Monday, November 16, 2015

The New Classroom: Dynamic and Inspiring

Part 3: The New Classroom
David Jakes is the Director of Learning Spaces for EdTechTeam and leads the Learning Space Design Studio. The Studio, created to support schools in developing compelling and engaging learning environments, is the most recent addition to the comprehensive services offered by EdTechTeam.

The fundamental spatial unit of learning is a classroom. But that is shifting. With the emergence of technology, and the rise of global connectivity, how people learn and where they learn is rapidly shifting.

No one should discount the importance of a location like a classroom. Such a space honors the timeless value of the interactions between student and caring adult. Such a space remains relevant because that’s where kids are located.

But it’s time to change what that space looks like and how it supports learning. Are rows of desks, a dedicated front of classroom, with a teacher desk and posters on the wall something that inspires today’s student?

The first step in redesigning the classroom is to discard the notion it has to be a “classroom". Re-crafting spaces into contemporary learning spaces can mean many things. The identification of the desired student learning experience is essential in that process, and it should come first, but what schools do with furniture, with wall finishes, with technology, lighting and floors is indeed important.

The new classroom is most likely highly flexible and agile. Flexibility relates to the ability to reshape the space; agility refers to the speed at which that can be done. Both concepts considered together create the characteristic of adaptability and the classrooms capability to shift and support a shifting expectation for learning over time, perhaps over a decade or longer. The new classroom is also interconnected with digital spaces that support learning in physical classroom spaces, but can also serve as their own learning venue. There is no doubt that inspiring spaces for learning include both physical and digital spaces for learning and employ student technology devices as the conduit between the two.

How schools help teachers see how these new spaces can support learning is an important question. Spatial change guarantees only that students will sit in more comfortable furniture. Obviously, there is much more than that at stake. Schools must work with teachers to understand how that change can support a new vision for learning as specified by the expectations for the student experience. Schools should provide professional learning opportunities for teachers to help them understand how to use new spaces in their roles as designers of experience.

It’s time to change the image of the traditional classroom. It’s time for a new tradition, one built on creating dynamic and inspiring spaces that are relevant to today’s student and that support a new and contemporary learning experience.

Are you up for the #InspiringSpaces Challenge? 

We want to see the great spaces you've designed for your students! 

Enter the challenge for a chance to win awesome prizes from our friends at Smith System each Friday through December 11th! Visit for all the details. 

Follow #InspiringSpaces on Twitter and G+ to see what your fellow educators across the world see as compelling and inspirational spaces. We hope that what you see will provide ideas, resources, and support your interest in what learning spaces can mean for students.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Experience, Not Things: Design an #InspiringSpace by Defining the Student Experience

Part 2: Defining the Student Experience
David Jakes
EdTechTeam's Director of Learning Spaces
David Jakes is the Director of Learning Spaces for EdTechTeam and leads the Learning Space Design Studio. The Studio, created to support schools in developing compelling and engaging learning environments, is the most recent addition to the comprehensive services offered by EdTechTeam.

The design of inspiring spaces for learning begins with identifying the student learning experience that you want students to have.  

Have you asked this: What do you want your kids to experience? What constitutes an inspiring experience? If so, then you are ready to go with designing spaces that support that. If not, take the opportunity to craft a set of expectations for learners that defines what kids will do in school.

Developing inspiring spaces is not about technology, it's not about chairs or tables on wheels, it's not about whiteboards, beanbags or other things. It’s about creating the vision for the student experience first. All that “stuff” comes later.

When really good designers create spaces, they ask about the wants and needs of students for their learning. It’s a deep dive beyond the mission and the vision of the school. It’s about looking at learning from multiple angles and perspectives and developing a community-based understanding of a set of ideas that identify what kids should experience as learners.

For example: In this school, students will have the opportunity to engage in learning experiences as an individual and as part of a collaborative team.

Or: In this school, students will have the opportunity to determine how they represent their understanding as well as what tools they will use to do this.

Doing this first captures a set of statements that can set the stage for an inspiring experience that takes place in an inspiring space.

