Why I Blog … an educators perspective

If you’ve read many of my posts you will see that there are a couple core threadlines that travel through a lot of what I tend to write/talk/think about.  A couple that have Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.47.23 AMbeen particularly popular of late are: that Effective teaching is REflective teaching; and that we can move from a school with pockets of innovation, to one that has a culture of innovation by sharing what we are doing.  Personally, I believe that blogging  – with students, for your class, or in your “outside of school life” – can do both of these things.  Last week I received the email below and I was so excited by it, I immediately had to get permission to repost it here.  I feel incredibly blessed to work with so many dynamic educators, like Jill:

Dear Hamlin colleagues,
As many of you know, I run a few dance blogs outside of Hamlin. I enjoy writing, and it is something I can do on my own timeline. I call it my “10 pm project.” :)
(It costs me only $16 a month, and I write about one evening a week. I do a lot of front loading of work in the summers and during our breaks.)
Three years ago, I started the Life as a Modern Dancer Blog to become a living textbook in college courses about career paths. Three years later, here I am sharing the 100th artist profile. I am so excited to reach this milestone. During May, I had 2,400 reads of the blog! This little project has indeed taken off. I know that several dance departments use the blog, and it has morphed into something being enjoyed by dancers of all ages.
The blog has shared honest, heartfelt stories and opened up conversations about dancing, art making, and career paths.
There is a strong undercurrent about being a teaching artist – which still remains a largely underdiscussed topic in college departments, and this is one of my life passions.
To me, this blog serves as a way of giving back to the dance community and as my own professional development. I continue to learn and get inspired with each post.
I just wanted to share this – as I know that we all are frequently looking at the intersection of education and technology as well as arts and technology. Blogging is user friendly and shares information quickly and easily. Also, one thing links to another – so I maximize Facebook and Twitter to share these posts as well…..
Thanks for reading this and for your support of my various dance projects!

Parent Association & m@k3r excitement

The tech team updated the Parents Association on how the middle school library will shift in the new year.  We talked about how the tools mirrored a pedagogical shift well underway – the move towards student centered instruction and learning.
In an effort to model what we want to see, we then handed out MakeyMakeys with very few instructions and allowed the parents in attendance to wrestle with connecting the strange tools that had been put in front of them to the computer in an effort to play the bongos and piano.  The real magic happened however when a set of fourth grade students arrived and introduced the games which they had designed on scratch – while working through the CS First Curriculum.  The girls beamed to see their games on display and then took a moment to reflect on how their design would change based on the controller that was being used.
It was great to have so many parents in attendance and the excitement in the room was tangible.


Launcher Game = Alison created a game that launches a sprite towards a finish line. For each point a player scores, a new enemy appears.

Instructions: Click the green flag to begin the game. Use the space bar, right arrow, and left arrow to move the octopus across the stage. Don’t let the crabs get you!

Cave Surfing Game = Sophia S
created a game with a scrolling background.
Instructions: Click the green flag to begin the game. Use the spacebar to move the dove up and down. Try to avoid the rocks.

Platform Game = Helena created a game in which a player makes a sprite jump from platform to platform using the arrow keys.
Instructions: Click the green flag to begin the game. Use the up and right arrows to get the knight to the princess.

Racing Game = Allie created a game that lets two players race against each other using keyboard commands.
Instructions: One player uses the up, down, right, and left arrow keys and the other player uses the w, s, a, and d keys to move the monkeys around the track. The first one back to the starting line wins!

Falling Objects GameJasminecreated a game with objects falling from the top of the screen.
Instructions: Click the green flag to begin the game. Use the right and left arrows to move the snowman and catch as many snowflakes as you can. Try to avoid the sunshine!

Walk to School Wednesday

One of the ways we can see where our students’ passions lie is where they spend their time when it isn’t being graded or marked; what issues are of genuine interest to them?

What do they do when we aren’t watching?

*video edited by #edtech staff for public consumption

Francesca’s works shows that the many years of work led by Amy Conger and the EcoCouncil have truly put environmental and social awareness near the heart of the students here @Hamlin.

Celebrate Good Times … Come ON!

I heard George Couros speak at the Marin County Office of Education a little more than a year ago; furthermore I was fortunate enough to be invited to a round table before his talk.  One of the things he said during that session that really resonated with me was simply answering the question:

How do we move from a school with pockets of innovation – to one with a culture of innovation?
The answer:  Share what we are doing.

