Detroit Pistons finally do something right – teaching kids literacy concepts

As a long-time Detroit Pistons fan I have shaken my head at many of their recent management decisions and recent woeful seasons on the court.

The franchise got something exceptionally right recently though. Broadcaster Greg Kelser hosts a couple of videos aimed at improving literacy, specifically students’ abilities to stake and back up claims and understanding that every writer brings a different point of view.

The videos were produced as part of the team’s outreach into public education for schools in Oakland County, Michigan – the area surrounding the Piston’s Auburn Hills arena and headquarters.


Update: #FlippedClassroom Flop

Mako by Emma from Andy Losik on Vimeo.

So it has been three weeks since my attempt to get second graders making movies crashed and burned right before my principal’s eyes for my formal observation.

I can’t tell you how much support my sharing that experience generated from readers of my blog and friends on social media. I stated then that it was actually an experience I needed because I was bound to grow from it and see this project through to completion.

Now three weeks later I am proud to share that over half of the second graders have successfully completed their projects. Check out Emma’s above.

Along the way the kids began to express their frustration over the amount of background noise that kept interfering with their voiceover work. Others simply struggled with using that specific feature in iMovie. To assist in this step, I slowed down the process and worked one-on-one with them on this part. One kid would record at a time with me away from where the rest were working quietly. To provide help to those still just trying to reach this step, I set up a Genius Bar just like at the Apple store. Kids who had mastered the process set up shop to help other students. Those completely done or waiting to record voice could select from a handful of problem solving games like Tinkerball and Tumble Town.

Projects are getting done with quality. Kids are getting one-on-one time with me. Kids are helping kids while others build additional skills…and I got better as a teacher. It just took a few lumps getting to this point. As far as the observation goes, my principal came back yesterday and liked the progress. He even spent a little time working at the Genius Bar helping kids with their videos.

Lead, follow, AND, get out of the way.

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 12.49.20 PMI just spent two days of the last month of summer fully immersed in school stuff. Am I nuts?


Having been lucky enough to have been invited to my school district’s first ever Admin/Staff Leadership retreat, I had the unique opportunity to see my Hamilton Community Schools admin team in a bit more human light. I had the unique opportunity to help create the professional development schedule and offerings for the coming year. I discovered the amazing talent we have teaching down the hall from me and in the other Hamilton buildings. I had my voice valued by colleagues and supervisors.

This was no sacrifice, this was a gift.

Not only did I leave the retreat feeling energized and excited that as a leadership team we had drawn great relevance around our staff meetings, grade level time, and PD days…all focused on school improvement and putting individual needs of kids first, I gained some insight on being a leader

My biggest take away was what I learned about leadership. We have heard many times that so-and-so needs to either lead, follow, or get out of the way. For me though, I want to do all three.

Lead: Set the example. Share your vision. Contribute insight. Be a helpful guy.
Follow: Understand that you don’t know everything and that a lot can be learned from those who have more experience, or are better at something than you are.
Get out of the way: Don’t let your ego get in the way of progress because you insist on putting your stamp on it or “showing them who’s in charge”. Know when to keep your mouth shut and when to support something great.

I hope the Hamilton retreat becomes a yearly event and I hope to see more colleagues invited to future gatherings…and accept the opportunity to learn and build together.

Let’s all lead, follow, and get out of the way during this upcoming school year.

A great salute to teamwork

Thanks Brent Ashcroft, Dan Harland, Lauren Stanton, Derek Francis and WZZM for being part of our big Blue Star lip dub project. Thanks also for filing this great piece on all of the teamwork it took to put this together.


The Anatomy of a Collaborative Endeavor

Today Melinda Bronkhorst, Brian Lancaster (both 4th grade teachers at Bentheim Elementary) and I laid out three collaborative projects in under a half an hour. Here is how it all came together so quickly.

Melinda initiated the planning session by signing up for some collaboration time. She basically just wanted some ideas on how she could engage her students a little more deeply with technology. We came up with an idea where students would connect the iPhoto use skills I had planned for Infotech with their beginning studies of the United States regions. The plan is to have me bring down the mobile lab on Thursdays and ask students to begin exploring the tourist sites of states in their assigned region. They will find pictures that show examples of physical characteristics, save those to iPhoto, add bibliographical information to each photo, and organize them into albums. We will continue the work each Friday when the students visit me for Infotech. The three week project will culminate in some type of production where students share their photos to show the uniqueness of their regions.

I love planning like this. I am able to share my technology knowledge and the classroom teachers share their content and curriculum knowledge. Jointly we can put together an endeavor that is solid in all aspects of learning.

We weren’t quite done though. We started to then think about what the next step might be and what other grade level objectives we might be able to address. I shared that sixteen years ago I used to have my fourth graders practice business letters by writing the game and fish office of different states. Every student was tickled to get a packet of information in the mail that featured all kinds of posters, pamphlets, brochures, and stickers. We decided we would resurrect the project and work together to do some business letter writing with Google Docs. Students will find the natural resources office for one of the states in their region and ask for some information on the wildlife that call it home.

That second project led to a third one that involved meeting briefly with Brian. Every year he does animal reports with fourth graders in Science. In the past we have worked together to give students links to research sites, and published them with the computers. This year we are going to try to connect the animal investigations all of the way back to the original regions investigation. The animal that will be the subject of the science report will one that students learned about through material solicited from the business letters. This is designed to build a little extra connection between the student and the subject they will research.

All of this planning and brainstorming took about 25 minutes. In that time we were able to tie together Social Studies, Writing, and Science…all of which were infused with educational technology. These are just examples of the types of projects we can do together. We took Melinda’s general initial idea and quickly generated three very specific projects designed to engage learners in new and different ways.