Field Trips Live: Petersen Automotive Museum

It is no surprise that with 4.12 million miles of highway, 88% of the people in the United States own cars. What better place for a car museum than Los Angeles which is notorious for its amazing cars and terrible traffic? Recently, after completing their own car design project, BGL’s Grade 8 Classroom Live students Tsai Hsing School took a Field Trip Live to the Petersen Automotive Museum which as building is on its own, depending on who you talk to, either a marvel of engineering or an eyesore. We’re going with the former, but see for yourself:

 

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Credit: Shutterstock.com

This FTL brought students to a location that is unlike any experience in their home country. The Petersen owns nearly 400 cars. 150 are on display. You can visit the rest in the vault unless they are out on loan or being repaired. Everywhere in the museum there are docents; these are people ready to answer your questions about the cars. Docents always carry sheepskin mitts so that when they are not helping visitors they can keep the cars buffed to a high shine.

 

 

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A young visitor to the Petersen knows he is the right size to drive this concept car, but is unsure about how to get in. Credit: Travis Moyer

The Model T Ford is known the world over so the United States is often mis-credited with inventing the automobile. Karl Benz invented the first motor car in Germany in 1885. People were so uncertain of the safety or utility of the vehicle that he had his wife drive it 66 kilometers on her own to show that “even a woman could do it!” The first Model T came off the production line in October 1908.

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Credit: Shutterstock.com

 

In addition to cars which made history, there are always exhibits of particular types of cars – and cars of the future. Did you know that the first electric car was made (by Ford) in 1914? There were also steam cars. Some of the cars of the future on display include solar and wind powered cars.

A favorite with the students was the movie cars exhibit. Among others, they saw James Bond’s Aston Martin, the Bat Mobile and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. One of the few touchable cars was this one from the movie, well… Cars.

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Credit: independent.ie

In addition to our virtual student visitors from Taiwan, there were several students from the Art Center College of Design, drawing cars and designing cars in a special computer assisted design lab. Cars are  imagined, drawn by hand, drawn on a computer, mocked up with a variety of materials, and if the process goes further, sculpted in clay. Students go on to not only design cars, but design film sets, video games and more. Teacher Travis interviewed one soon-to-be-freshman while students observed via Travis’s iPhone and asked questions of their own:

Afterwards, students used the valuable information field trip as inspiration to design their own cars as part of a larger unit on the physics of modern car design. Yet another example of how BGL is changing education for a changing world.

Investigating themselves: Students are data detectives in crowd-sourced Big Dayta Project

Over 800 participants worldwide and growing every day

Big Dayta is an international collaboration of students sharing what they do every hour for one typical weekday. That data is collected into a single spreadsheet that classrooms can then analyze. Over 800 students worldwide have shared their data to date.

What does a student do with 24 hours on a typical day? Do they sleep for 8 hours and go to school for 6 hours? How does this compare to their best friend, their entire class, or even more than 800 students around the world? With Big Dayta, students are able to make these comparisons and analyze data whether they are in first grade or about to graduate from high school. Developmentally appropriate (and Common Core aligned) ideas are provided for grades 1-12.

Students can be guided by whatever they find most interesting to investigate. Guiding research questions may include:

  • How much homework do kids in my grade do?
  • How does amount of homework differ between countries?
  • Does the amount students sleep change as they get older?
  • Where do kids spend the most time with their families?
  • What are most kids in my grade doing at 4pm? Is this different from kids in other grades?
  • And much, much more, based on whatever the kids want to find out!

All suggestions provided in the Idea Guide are Common Core aligned, so teachers can know that they are giving students a chance to satisfy their curiosity about other kids, while meeting the standards. “Humans are naturally curious about each other,” according to educational consultant Stephanie Ramsey, Ph.D., “So they do these calculations to get at the information, without thinking of it as a math problem. Math, reading, and writing all become tools to solve real-life questions.”

While the basic idea is simple, students keep track of what the do every hour on a typical weekday, the opportunities for application are enormous. Students can practice academic skills (analyzing data, stating claims and evidence, adding, subtracting, and more), and they can also connect with each other online to share their findings and debate what conclusions we can draw. The Big Dayta Facebook page gives students the chance to connect over their shared analysis.

The idea for Big Dayta came from inquisitive students. According to Seth Fleischauer, president of Banyan Global Learning, “Big Dayta started out of a fifth grade classroom in Taipei, Taiwan. Our students there were collaborating with another class in America and they wanted to know more about them. As a group, they came up with the idea with this survey. That was four years ago, and we’ve been slowly building it ever since. This year, BGL teachers pooled their resources and time to in an effort see if we could make a larger impact.”

