Tag Archives: ISTE 2016

How tech-based learning spaces are helping spark creativity

Editor's note: Teachers are uniquely inspiring people. It takes a teacher to innovate in the classroom and inspire a love for learning. We had a great time celebrating these everyday heroes at ISTE this week, and we wanted to highlight a few of them below. Check out the #GoogleEdu and #ISTE2016 hashtags to get a recap of what went on in Denver this week.

The teachers at Laguna Beach Unified School District in California and Sun Prairie Area School District in Wisconsin wanted to give their traditional classroom a reboot. By upending the typical classroom layout that confines students to desks and teachers to the front of the room, they increased student engagement, introducing technology, hands-on learning and group activities.

Laguna Beach designs learning spaces to enhance engagement through movement 

“The classroom is the most neglected element in education right now,” says Mike Morrison, chief technology officer at Laguna Beach Unified School District. “You’ll find rooms with dark projectors, the lights out and the blinds drawn. How could these dark spaces inspire learning?” At Laguna Beach, Morrison and 15 teachers plunged into research on the impact that environment has on the senses — and tested technologies, furniture and even colored lighting. The core elements, says Morrison, boiled down to flexible furniture, multiple monitors and audio amplification.

To replace bulky desks that were designed decades ago to be placed in rows, Morrison and his team chose desks and chairs with wheels that can revolve in any direction. This frees up teachers and students to quickly group desks together and direct attention at any part of the classroom — or at each other. There are standing desks as well, giving students the option to have their legs engaged — a boon for students dealing with attention-deficit disorders, Morrison says.

More monitors and whiteboards provide more space for students to work as teams, instead of just watching the teacher up front. “The walls can then become anything we want them to be,” says Morrison — a place for a test review, a team project or solving a math problem as a class.

Morrison and his team also changed the audio and lighting to help set the mood for different types of learning and make it easier for teachers to be heard. Teachers wear lanyard microphones connected to each classroom’s speaker system. “A teacher who spends the day shouting to be heard is stressed, and so is the class,” Morrison says. Teachers use lighting to change wall colors depending on the activity — yellow to encourage quiet reading time, blue for creativity and brainstorming.

About 40 classrooms have been reconfigured to date, with 20 more to come this summer — and the change is palpable, Morrison says. “Teachers are walking around more, and they’re in touch with what students are doing,” Morrison says. “The atmosphere in classrooms is also much calmer.” 

Laguna Beach Unified School district put together this fun video — a takeoff on TV’s “The Office” — showing off the classroom improvements.

Classrooms become technology incubators for Sun Prairie Area students 

At Sun Prairie Area School District, teachers are inspiring students to be entrepreneurial and engage with technology. They found that by creating dedicated spaces without any of the usual trappings of a classroom, they could motivate students to break out of their comfort zones and think more outside the box.

One of these learning spaces, “Fab Lab,” was created by Stephanie Breunig, a media specialist for the district’s Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School. Students can use the Fab Lab for school or personal projects. The lab has Legos, digital and GoPro cameras, art supplies, circuit boards and software such as GarageBand, recording software for music and Final Cut Pro, a video editing software. In the Fab Lab, students work with teachers to create their own videos or music mashups and internet memes. They've even started learning 3D printing and robotics.
Student working on a project in the Fab Lab
At Sun Prairie Area, teachers are also evolving learning spaces inside the classroom. With Google Maps, students take virtual tours of the world in their geography lessons, learning details about other cultures that they couldn’t find on a regular map. “Students use Google Maps to explore and take interactive tours of other countries,” says Tim Mortensen, 6th and 7th grade social studies teacher at Patrick Marsh Middle School. “When we learned about the pyramids, they could actually see them on the map and they started asking questions about what they’re made of. Some students even explored the surrounding area, wanting to know more about the hotels and restaurants in Egypt and asking questions like why the McDonalds there has different items on the menu.”

“Literacy no longer means just reading and writing words on a page. Technology has created a new definition of literacy that includes digital,” says Curt Mould, director of innovation, assessment and continuous improvement at Sun Prairie Area School District. To teach with technology, teachers are creating learning spaces defined by interactive learning and experimentation.

Laguna Beach and Sun Prairie Area School Districts have discovered just a few of the ways that disrupting the traditional classroom environment can help engage students. From exploring the world with online activities, to simply taking the classroom outside for a lesson, there are an infinite number of ways that teachers all over are creating new learning spaces to inspire students. Is your school district trying to reinvent the rooms where learning happens? Tell us about your plans to inspire curiosity in the classroom environment.

