thinkering and applying – #MakerEd #LearnAndShare

On February 26, I participated in a workshop with Lindsey OwnVinnie VrotnyJaymes Dec, and Andrew Carle on Maker Education.  It was AWESOME! (You can read a summary of the details of the workshop on Lindsey’s blog post, #MakerEd at #NAISac14!) I applaud their plan, pedagogy, and execution. It was a real workshop with learner choice and learning by doing. Here’s a glimpse of the action:

Image by Lindsey Own; used with permission.

My favorite of the experiences was the sewing station.  Using a strip of felt, snaps, an led, a battery, and some conductive thread, I created a wearable circuit. Now, I have to confess that I have, in my past, co-taught calculus-based physics to seniors.  While I was the calculus person on the team, I did quite well with circuits. I could read most problems, draw the circuit (in parallel or in series) and answer the question posed by the book.  Sewing my bracelet at NAIS was the first time I ever created, touched, designed a circuit. Amazing and sad at the same time.  How much more would I have understood about physics if I’d had the sewing experience first?

I wanted to have two leds on my bracelet.  In conversation with my 9-year old, she asked if her bracelet could have her name as well light up.  Trying to apply her ideas into my learning, here’s the next iteration in my learning:


I used 18 ct Aida cross stitch fabric and DMC thread to produce my bracelet.  I tried to capture the process in pictures.

I am grateful to  Lindsey OwnVinnie VrotnyJaymes Dec, and Andrew Carle for the experience at NAIS.

How might we connect ideas with our learners? How might we ramp up design and hands-on experiences to make additional opportunities for curiosity, creativity, critical reasoning, communication, collaboration, and control?

#LL2LU Formative Assessment that Builds Confidence and Skill – #NspiredatT3

What if we empower and embolden our learners to ask the questions they need to ask by improving the way we communicate and assess?

Great teachers lead us just far enough down a path so we can challenge for ourselves. They provide us just enough insight so we can work toward a solution that makes us, makes me want to jump up and shout out the solution to the world, makes me want to step to the next higher level.  Great teachers somehow make us want to ask the questions that they want us to answer, overcome the challenge that they, because they are our teacher, believe we need to overcome. (Lichtman, 20 pag.)

Our final session at T³ International Conference was, of course, my favorite of the sessions we offered.  Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 4.11.06 PM

Here’s the original plan:


I started with a personal story about actionable feedback and then gave the quick 4-minute Ignite talk on the foundational ideas supporting the Leading Learners to Level Up  philosophy.

We then went right to work.  Here’s what it looked like:

Responding to questions from participants, I shared the following additional resources:

How might we coach our learners into asking more questions? Not just any question – targeted questions.  What if we coach and develop the skill of questioning self-talk?

Interrogative self-talk, the researchers say, “may inspire thoughts about autonomous or intrinsically motivated reasons to purse a goal.”  As ample research has demonstrated, people are more likely to act, and to perform well, when the motivations come from intrinsic choices rather than from extrinsic pressures.  Declarative self-talk risks bypassing one’s motivations.  Questioning self-talk elicits the reasons for doing something and reminds people that many of those reasons come from within. (Pink, 103 pag.)


Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.

Pink, Daniel H. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. New York: Riverhead, 2012. Print.

Design for Learning and Inquiry – #NspiredatT3

Can we – do we – see ourselves as designers of learning experiences?

Today’s session offers  T³ International Conference participants an opportunity to go deep.  Friday’s sessions ran for either 60 or 90 minutes.  While there are 60 and 90 minute sessions at the conference today, participants may also elect to spend four or six hours in learn-by-doing sessions.

Here’s what we submitted for the program:

Design for Learning and Inquiry
Interested in more inquiry from student-learners? In this hands-on session we will focus on designing one-page TI-Nspire documents that promote investigation, learning, and inquiry.  Our goal is to learn by doing.  We want participants to be able to say at the end of this session:  1) I can exercise the ideas of simplicity and restraint when designing TI-Nspire learning investigations; 2) I can storyboard a learning investigation prior to beginning to design to streamline the concept and balance the information to be learned; and 3) I can create TI-Nspire documents to promote learning and inquiry. Bring your laptop with TI-Nspire Teacher Edition and sample learning targets or assessments that you will tinker with.

Here’s how it was printed in the program.

