Going Big – Caine’s Arcade Style

Willis Tower, Caine's Arcade Style
Willis Tower, Caine’s Arcade Style

Inspired by all of the creativity and ingenuity involved in the building of Caine’s Arcade, I took our annual research of the World’s tallest skyscrapers into the cardboard construction world.

This project with third graders took on many layers.
-Learning to research, looking

One World Trade Center Freedom Tower
One World Trade Center Freedom Tower

for specific facts
-Manipulating and studying models in Sketchup
-Understanding and calculating scale, 200 feet in real life equaled one foot of cardboard
-Engineering of a free-standing structure
-Creativity and style
-Developing perseverance and stamina when the best laid plans fall flat, literally

Some projects came together much better than others. We are dedicating one final class period to our architecture next week. At that time, we will sit down and take a hard look at what went well and what did not go well. Not all buildings are are going to stand as well as this version of the Willis Tower in Chicago. The biggest challenge will be for the kids to tell me why their building experience went well or what could have gone better. They are just third graders. If we don’t give them the chance to try projects like this and experience the trials and tribulations of collaboration then we can’t expect it just to naturally happen.

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.


EdReach.us: Can we find some Common Ground with the Common Core?

Here is a blog post from over at one of my other ventures, The Disruptors Channel on Edreach.us.

This is how I try to go about my duties as a technology integration specialist and coach here in Hamilton and someone who is deeply involved with the goal of continuing to move education forward. If you ever catch me not practicing what I preach here, call me out.

“There’s something happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear.” ~Buffalo Springfield

On Wednesday morning as I prepared for school, the news programs worked through their post-election coverage. The one phrase I kept hearing was “a need for common ground”.

Yep. If there is one thing this country needs right now it is some common ground. That couldn’t be truer in the world of education either.

To quote Buffalo Springfield again, “There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

A lot has happened legislatively, economically, and technologically since I first started teaching in the mid-90’s. With all of the change has come increasing divisiveness. Back then it seemed like the only real squabbles in elementary education circles I heard were from the hardcore phonics and whole language camps. Oh, there was also that time when a first grade teacher declared she was now going to do a penguins unit although a second grade teacher had done been doing her own penguins unit for 17 consecutive years. Total chaos in the teachers’ lounge almost led to no Secret Santa exchange that year.

Now it seems like there are passionate camps on both sides of absolutely any issue…even issues that aren’t issues.

I have been hopeful that the new adoption of the Common Core State Standards might help us find some common ground. Unfortunately that is yet to be experienced.

We must not have disrupted this thing enough yet. Right? Sometimes though you have to disrupt the disruptors…call out your own.

Read the rest of the article.

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.