Updates from ISTE: 4 new tools to help teachers do what they do best

Cyrus Mistry, Lead Product Manager, Devices and Content, Google for Education

Editor's note: This week our Google for Education team will be joining thousands of educators at the annual ISTE conference. Follow along here and on Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Teachers are great communicators, collaborators, creators and critical thinkers. It takes a teacher to empower students with these skills and create the leaders of our future. As technology becomes an increasingly integral component of our classrooms, the role of teachers becomes even more important.

Today at ISTE, we’re announcing four more ways for these everyday heroes to engage their classes and empower their students using Google tools. Look out for a deeper dive on each of these launches on the blog throughout this week.

Bring curriculum to life: introducing the Expeditions app
Since we launched the beta Expeditions Pioneer Program in September of 2015, more than one million students across 11 countries have taken one of our virtual reality trips. Today, we’re making Expeditions available to everyone. To get started, all teachers need to do is download the Expeditions app onto a set of devices. With more than 200 Expeditions to choose from, students can journey far and wide, learning from immersive new experiences. Our content offering has also grown and now includes Expeditions made by established educational content providers including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Pearson is beginning work on Expeditions content as well. The app is available today for Android and will be available for iPhones and iPads soon.

While Expeditions can be used with many of the devices schools or students already have — either smartphones with Google Cardboard or tablets in 2D full screen mode — Best Buy Education will also be making Expeditions kits available for schools to purchase. These kits will contain everything teachers need to bring their classes on amazing Expeditions: a tablet, virtual reality viewers and a router to connect them all. Kits are available for pre-order and will ship in time for back-to-school. We’ll also publish clear specs for partners interested in working with us to create their own kits.
Empower student-driven classrooms: Google Cast for Education
Collaboration is key to student success, but in most classrooms today the biggest screen in the room is out of reach for students. If students want to share their screens with the class, they have to physically connect their devices to the classroom projector. When teachers present, they’re tied to the projector at the front of the room. Educators are eager to overcome this barrier, so much so that wireless screen sharing for schools was one of the top features requested by teachers in 2015.

Today we’re announcing Google Cast for Education, a free Chrome app that allows students and teachers to share their screens wirelessly from everywhere in the classroom. Cast for Education carries video and audio across complex school networks, has built-in controls for teachers and works with Google Classroom so it’s easy to invite your students. And because the app runs on the teacher’s existing computer, it doesn’t require new hardware. Teachers run the Cast for Education app, and students can share their screens with the existing Cast feature in Chrome. Check out the Cast for Education video.
Teacher view (click to see larger) 
Student view (click to see larger)

Accelerate the feedback loop: Quizzes in Google Forms
Getting feedback early helps students learn and teachers teach. Starting today, Quizzes in Google Forms will allow teachers to auto-grade multiple choice and checkbox questions — so teachers can spend less time grading and more time teaching.

Teachers can also add review materials in the form of explanations, supplemental websites or review videos — so students can get quick, actionable feedback. Plus, teachers can get instant feedback on student progress, so they know which lessons need more explanation and what to teach next. We’ve also added a common request from educators to disallow students from sending themselves a copy of their responses.
Ignite student creativity: creative apps on Chromebooks
We’re on a mission to discover Chromebook tools that foster skills of the future, including problem-solving, digital literacy, leadership and creativity. We listened to teachers in Chromebook classrooms and collaborated with EdTechTeacher, and we’re excited to announce a collection of creative apps on Chromebooks that schools can purchase as a bundle.

Explain Everything, Soundtrap and WeVideo are creative apps that help students demonstrate their understanding of curriculum through their own unique voice. We’ve worked closely with our partners to offer these apps to schools at a special price when all three apps are purchased together. They may be purchased alongside Chromebooks or on their own, and they’re available as an annual subscription per license from Chromebook resellers in the US. Contact your school’s reseller to learn more.

Students use creative apps at Muller Road Middle School in South Carolina (watch video here)

Look out for a deeper dive on each of these product updates on the blog throughout this week. If you’re at ISTE in Denver, visit us at booth #2511 in the expo hall to demo these tools. And check out our sessions — taking place in room #103 — where educators and Googlers will be giving short presentations throughout the conference.