This is something I quoted while interviewing, and have restated many times during my short tenure at Hamlin.  I believe that it is true; and I am overjoyed to see it happening.  Its happening in blogs, its happening on Twitter, it happens when our tech team shares with each other, with colleagues, and was definitely happening recently when the team shared five presentations at the first ever ATLIS (Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools) conference in Foster City.
You don’t however build a school culture with “the tech team” – Friday we were able to share with the entire staff a fantastic example of technology integration from every member of the faculty.  As a faculty we reflected on these projects and where they fell within the SAMR paradigm.  The greatest part was how easy it was to find exemplary projects from EVERY faculty member – we are thankful to work with such a dedicated and dynamic faculty here at Hamlin.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 10.22.49 AM

Hamlin staff spend a perfectly gorgeous Friday afternoon reflecting on their work and that of their colleagues.

In the sprit of sharing what we do, here is the slide deck:

* the minds on, internet search activity, was taken from Kim Cofino and her ECIS Keynote: making the connection – besides, giving away gummy bears are (imho) always a great way to start a Friday afternoon staff meeting :-)

Citizen Science @ Mountain Lake

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 9.42.13 AMRachel Davis, Middle School Science Teacher and iPad Coordinator, Maggie Jo Feldman, MS Art Teacher, and Alison Trujillo, MS Spanish Teacher, teamed up for a fabulous Earth Day project! Along with the Grade 6 students, they released the Pacific Chorus Frog at Mountain Lake, making it the second native species reintroduced as part of our efforts to restore the ecosystem at the lake.  

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 9.42.57 AMHere is a brief interview with the team recapping the experience:

Q: What grade level were you working with?
A:  Grade 6

Q: What were your goals going into the project?
A:  To raise awareness for the students so they could understand the human impacts on Mountain Lake. As they learned about it, they wanted to inform the public about these issues and the ways that people could help to restore the lake. Another goal we was to collaborate between subjects: Science, Art and Spanish.

Q: How did you roll out the project? Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 9.43.21 AM
A: Leading up to Earth Day, we took a half-day where students designed beautiful and informative images that are on painted wood panels. During that time, they also created Spanish and English movies to explain the issues the images represented. Visitors to the National Park can scan QR codes attached to the panels to view the videos.

Q: If you were to do the project again what (if anything) would you change?
A: The time line was really tough. Next time, we’d like more time to connect with the park for planning purposes. This project would also benefit from more preparation time given to the students for cutting and designing the wooden boards. Looking ahead, we think we’ll also put more of an emphasis on teaching about the history of public art.Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 9.48.16 AM

View photos on the Precido’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.979761525370337.1073741865.128693360477162&type=1

View photos on Shutterfly:  http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=0AcuGzhy3ZuGTDAA

Less Us … more them – student created web content

The Hamlin.org Global Citizenship webpages needed to be created, and Dan was preparing for a seminar he was leading about Global Citizenship.  We wanted to have visual content to supplement the written/spoken material that had already been assembled. What better than a student created iMovie project to meet these needs!?

Dan Polk, Director of Global Citizenship, and Marisa Felt Bellingrath, Assistant Head of School, teamed up to envision the project and created a proposal for two Grade 8 students, Ava and Bella, to complete.

Jim Lengel, Middle School Tech Integration Specialist, and Liz Beck, Project Manager LMS, were teaching Bella and Ava in the Digital Art Elective at the time of the project.

Q: What grade level were you working with?
Dan Polk and Liz Beck: Grade 8
Q: What were your goals going into the project?
DP: The central goal of the project was provide a broad overview of Hamlin’s Global Citizenship program, one that incorporated the voices of both students and faculty.
LB: Both students who created the video had been in Digital Arts for 5 trimesters. They are iMovie and Photoshop power users and are very talented esthetically. We needed a project that would challenge these students and help them take their skills to the next level – creating digital content that can be used in a real world context, and learning how to work as a part of a team to execute a creative project.
Q: How did you roll out the project?
LB: Originally, Dan asked me to work on this project. While I was happy to help, the timing perfectly coincided with the start of Trimester 2 of Digital Art and the struggle I was experiencing with keeping the course relevant to Ava and Bella.

Dan arranged a time to meet with Ava and Bella during Digital Art. He introduced the scope of the project, as well as its goals and timeline. He and Marisa also dropped in periodically to check on their progress. The students knew I was there as a resource, but overall they managed the project independently and worked on it both during Digital Art and on their free time.
DP: I also provided the students with music ideas, images, and questions to pose to faculty/students.
Q: If you were to do the project again what (if anything) would you change?
DP: I might include a live shot or two of students doing something Global Citizenship related, skyping, working in the community etc.