By defining learning like this, the school has effectively created the conditions required for the design of space. If the experience is ___, then the spaces have to be ___ . Creating these expectations for learning first ensures that informed decisions about the “things” of the classroom can be made and that those decisions intentionally guide spatial design.

These decisions can then suggest furniture, colors, lighting, floors, technology - all the stuff that goes into a composition capable of manifesting the experience.

Everyone knows what a classroom looks like. Everyone knows what a library and a school looks like. The true question is not what those spaces look like now, but how can they be intentionally designed to support a new condition for learning based on what you believe that to be.

Try one of these tips to create an #InspiringSpace for your students!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Inspiring Spaces and 10 Ways YOU Can Create One!

Part 1: An Introduction into Inspiring
David Jakes is the Director of Learning Spaces for EdTechTeam and leads the Learning Space Design Studio. The Studio, created to support schools in developing compelling and engaging learning environments, is the most recent addition to the comprehensive services offered by EdTechTeam.

How do you inspire your students? That’s an important question for every educator to contemplate and answer. What invitation into learning do you offer, and how can learning spaces be a part of that invitation?

Does your classroom invite learners into an inspiring experience? As they cross the threshold into the classroom, what does the classroom itself say about learning? How does it cue the learner to the expectations for learning and the student experience about to occur?

Inspiring spaces can look different to different people, but such a space can take kids somewhere new, somewhere magical even, where it is possible to be immersed in the wonder and curiosity associated with meaningful and joyful learning.
Inspiring spaces empower, engage and create the conditions for learning. Simply stated, inspiring spaces can help make kids better learners.

For teachers, spaces that inspire can be part of a palette that they use to design experiences for learners. Imagine what teachers could create for learners if they had a space that was agile, flexible and could be reshaped on demand? How would that shift what school would look like? How would that reshape the experience for students?

We've compiled 10 tips for creating inspiring spaces for your students today.

Have you used any of these tips and tricks in your classroom? Stay tuned for a special call-to-action for a chance to win sweet prizes next week... and check back here for parts 2 and 3 of our Inspiring Spaces series on the blog.

Monday, November 9, 2015

3 Must-Have iPad Apps for Kindergartners

Angela Gadtke 1.JPG
Angela Gadke is a kindergarten teacher in Minnesota. With 14 years of experience working with kindergartners, she’s always looking for ways to meaningfully integrate technology to help students communicate, create, and explore. 

She has presented at ISTE 2015, iPadPaloozaMN, MN iOS Summit, and many local conferences. In 2014, Angela was named a TIES Exceptional Teacher.  Angela is a Seesaw Ambassador. You can follow Angela on Twitter @MrsGadtke.

Kindergarten classrooms are bustling with movement, creating, sharing, building,and problem solving. This is a place where emerging readers, writers, scientists, and engineers are eager to share their stories. In this magical world, I am picky when it comes to the apps that my students use.

I focus on integrating apps that …

  • Encourage creativity, choice, and independence
  • Make student thinking visible
  • Remove barriers to allow students to do things that would otherwise would not be possible without technology
  • Provide ways for students to share their learning

Here are three versatile apps that work brilliantly with kindergartners. No matter your tech prowess, they are simple to implement across all content areas.

Seesaw is the one app I need in my kindergarten classroom. Teachers, students, and parents love it and here’s why. With Seesaw students create a digital learning journal or portfolio. Throughout the day, students independently capture their learning with photos, videos, voice, and drawings.  Everything is uploaded, organized, approved by the teacher, and instantly shared with that child’s parents.

Whoa, this sounds too complex for kindergarten, right?  Seesaw is intuitive even for our youngest learners.  During the fifth week of school this year, all of my kindergartners could log in, take a picture, add voice, and upload that item to their journal - all without my help! That is empowering for students and a game changer for teachers.

Many teachers also view Seesaw as a great option for student blogs and flipping instruction. Once you start playing around with this app you too will get a little giddy with the possibilities.

