Re-inventing Fun Fact Friday

Fun Fact Friday was a big hit last year at Central Manor Elementary School. It’s a project where students can create slideshows about various educational topics that are displayed in an interactive space for the entire school to see. Students last year put loads of energy into creating some amazing slides about everything from firefighting to jungle plants.

But why stop there? Why not give students the chance to run the project? This year, with my oversight, these five students will be setting up the screens on Friday mornings to display the slideshows created by other students around the building.

There was a question twirling in my mind when I started the program back in September of 2016: ‘how can I make this project self-sustaining so that it can have a long lasting impact on the building as a whole?’ The less interaction I have in the project, the better the chance it will have of standing the test of time. With that in mind, I’ve been trying to think of ways to take myself out of the process and make it even easier to set up.

Currently, each Friday morning I start up the 5 computers and screens and connect to them from my desk where I can control them (like a good IT guy often does with computers). This makes it a very quick process for me, but it doesn’t make it easy for teachers, or other volunteers to do. They would have to go from screen to screen and repeat the same steps, and that would take up too much time.

Today, I talked to the 6th grade teachers at Central Manor about my idea to give some of this responsibility to some students. They loved the idea and each selected a student or two that they thought would be a perfect fit. I promptly showed them how to turn on the screens, open the slides, and set them to loop in full screen.

In the weeks to come, I’ll be gradually granting more ownership to these five students as new topics arise. They’ll get to choose what information is displayed on each screen and sometimes make changes to animation and slide order. Eventually, we might have a classroom make slide for Fun Fact Friday by creating one slide per student in the class. Then, these students might be able to collect those slides and group them in a presentable order for the five screens.

The most exciting part of the new structure is that students get the chance to be responsible for the “infrastructure” that brings creative work to life for the entire school to see. These are life skills in action, inspiring young people to do exciting things.

1:1 May be the best thing that ever happened to an Elementary School classroom.

A few weeks ago, several 5th and 6th grade classrooms around Penn Manor began a pilot program giving each student their own laptop to use for class. As of now, these laptops stay in the classroom, but the students have the same level of access and control as the 1:1 students at the Middle and High Schools.

Until I saw this for myself, even I wasn’t fully convinced that an effort of this scale at this grade level would be as big a win for both teachers and students as it is at the higher grade levels. Of course it would be easier to manage the laptops this way than with laptop carts that are shared across an entire building, but what would education look like? How could a small change like this, from using a shared laptop to using your own laptop, make much difference in the larger scheme of things?

Today at Eshleman Elementary School, it all clicked for me as I watched students lead the way in learning for the future. Here’s what I noticed.

Ownership

Learning happens at a much more rapid pace when you own your education. If you decide you want to know as much as you can about hot air balloons for example, and you “own” the study of hot air balloons, you will find yourself truly enjoying your study time and you will learn much quicker because you have a greater desire to learn.

This 1:1 program does something very similar for the student. A simple thing like being able to change your wallpaper and know that no one else will set it back gives each student the feeling that they are in full control of this device and they can personalize it to their liking. That personal touch is freeing, and soon, they are exploring the world with more interest and excitement than they ever had before.

Stations

In the photo above, the teacher (Mr. Bodde) has divided students in to small groups that can each be working on things that are more targeted to their current learning needs. The teacher can visit one station at a time, and give more direct and personal attention to each student, while not taking away from his view and value in the classroom. This has become a popular way to enhance the classroom learning experience, but when any student in the room can pull out a laptop at any time, the stations method quickly becomes an even more powerful way to teach.

Collaboration

Teamwork can be a challenge at the 5th and 6th grade levels. In a 1:1 setting, collaboration becomes much easier. Imagine students collaborating on a group project where each one has their own laptop, but they are all working on the same document.

One of the projects that Mr. Bodde is working on is a classroom blogging system that’s only visible to the other students in the classroom. In this system, every student has their own blog, and they can post things to it that anyone else in the class can see. This is a project I’ll be keeping my eye on.

 

Even More To Come

This is just the beginning. There is so much more potential in the weeks and months to come, which will be expanded by some of my own efforts like Tech Club, Tech October, and other opportunities that I find to inspire learning.

 

 

1:1 Pilot at Elementary

Yesterday we rolled out a pilot of one laptop per student in a few classrooms around Penn Manor.

The excitement and opportunity for each student could be felt across the room as 5th and 6th graders were assigned a single laptop that would be theirs for an entire school year. This level of ownership will make it easier for students to work on class projects, do research, and create presentations, videos, artwork, essays, and more.

So, how did it go? As always with something new, there were some lessons learned, but for most classrooms, the roll-out was relatively seamless. Some students even started making things in their Google Drive right away.

The opportunities are endless in a program like this, and the coming months will certainly be worth watching.