Ava and Bellas work is featured on the Hamlin website!         http://www.hamlin.org/Page/Program/Global-Citizenship

from the mouths of 4th graders …

Fourth grade students have been expanding their exploration of coding by following the Google CS First Curriculum; specifically the one focused on Game Design.  The girls meet with Lower School Tech Integration Specialist & STEM Teacher Caroline Windell twice a week and each  day they learn a new type of game.  The culminating activity will have students select one of the game types and more fully develop their game idea.

Some 4th grade student reflections after using the CS-First computer science curriculum:

There’s a new student at your school. What would you say to her to get her interested in computer science?

  • something I like about programming is that you tell it to do something and it does it.
  • Computer science is very fun and there is a lot to learn at the same time. With computer science, you can make your own games with your own rules!
  • It’s SO fun!!! You get to learn stuff about technology, and have a fun time.
  • did you know all the computer games you play are programed by other people? … and you can program a game too!
  • it is really fun it’s learning and having fun and every time you make a game or some other thing work it is so rewarding and it feels so good like you can just do anything. i love this club and you should come and code with us. even if you can’t code you will learn and it won’t feel like learning it will feel like playing on the computer.
  • Coding is really really really really really fun. We get to make our own really fun games. It’s awesome.
  • I would say that this is the best club ever and you should try it and if you don’t like it then you don’t have to do it.
  • It’s super fun to learn and even if you think you know a lot abut it you learn a lot of new things. I would recommend CS first as a REALLY fun coding experience. I always look forward to coding class and I bet you will to.

We are definitely looking forward to playing your creations girls!

Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools 2015

Hamlin was incredibly well represented at the inaugural ATLIS conference held this week in Foster City.  Five team members represented the school at the conference; and five workshops were led by Hamlin technology specialists.  Embodying our belief that the way we move from a school with pockets of innovation to a school with a culture of innovation is to share what we are doing.

Sessions varied in length, including 90 minute “deep dives”, 40 minute workshops, and 20 minute “Quick Tips”.

Quick Tip – Self Grading Exit Tickets and Formative Assessments Using Flubaroo:

What’s in a name … Binarily Speaking

stitchedLast week Hamlin second grade girls began exploring binary numbers.  It was part of a new initiative to teach students computer science … without computers.  Lower School Technology Integrator Caroline Windell recently travelled to New Zealand to learn more about this fascinating curriculum – CS Unplugged.  In fact she received the very first printed copy of their updated book – and even helped them proofread it!

Girls explored simple counting in binary and then translated their names into binary before taking the time to teach the skill to their Grandparents or Special Friends.

Here is a brief summary of the project:

Q: What grade level were you working with?
A: (Caroline Windell) second grade.

Q: What were your goals going into the project?
A: There were two project goals:

  1. Introduce how computers store information in a developmentally appropriate way.
  2. Provide students the definition of binary number.

Q: How did you roll out the project?

  • I brought in a set of five binary cards with dots on one side and nothing on the other.
  • Each card had twice the number of dots as the previous card, for example, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16.
  • Five students were asked to hold the cards in front of the class with the smallest number of dots on the far right.
  • By flipping the cards over, we were able to use the dots on the cards to count from 0-31.
  • Next, we used 0 and 1 to represent whether a card was face up or not ( 0 = no dots, 1= dots). For example, 01001 = 9. That is, the 2nd and 5th cards were showing so we could count 8 + 1 = 9 dots.
  • We then used the numbers to represent the letters of the alphabet with A=1, B=2, C=3, etc. and translated the letters to binary (ex. 00001 = A).
  • Using Book Creator on the iPad, each student translated their name using zeros and ones (see photo).

Q: If you were to do the project again what (if anything) would you change?
A: I didn’t expect the first part of the lesson to go so quickly, so I wasn’t quite ready to move on to transferring the idea of binary numbers to letters. Next time, I will have a key with all of the alphabet letters ready to show the girls.

Video Conferencing – 2nd Grade

Ms. Andrews, Grade 2 teacher, developed an interesting technique for using video conferencing in her classroom. During Reader’s Workshop, where students practice their reading skills, students were given the option to read with with a parent or buddy using Skype or FaceTime.

Ms. Andrews found that parents, friends, and even puppies, jumped at the chance to participate in the classroom from a remote location!



Some initial planning was involved so both students and adults (or canines) had a copy of a book in their respective locations. Together, they explored the book during the first part of the video conference. Once this was completed, the student selected a book from her book box which she read out loud.


“I loved it!!! She is so cute and was so happy. It’s very cool and could make the parents feel really involved from home! Maybe even some of the dads who don’t have as much time to be on campus/involved etc… It works for us! FaceTime is so easy and is on every iPhone so you can be anywhere!”
– Grade 2 Mom

blog text by: Liz Beck