Let Helping Teachers Develop Students that Learn Through Creating
“My classroom is a bit large these days,” explains John Long, technology program specialist in the Department of Educational Technology for the School District of Palm Beach County. “It involves working with several hundred teachers and thousands of students at about 30 schools a year…I like to consider myself a digital learning architect at any of the 183 schools in Palm Beach County. My role involves designing professional development for the schools and implementing professional learning communities for integrating technology embedded into the curriculum.”
John recently chatted with FableVision Learning about his unique method of integrating technology into the curriculum, his work with like Animation-ish and Fab@School Maker Studio, and plans for Dot Day! If you are curious about what he is up to in the classroom, follow John on Twitter: @adigitallearner
Can you share a bit about your creative teaching style?
I focus on coaching, modeling, curriculum design, and creating professional learning networks for educators. I believe it is important for students to create based on their learning instead of constantly consuming content and having to be assessed on it.
I started years ago training in educational technology on how to use programs but they never seemed to understand how to use it in their classrooms. Over the years I changed my methods to include ongoing professional development with time to implement and receive feedback. Then took the professional development into the classrooms and talked with teachers, librarians, administrators, and parents. I researched their standards and curriculum. I have built quite a community of teachers over the past 20 years and decided to head back into the classroom to work directly with teachers and students on integrating. This was the key to getting teachers comfortable with using technology into their curriculum.
The first emphasis was to focus on teaching and learning. It is hard for teachers to see this because they focus on the “wow” or “cool” factor and it is more show and tell and not about learning from technology. The second focus is to design a project where the teacher is comfortable enough to watch and learn. Teachers are still learners too. Focusing on a core set of apps or tools that allow students to create projects. Once teachers get comfortable they turn it over to them and observe and give feedback. Each project and class is different so the learning never stops. This process is my methodology in a nutshell.
You have created a fantastic collection of videos that show how Animation-ish can be used in the classroom. Can you tell us about the subject of some of these videos and the inspiration behind them?
I believe in developing a core set of apps or tools to work with in the classroom and then supplement with more tools based on grade level and subject area. The core set of apps should be used in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade. One of my apps in that core set is an animation app. Animation allows students to design and draw concepts that they have learned and demonstrate that learning. It allows them to synthesize and apply the learning. I learned about Animation-ish back in 2009 talking with a dear friend, Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns. I started to see all kinds of uses in Science but also in language arts. One of my first projects was to create a animated dictionary of words. Here is a great example of this in action..
Animation-ish is great in Science. Using it to document things like the water-cycle, or the butterfly life cycle, and even things like cell mitosis. This got me thinking of another project creating digital student portfolios in iBooks Author or now Book Creator. Students can create e-book portfolios by recreating through word processing, video, pictures, or animation using Animation-ish. I started working with a biology teacher and a fifth grade teacher to design these projects. This is an ongoing project that keeps evolving over the years.
A few years ago, a librarian colleague of mine shared with me her fairytale project, which was part of the second grade curriculum. I got to thinking about making it digital and letting students create a digital fairytale. The premise was to start with writing a fairytale including the characteristics then let the students animate the project. Since it is electronic, let the students read their passage with the animation and create an e-book to share. I decided that I would become the story wizard and began to dress the part. This is a fun and challenging project. We have now completed three digital fairytales. One of the favorite parts of the projects is the students learning how to use Animation-ish. You can see how the project is implemented below.
After we did the second digital fairytale, I thought wouldn’t it be interesting to try a digital mystery and what would that look like? In the digital mystery, I became the digital sleuth to guide them through creating a digital mystery. How do you create a mystery, you have to start with the ending first. Then you need to develop four or five clues guiding the students to veer away from inappropriate types of mysteries. Once you have the ending and the clues decided, you start from the beginning and guide them through creating the story including the clues. You have to keep them focused on the clues, the characteristics, and the ending as they forget and need reminding. You even have to narrow the focus of some of your most “creatives” in the class. Then they can start to use Animation-ish to create their scenes. It was a most rewarding experience with students thanking me. Check out the video with student and teacher feedback.
Do you have any cool Fab@School Maker Studio stories to share?
I have followed the development of Fab@School Maker Studio for 6 years since Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns showed it to me in Denver, CO at the 2010 ISTE conference. I was so excited to see this product was the missing key to teaching STEAM in the classrooms. I first used (Fab@School Maker Studio) a few years ago to design a jack-o'-lantern with an electric circuit with fifth graders and now use it with other groups. It is perfect to build something and teach. I always refer back to the literacy aspect as most schools need to still focus and that is the hook to using it.
We are just getting started in Palm Beach County and with all large districts, it takes time but as the video below will show - we are Going Places...
You love to find creative ways to mark International Dot Day. What has been your favorite celebration and what do you have planned for this year?
Terry Shay challenged me at 2013 ISTE in San Antonio, Texas to bring International Dot Day to Palm Beach County. This is a big task due to the nature of a large district with over 13,000 teachers and 187,000 students.
I am sure that some teachers in this district celebrated International Dot Day way before I brought it up. I had heard about it but never really did it. So, I decided to take him up on his challenge. I went back home and discussed with my supervisors and they agreed to support it. It took six weeks to approve it and it finally became a bulletin, which is how information is officially communicated to the schools.
The first year was a test and I developed some ideas to support International Dot Day. I came up with the basic illustrations and language arts activities. I even came up with the idea to create the first “Dot”cumentary to share how people use it in their classrooms. The first year was definitely a trial run. After the first year, I spent a whole year thinking of new ways to develop ideas for the next year. It is truly a yearlong process. We have had math teachers, science teachers, art teachers, music teachers, and everything in between participate. I have had librarians use it for teaching digital citizenship about making their digital footprint and leaving their mark. Each summer after school is out, I work on the “Dot”cumentary from that year as a way to gear up for the next year.
In 2014, one of my professional learning networks called eMobilize developed a workshop around The Dot as a way to promote and build projects for International Dot Day. The workshop is called the Excellent Learning Adventure and the premise is to learn to use the iPad with Common Core (aka Florida Standards) to help students make their mark in the world through learning. We conduct the workshop a month before International Dot Day so that teachers become aware and promote creativity.
2015 Excellent Learning Adventure
Each year gets better and better with more people learning about it and innovating. The past school year, I started working with a librarian and art teacher at a middle school. The librarian wanted to do a digital project but didn’t know how to get started and lacked the confidence to try. She works well with the art teacher and she wanted to do something with International Dot Day even though it was January. The art teacher was using Photoshop in their class. I brainstormed with both of them and came up with a project. The art teacher would teach them Photoshop by making backgrounds out of dots. Then I would work with the librarian and art teacher to coach them on how to film their students in front of a green screen talking about “how they will make their mark” in the world. It was amazing what came out of the middle school students.
You can see it here:
Check out his awesome Dot Day ideas for the classroom, here.