subjects that explain things like: the waves, where the eggs comes from,  how TV works, etc)

      Students will work in pairs, considering their complementary abilities

      They are going to watch, to learn about the topic, take notes and then write it down to explain to another person. They could use different formats of graphic organizers, with more or less parts to drawn and break it down the information. They will be assisted by the teacher depending by their level.

      Frequent Formative Assessment and Feedback:

      How will you monitor students’ progress towards acquisition, meaning making, and transfer, during lesson events?

      How will students get the feedback they need and opportunities to make use of it?


      Effort is withheld when previous experiences have failed to achieve success. Breaking down learning tasks into achievable challenge segments, in which students experience and are aware of success on route to learning goals (e.g. analytic rubrics, effort-to-progress graphs) and reflect on what they learned and how they learned, builds their confidence that their effort can bring them closer to their goals.


      Students will be active in some paces of the process. The summative assessment is the nonfiction text that they will write using movie information, translating it in a graphic organizer and/or nonfiction text like “how to” or “all about”.






      Short-term Memory Encoding:

      How will you activate prior knowledge to promote the brain’s acquiring new input?


      Helping students to realize what they already know about a topic activates an existing memory pattern to which new input can link in the hippocampus.  Graphic organizers, cross-curricular units, and bulletin boards that preview upcoming units are examples of prior knowledge activation tools.



      Create a chart with the students remembering the prior knowledge that they have about the unit ALL ABOUT and HOW TO, that they had studied in their English class.








      Mental manipulation for Long-term Memory:

      How will students make meaning of learning so neuroplasticity constructs the neural connections of long-term memory?


      When students acquire the information in a variety of ways e.g. visualization, movement, reading, hearing and “translate” learning into other representations (create a narrative, symbolize through a video, synthesize into the concise summary of a tweet) the activation of the short-term memory increases its connections (dendrites, synapses, myelin) to construct long-term memory.



      As the students were exposed to a lot of different inputs, considering visualization, movement, reading, writing etc, we expect it will be built as a long-term memory.







      Executive Functions:

      Which executive function skills will be embedded in the lesson, homework, and projects? (e.g., analyze, organize, prioritize, plan goals, adapt, judge validity, think flexibly, assess risk, communicate clearly.)


      It is important to provide ongoing meaningful ways for students to interact with information so that they apply, activate, and strengthen their developing networks of executive function. Assignments and assessments planned to promote the use of executive functions (e.g. making judgments, supporting opinions, analyzing source validity) activate these highest cognitive networks developing in students’ brains most profoundly during the school years. 


      All executive functions are in place


      What strategies help students to…

      Set and reach goals:


      Individual feedback from the teacher



      Evaluate sources:





      Make decisions (analyze and deduce):


      Graphic organizers



      Support opinions:


      Share peers







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  • How I Work: Meet Teacher-Techn How I Work: Meet Teacher-Technologist, Clint Walters

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      This is the second in an ongoing series of posts inspired by How I Work, a series on one of our favorite sites, Lifehacker. As educators, we like to know how other educators work, how they live, and how they play, so every week we’ll be featuring a new interview with a new teacher. This week, we’ll hear from Clint Walters, a Computer Information Technology teacher from Stewartstown, PA.

      clint waltersLocation:  I live in beautiful Stewartstown, nestled at the bottom of South Central PA, just north of Baltimore MD.

      Desired location:
      I love it here, but I’m willing to live wherever I can pursue my passion for teaching in the Computer Information Technology field, support my awesome wife and family, and ultimately where ever God and my career take me.  

      Current work title (administrator/teacher/school technologist, etc.) Also, what grade do you teach?:
      I am a Computer Information Technology teacher for grades 7 & 8. I occasionally facilitate online courses for Graduate students. I recently conducted a gaming literacy workshop for undergraduates at a local university. 

      Area of expertise (subjects you teach or have an interest in):
      My area of expertise is hard to articulate. Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about Game Based Learning, Game Design, and Gamification, which are big areas of interest. That is my current passion, and what I most often teach online and speak on. Design is a big part of what I teach from graphic design to design thinking. I’m getting more into the areas of Coding and Programming for my students because I feel that that is an essential tool for my student’s future. When it all comes down, my goal is to teach students to be “awesome”. I want them to be fluent users of technology, sure, but the ultimate goal is to make them expert project managers, leaders, entrepreneurs, and world-changers. There’s not enough of that happening in the school day. I don’t think we became a world power by producing great test-takers, and I don’t think that’s enough to keep us there.

      Do you have a specific long-term career goal?:
      My current goal, as lame as it sounds, is to continue doing what I am doing, and remain open to what comes next. Currently, who I am fits what I am doing. When there is a disconnect there, it’s time to change.

      I do, of course have dreams and aspirations. I would love to develop relationships with entrepreneurs and companies in the education technology field. I would love to get involved with a company that promotes serious epistemic games or game-based-learning, while still staying connected to the education field. I really admire the work of companies and organizations like Institute of Play, E-line Media, Games for Change, BrainPop and the Games Learning Society, to name a few. There’s a new company in Baltimore, called Immersive 3d that’s doing some really impressive work with Baltimore County Schools. I just think that it would be incredibly engaging and rewarding to get involved with one of these projects or something like it.

