Sugaring, STEM, and community connections

Science Saturday, with Tarrant Institute research fellow Mark OlofsonEarly spring is sugaring season in Vermont. We produce the lion’s share of the domestic output of maple syrup, and we’re pretty proud of it. The process of tapping trees, collecting sap, and boiling it down has many connections to STEM education. The students and teachers of the Edge team at Essex Middle School built their own sugar house a few years ago, and now part of their curriculum is to make syrup while the sap flows. Math teacher Phil Young has integrated the process into his curriculum, and students use technology to support their work. Today, with Phil’s permission, I’d like to share some of those activities, and also consider how this is a different dimension to what it means to have connections to the community. Continue reading

From arduino learner to teacher

Student teaching STEM Academy arduino strand

student-guided stem learningMeet Ian. Ian’s a senior at Essex High School, and he’s not just enrolled in the STEM Academy there, he’s also teaching it.

In this episode of the podcast, research fellow Mark Olofson talks with Ian about how he went from learning about arduinos, to teaching them, and why robotics is so much more fun to build than talk about.

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#vted twitter chat, 4/15/15:


#vted twitter chatModerated by Franklin West Supervisory Union superintendent Ned Kirsch (@betavt), the #vted twitter chat takes place every other Wednesday from 8-9pm EST, and covers a wide range of topics. This time? Digital citizenship. Next time… you tell us! What do you want to talk about at the next #vted twitter chat?

One hour, seven questions, 20 Vermont educators and for the 2nd time in a row, students! Check out how they dealt with digital citizenship…

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4 ways to use an iPad1 in the classroom

Making the most of an original generation iPad

4 ways to use an iPad1 in the classroomYes, you read that right: you can definitely still use an iPad1 in your classroom. Sure, not every app out there will work on it, and the iPad1’s lack of a camera is still fairly insurmountable, but this original version of the revolutionary edtech tablet still has legs, especially if you’re not in a 1:1 situation.

Because remember: at the end of the day, it’s not about the device, but how you use it.

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Learning to parent as an educator

What’s your school song?

Meredith Swallow, Tarrant Institute for Innovative EducationA few months ago I wrote about not spending enough time on personal reflection. It is incredibly easy to be immersed in the many “Top 10” lists of education; and it’s fun spending time trying to solve tool based problems (anyone come up with a best way to insert images on the Slides app? Hit me up if you’ve got a solution). So I made it my goal to spend some time this week thinking about my practice.

I’m personally grappling with my opinions of family engagement from the educator perspective, and family engagement from the parent perspective.

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Find an authentic audience for public service announcements

Help your students’ PSAs find their public

find an authentic audience for public service announcementsStudent-made PSAs are a great way for students to engage in project-based learning with real-world impact. Especially if they join up with community partners to tackle local issues.

But once the PSAs get made, how can you help them find an authentic audience?

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Personalized STEM learning at Essex High School

New podcast episode: Essex STEM Academy

student-guided stem learningIn this episode, we talk with math educator and STEM Academy leader Lea Ann Smith about Essex High School’s STEM Academy and take a look inside a program that lets students pursue projects in medicine, engineering, computer science, mathematics or biology — by working with community partners during the school day.

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Hack your classroom: flexible physical learning environments

Flexible learning environments have a physical component — and effect

responsive physical learning environments

CC BY 2.0: “Old school desk” by flickr user SandtoGlass, cropped. Original image here: photos/ericabreetoe/ 7371020342/

Do you recognize the object at left?

Does it look like a comfortable learning environment for a student? Does it look like the type of learning environment a student would choose for themselves?

OF COURSE NOT, and because you are all such passionate and committed educators, you started shaking your heads the minute the image loaded. You’ve worked hard at banishing these ancient things from your rooms.

But here are some ways educators can make their physical classroom settings more flexible and responsive to student learning needs.

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The backlash to STEM education

Science Saturday, with Tarrant Institute research fellow Mark OlofsonThere is a lot of conversation about the importance of STEM education – in the media, in politics, and among educators. With so many voices emphasizing STEM education, it is not surprising to see people raising the counterpoint. Recently, Fareed Zakaria (a journalist for whom I have a lot of respect) published an op-ed titled “Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous.” With a splashy title like that, you can be certain that I clicked through. The article makes many good points; however, his arguments are based on a shallow understanding of STEM, 21st century skills, and innovations in education. Today, I’d like to break down these understandings, and show how STEM education actually can help solve the problems he presents. Continue reading