Learning at the Top

So….I’m on Twitter a lot.  I spend a lot of my time looking at what others are doing in their classrooms.  I spend a lot of time sharing what PVSD teachers are doing in their classrooms. One of our favorite areas of learning right now is the use of coding, robots, and drones to teach students such skills as computer science basics, coding, sequencing, problem solving, iterative processes, etc.

I also see a host of companies, educational organizations, and non-profits sharing their excitement and support of such activities.  I see Ozobot, Dot and Dash, Sphero, Tickle, Google CSFirst, ScratchCode.org, and countless others sharing the excitement students have over this kind of learning.

One thing I didn’t see a lot of was this type of sharing coming from leadership, such as principals, cabinet level leaders, and others that make important decisions about teaching and learning. Now, in all fairness, I am sure there were a lot of principals and leaders sharing these things.  I’m sure there were people from within my organization doing so…I just didn’t see what I thought was enough at the time I decided to write this post.

It’s hard for a principal to know about EVERY activity, resource, or instructional strategy, and we tend to share the types of things that are in our own wheel house. I wanted to give our leaders the chance to experience the fun and challenge of coding, so I devised a plan to host the Inaugural PVSD Sphero Golf Tournament.  IMG_7398

Our next Technology Leadership meeting was going to be hands on. I work better with a great team, so I called upon my dynamic TOSAs (Michelle Sciarillo, Jamie Alvarez, Shaun Blumfield, Shirleen Oplustic, and Carolyn Alexander).  Take a minute and click on their names, and follow them on Twitter…….

We grabbed some cardboard and a bunch of blue painters tape. We created a 6 hole Sphero Golf Course that would require our school leaders to work together to code Sphero drones to complete the holes in as few attempts as possible.

IMG_7407

As the district leaders arrived, we welcomed them, explained the rules of our golf course, and gave them a crash course in the Tickle App. Each team received an iPad and a Sphero rolling drone. Each team was given 6  minutes to get used to their Sphero.  Some teams immediately started to practice their first hole (this tournament was a scramble- where every team starts on a different hole, as opposed to everyone starting on Hole 1). Other teams began to use more advanced planning, measuring the distance their Sphero travelled per second, at certain percentages, etc.

The fun and learning began immediately.  A sense of friendly competition was sparked. Our school leaders worked together, discussed coding strategies, and used their varied learning strategies to conquer each hole. One team, having completed a fairly simple hole, started augmenting their recently completed hole. After a minute it became clear what they were doing; they were constructing the next, more difficult hole. They didn’t wait around for the next assignment or challenge.  They began working ahead of schedule so that they were prepared for the next task.  Now tell me you don’t want your students challenging themselves to learn ahead of schedule.

After an hour, each team was quite proficient with the Tickle App.  When the end of the Tournament was announced, there was a vacuum of disappointment. The results from this activity include camaraderie, enthusiasm, and most importantly- an understanding of the way that coding, robots, and drones are much more than toys or add-ons. Within 2 days, 3 schools placed orders for Spheros. Our TOSAs visited two schools to lead teachers in a short golf experience, and the results were nothing short of positive.

As we move forward with the intentional integration of technology, it’s critical that school and district leaders are given the chance to use these technologies so that they can become advocates and ambassadors for the strategies and tools.

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Big thanks to Sam Patterson (@SamPatue) for providing the #BlueTapeCertified inspiration!

 

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