      In my heart of hearts, I would love to make my school into a Quest school. I would settle for being part of starting something like that somewhere, locally or otherwise. I want to see the whole concept of systems thinking, design thinking, STE[a]M learning, and 21st Century skills become available to more students in more places. I want to engage policy makers, teachers, administrators and most of all, parents in demanding more for our kids than rigorous testing, useless trivia, and constant remediation.

      Languages you have studied or currently speak:
      I’ve studied French in high school and college, but I currently know more Japanese than French. That may be misleading, though. I only know enough Japanese to survive on the mat at the Aikido dojo I attend. I’ve studied a fair amount of html and css, though I can’t really speak those languages.

      The project you’re most proud of:
      Currently, my pet projects are my classroom and curriculum, my workshops and presentations, and my online course writing. I take pride in all of these. Mostly, I take pride in my students, who make and do awesome things in my room.

      The classes that I teach are my ongoing project. I’m constantly re-thinking, revising, and re-iterating curriculum, activities, and even classroom layout. I inherited a 7th grade class in MS Office and an 8th grade class in technical drawing and digital photography. Now my seventh graders publish blogs, participate in social networking, design engaging graphics, make their own video games, learn coding and programming, and explore the nuances of project based learning. My 8th graders go deeper by experiencing 9 weeks of project based learning, which requires them to develop unique solutions and select and use computer applications effectively and productively, seamlessly transferring created objects between selected computer applications and other tools. Both of these classes focus heavily on design and systems thinking and employ a generous amount of gamification and game based learning.

      Favorite time of the day:
      That depends on the day… 

      Favorite technology gadget for the classroom:
      I’m not sure how to answer this. I have a lot of software that I like to use. I have a lot of techniques that I like to teach that are made easier with technology. I have access to several gadgets that do things well, but I do not have a favorite. It’s all in the application. 

      Next conference/professional-development event you’re planning to give or attend:
      Whatever and wherever I can. I just attended EdSurge Baltimore, and I just missed SXSWedu (tears). Being a public school teacher does not afford one the opportunity to attend such events. The funding is barely there to retain teachers, let alone provide them with any real and meaningful professional experiences. This is one of the reasons why I wish to develop more relationships (and see teachers in general be more connected) with entrepreneurs and companies in the education technology field. In order to get out of one’s duties, let alone cover travel expenses, one practically needs to represent a company.

      How many hours per day do you usually work?:
      That depends. Some days I work in my sleep. Typically I’m on the clock from 7:30 to 2:50, but I’m at work from 6:30 to 3:00 most days. Then I come home and devote myself to my family. After my kids go to bed, I typically put in an hour of work on my blog, any freelance design work I may have, or facilitating online classes. I also tend to spend between two and four hours on these pursuits on the weekend as well. 

      Are you an introvert or an extrovert?:
      I am an extreme extrovert. I really dislike being alone. I recharge in the presence of others. I dwindle and wither in isolation.

      Are you an early-riser or a night-owl?:
      I am neither. I like to get to bed before 10:00 when possible. I wake at 5:00, though I can’t say that I am particularly joyful at waking. I think that I used to be a morning person... before children. Now, I spend a lot of time feeling tired.

      Do you have any pets or kids (names and ages)?:
      I am blessed with an awesome family. My wife, Lanette, and I have two kids. Hudson, age six is in Kindergarten, and loves Legos, Games of all kinds, and building stuff out of anything around the house. Eliza, age 2, loves climbing, demolishing whatever Hudson builds, and using mommy’s iPad. 

      My wife, Lanette, is a K-5 technology integrator in a 1:1 iPad school and is now the Digital Curriculum Reviewer for Kindertown.

      Next city/country you want to visit:
      Here, I don’t have a strong preference. I recently went to Boston, which was not on my radar at all, but I loved it. I enjoy visiting new places. I would love to go to Japan someday. That would be cool.

      Favorite vacation place:
      My favorite vacation spot is anywhere my family is. Lately I enjoy Bethany Beach, DE because that is where my family goes on vacation. I would be as happy vacationing in Maine or Florida or my back yard.

      Favorite book:
      My favorite fiction book is JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings, which I discovered in 11th grade. Thank you, Mrs. Smith. My favorite non-fiction title is Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal. 

      Favorite song:
      I’m a musician. I play the drums and world percussion. I love music. I do not have one favorite song. Today, I am enjoying Cake’s rendition of Mahna Mahna. I consistently enjoy music by the Black Keys, Mofro, and Jack White. I tend to enjoy everything from the Ting Tings to Mavis Staples. I have eclectic tastes.

      Where we can find your website/blog/classroom blog:
      (my main website)

      http://mrwaltersdesk.blogspot.com/ (my education blog)

      Do you have a Twitter account we can follow you on?:




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