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 6.50.36 AM

We want our participants to learn to design a one-page TI-Nspire document that promotes student investigation, learning, and inquiry.  Our goal is to discuss – experientially – the essential learnings for the summer workshop. We know we can’t do justice to a 2-day workshop in 2 hours.  We planned to go deep into one activity rather than cover the entire agenda at a rapid pace.

We encourage the idea of Storyboarding prior to launching in to designing with TI-Nspire. We are inspired by Garr Reynolds and Presentation Zen.  In particular we are going to try to avoid creating Nspire documents that are slideuments. For more information, please read “Slideuments” and the catch-22 for conference speakers.

Our hope:  At the end of this workshop, participants should be able to say:

    • I can exercise the ideas of restraint and simplicity when designing learning investigations.
      • I can identify what is important and remove what is not important.
      • I can design where less is more visually – I can include only what is necessary to promote inquiry and investigation.
      • I can design documents that are engaging and prompt questions and inquiry from the learner.
    • I can storyboard a learning investigation prior to beginning to design to streamline the concept and balance the information to be learned.
      • I can explain the goal of the activity and outline the expected learning outcomes.
      • I can design a variety of dynamic constructions that are controlled by different inputs including points, sliders, and stored variables.
      • I can design documents with a variety of outputs, which use color and strings to support opportunities for  visual connections.
    • I can create TI-Nspire documents to promote student investigation and inquiry.
      • I can enhance documents with conditional statements to make information appear and disappear as needed to enhance a lesson.
      • I can apply TI-Nspire construction tools: geometry tools, scatterplots, data capture, etc. to create the investigation.
      • I can use free points, restricted points, sliders, stored variables, etc. to control the actions in the document.
      • I can use color, text boxes, strings, etc. as inputs and outputs to connect ideas and promote questions.

We have a plan which is shared below, but we are going to lead our learners by following their questions.

Essential learning: I can explain the effects of a, h, and k in the vertex form of a parabola.

Level 1: I can graph a parabola and use the interactive tools of TI-Nspire to shift and stretch the parent function to investigate graphs of parabolas.

2014-03-08 08.45.29


  • I like that learners can shift and stretch the graph to see the graph and function change.
  • I wonder if the decimals are helpful or distracting.
  • What if we created a document where the values of h and k are Integers?

Level 2: I can design a document to stretch and shift a parabola where the values of h and k are Integers.

2014-03-08 08.45.35


  • I like that the values of h and k are restricted to Integer values. I like that I can control the step of these values by changing the scale of the graph.
  • I wonder if learners will connect the values of (h, k) shown in the ordered pair to the equation.
  • What if the equation showed the numerical values of h and k rather than the symbols?

Stage 3: I can design a document to stretch and shift a parabola where the values of h and k are Integers and the function dynamically shows the numerical values of h and k as the function changes.

2014-03-08 09.23.14

Here’s what we planned to do:

Here’s what our participants prompted us to actually do because of the question How might we use color?:

Stage 4: I can design a document to stretch and shift a parabola where the function dynamically shows the numerical values of a, h, and k as the function changes.

2014-03-08 10.09.30

Final Nspire document shown above

We’ve left the last hour for application and coaching.  Participants are invited to create their own document. We are available for trouble-shooting and brainstorming.

Here’s the next challenge for curious learners:

Final Nspire document shown above.

Calculus and the Art of Questioning – #NspiredatT3

It falls in the category of “ask; don’t tell.” We used to think that kids needed carefully scaffolded, guided learning experiences. We now think learners need opportunities to explore, ask what if, and test their ideas instead of us telling them what to think and do. We know there needs to be a balance of both.

What if we offered Calculus students a TI-Nspire™ document to explore and develop questions and hypotheses? What if we used student questions to develop a path to learning? Can we lead learning by following student questions?

In The Falconer; What We Wish We Had Learned in School, Grant Lichtman writes:

Good teachers ensure that their students learn the subject material to an acceptable or superior level. Great teachers all do one thing well: they create dissonance in the minds of their students and guide them in the resolution of that dissonance.

In another of our the T³ International Conference presentations in Las Vegas, Sam and I are going to share our thinking, our documents, and our ideas about creating dissonance and offering learners the opportunity to ask questions and investigate first.