What does it look like in a real classroom?
My kindergartners grab an iPad, scan our class QR code, and they’re ready to create. Older students can sign in with e-mail or Google accounts.

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Once in, students have the following options within the app.


In the beginning, my students take photos of their physical creations or work, then touch a button and record a voice explanation. If students create work digitally in other apps, those creations can be saved directly into Seesaw and parents are notified when content is added. This eliminates the need to e-mail separate links and everything is saved and shared in one place. Seesaw also makes app smashing a breeze! Check out this Popplet into Seesaw app smash.

Ready to get rolling with Seesaw?

Start simple - Have students take photos of their work and add it to their Seesaw journal. Start with math. If students are building patterns have them capture their work.
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Encourage young authors - During writer’s workshop, have students take a photo of their writing and use the microphone button to tell their story. This supports oral language and captures their story so that when they return to their writing, both the student and teacher know what their story says - priceless for emergent writers!

Explain a concept or extend learning - Goodbye worksheets! After a lesson, have students take a photo, write on the photo, and explain their learning. Here’s a kindergartner showing what they know about rhyming or a third grader explaining rounding a number. You can also open a blank drawing and let your students create.

Rethink assessments - Gone are the days of sitting one on one with a kindergartener and listening to oral counting. I have five students at a time grab an iPad and count. Their skills are documented, shared with parents, and I save instructional time.  Try it with sight words, shape vocabulary, fluency checks, science concepts, and during Daily 5.

Connect with all parents - Visual updates with Seesaw cross language barriers and parents love that it comes from their child. I love that I know when parents have “seen” items. I can share field trip photos or class projects, by simply touching the “everyone” button. Inviting parents is easy!

Make sure to check out @Seesaw and #seesawchat on Twitter for more ideas from a variety of grade levels and platforms.

Shadow Puppet EDU
My second “go to” app is Shadow Puppet.  This app allows students to combine photos and video to create digital movies, books, or slideshows.  Students add voice narration, text, and background music to convey a story and share information - the sky’s the limit.  There’s also a built-in search which allows students to select filtered images or maps from the web. The possibilities with this app are endless from screencasts, to science reports, and how to videos.  

Starting off with Shadow Puppet EDU
In my classroom, kindergartners take photos using the iPad camera.  Students open the Shadow Puppet app and press the green add button to begin a new puppet. As they tap the images from the camera roll, they are put into sequence.  Students then press a button and begin recording audio, adding text, or music. Their project can be shared in multiple ways or even saved directly into their Seesaw journals for quick sharing with parents.  Easy. Powerful.

Create Class Books - We love creating class books with Shadow Puppet. Last month during writer’s workshop my students wrote about what they wanted to do when they got bigger. I took a picture of each child’s writing, we opened Shadow Puppet, selected those images, and students narrated their page.

Summarize a unit of study  After a unit on earthworms, my students worked in teams to create a digital book to teach about worms. They grabbed a paper and pencil and listed the photo shots they would need.They ventured outside with iPads to capture their photos. They put their shots in sequence and narrated their books.

Create How to Videos or Screencasts - Here’s an example from two students using Shadow Puppet to explain how to make a movie. I use Shadow Puppet to make screencasts that introduce station activities or as a way to share directions with parents about how to play a game.


Vocabulary Support for ELL - Shadow Puppet is an awesome tool to support English language learners. I have used Shadow Puppet to create visual schedules and vocabulary lessons.  Last year I collaborated with a student’s dad to create digital stories narrated in the student’s first language and English to support his English vocabulary development. Here’s a short clip of an example.

Chatterpix Kids

My final favorite app is ChatterPix Kids. This is an app that can make any photo talk.  It’s as easy as snapping a photo, drawing a line to make a mouth, and recording your voice.  Again, the possibilities are endless.

Here are some ideas to get your ideas flowing!

Science recap - A kindergartner makes a leaf talk to share what they know.

Practice math concepts - We had some fun making money talk while we learned the values of each coin.

Book Talks - Why not use Chatterpix Kid to make books come alive? Have students take a photo of a book’s cover and give a “book talk” or “retell” the story.