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 9.54.19 AM

Here are the files we are using as starters for this conversation (We learn and share; download these Nspire files from our Dropbox. Each screenshot is hyperlinked to the corresponding file if you just want one or two.):

03-07-2014 Image001 03-07-2014 Image002 03-07-2014 Image003 03-07-2014 Image004 03-07-2014 Image005 03-07-2014 Image006

We’d love your feedback and your questions.  We’d also love to know if you try this with learners.

PBL PD: Integrating Formative Assessment, Twitter, & Brain-based Research – #NspiredatT3

Today, Sam and I are presenting at the T³ International Conference in Las Vegas. In this session, we are going to ask the participants to practice, to go on a learning walk and tweet and then come back and analyze the results.  Experiential learning rather than sit-n-get. (We are going to use #JillandSam in addition to #NspiredatT3.)

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 9.33.40 AM

With the mountains of “stuff” our teachers need to learn, practice, and do, how do we get it all accomplished? How can we, the adult-learners, practice and learn while continuing our work? In other words, how do we create PBL experiences for adult-learners that teach through experience and out of isolation?

What if we created a movement to learn more about Twitter and formative assessment while investigating the primacy-recency effect as described in How the Brain Learns by David Sousa?

“This research indicates that there is a higher probability of effective learning taking place if we can keep the learning episodes short and, of course, meaningful. Thus, teaching two 20-minute lessons provides 20 percent more prime-time (approximately 36 minutes) than one 40-minute lesson (approximately 30 minutes). Note, however, that a time period shorter than 20 minutes usually does not give the learner’s brain sufficient time to determine the pattern and organization of the new learning, and is thus of little benefit.”
How the Brain Learns, David A. Sousa

What if we integrate reflection and quick-writes as the down time or cognitive break as the bridge between the 2 prime-time learning episodes? What if we leverage social media – Twitter – to share learning and questions across our school to paint a picture of learning?

Here’s the idea and implementation plan for a 50-60 minute period.

    1. Pause at approximately 18-20 minutes and ask our student-learners to do a quick write about what they are learning or doing in class.  (a form of self-assessment; do I know what I’m supposed to be learning?)
    2. Let learners quickly share what they wrote.  (a form of formative assessment, are they learning what I intend?)
    3. Tweet a summary of what is being learned or done using a common hashtag. (this models using social media for learning)
    4. Follow the tweets from this hashtag to be more informed about each other and what we are learning/doing in class to possibly find curricular connections and common ground.

What if we check for understanding 20 minutes into class and let this check inform our practices for the rest of the learning time – the 2nd prime-time interval?

Many teachers can’t find purpose for Twitter.  It is too much information, or they feel they have to be connected all of the time.  What if we change that? What if we use Twitter as a communication, learning, and celebration tool? (I think Grant’s post last weekend supports this and the need to change.)

Keep your fingers crossed!

Developing a Virtual Learning Community – #T3Learns session

How might we stay connected, offer additional ideas, and share experiences with others? What if we leverage social media tools? How might we continue to lead learning without stretching ourselves too thin? How might we continue to contribute to our learning community when we are apart? How might we be more intentional in PD sessions to foster continued learning? What if we explore effective use of tools to develop and maintain connectedness and build learning communities? Will we learn and share?

Jeff McCalla, @jmccalla1 and Confessions of a Wannabe Super Teacher, and I facilitated a session for T3 instructors on building and maintaining learning communites to learn, share, and support learning.  Our lesson design, strategies, and resources are shared on the Developing a Virtual Learning Community Google doc.  We were charged with the responsibility to lead a session for T³ instructors to  brainstorm and share useful strategies to connect and learn from and with others. At the end of this session, our community should be able to say:

    • I can contribute to learning communities both face-to-face and virtually.
    • I can use social media to connect with fellow T3 instructors before , during, and after PD.
    • I can use social media to connect with participants before, during, and after our PD.

We ran 4 sessions today – all very different.  Jeff is a master of the art of questioning. He guided the discussion and connected to the learning plan while accommodating the learners in the room.  At each session we answered questions concerning the how and why of Twitter and blogging. His blog post What Super-power do you want? offered a grounding story for our discussion.  (Read comments by Bo and Jill to learn more.)

Here are snippets of our conversations, learning, and questions.

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 7.37.47 AM Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 7.37.47 AM Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 7.38.13 AM Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 7.38.33 AM Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 7.41.53 AM