Teachers can access a number of resources to support them in using Big Dayta in the classroom:

  • A slideshow introducing Big Dayta to their students (ElementaryJunior High/High School are currently available and one with a heavier-statistics component for just high school coming later this summer) and a slideshow with screenshots of how to work with the data using Google Sheets for iPad.
  • Idea guide for choosing activities
  • A longer explanation of each idea suggestion along with which Common Core standards that idea is aligned with (click here for ELA ideas and here for Math ideas)
  • Big Dayta Facebook page so students and teachers can connect with each other to discuss and debate their findings.

Classrooms can use Big Dayta for one-off lessons as the school year winds down, or for longer units where students can investigate and report on the data across multiple subjects including math, writing, social studies, and more. However teachers choose to use it, Big Dayta is a chance for students to practice academic skills, critical thinking, and learn more about themselves and each other as they do it.

 

We Love Classcraft! A BGL Review

Here at BGL, we love Classcraft! It’s a free classroom management system a la Class Dojo but with deeper options and a fantasy-based theme that the students really enjoy.

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One great element is that a given student’s avatar can “die,” which sounds a bit violent for a classroom setting until you consider a few things:

  • Students are organized into teams and there are disincentives built in to the other team members if one of their teammates dies. In other words, students HAVE to help each other in order to avoid team-wide consequences.
  • The teacher can customize the penalty for death with creative consequences that can otherwise benefit the class.

The latter bullet point is the subject of the following video in which Teacher Travis introduces Classcraft to his 5th grade class via distance learning. Please enjoy! Our students definitely do.

 

The teacher dashboard allows multiple views of the class with varying degrees of detail. It also makes it easy to reward/punish groups of students or the entire class at one time with just a few clicks.

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Another element we enjoy with Classcraft is “Today’s Event,” a randomized act that may or may not affect multiple student accounts at one time. It’s akin to some of the squares on a Monopoly board where rewards or consequences are doled out simply for having been in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.

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Almost everything in Classcraft is customizable. From a student perspective, they can customize their avatars and earn the ability to unlock special wardrobe elements and skills. The teacher, like with Class Dojo, can customize the rewards and consequences to target specific class behaviors.

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Given this level of customization, there is definitely a learning curve. It seems a bit unwieldy and user-unfriendly at first, but most tech users will find it to become second nature after using it for a short amount of time. Like with most things in teaching, consistency is key – the more you use it, the more effective it becomes.

Teacher Chad’s Top 5 Funniest Classroom Moments While Teaching in Taiwan

Teacher Chad is an astoundingly popular teacher at Tsai Hsing and recently decided to stay at the school indefinitely past his two-year contract.

(Check out his GoFundMe for his upcoming service trip to Tanzania with some of his BGL colleagues, and please give if you can!)

Perhaps one reason that Teacher Chad decided to stay on are the top five funniest things that have happened to him since he started teaching in Taipei. To boot, here is our latest blog post:

Making the decision to move to a new country alone to pursue your teaching career can be one of the scariest decisions a person can make!!! There are so many questions. My major fear was thinking about what were the kids going to be like. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them or to get my ideas across. I quickly learned that this would not be an issue and that, generally speaking, kids all over the world are pretty similar to each other. I observed them playing all the same games that kids in the States play. I also learned quickly that, much like America kids, Taiwanese kids say and do some of the funniest things. Here is my top five list of the funniest things I’ve received from students.

Number 5 – Just like in America, parents have no secrets from teachers. Students feel the need to share everything with teachers, no matter what!

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Number 4 – They understand how love and economics  sometimes can mix.

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Number 3 – even with a class of third graders, you always have the one kid who was born to have fun. IMG_1426.JPG

Number 2 – There is always that one student who is a wise guy and gets his witty jabs in wherever he can.

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Number 1 – No matter what the student does, an apology note can make it so much funnier. I had one experience where a student thought it’d be funny to punch me. The problem was his height. I received an illegal punch below the belt, but the apology note had me laughing for days.

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I’ve learned so much in my two years abroad and am so happy I took the chance to come and travel the world. I would recommend it to anyone who feels like they are missing something in their daily lives. Teaching abroad and traveling has been one of the greatest experiences in my life.

And, the kids are very sweet too.

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See Teacher Chad’s blog post from last year about Children’s Day in Taiwan. It’s one of our most popular of all time!

And, if you or someone you know wants to teach abroad, please check out our open job listings at banyangloballearning.com/employment.

Using Video to Teach Current Events

BGL’s own Teacher LaCora has experience in front of the camera as a red carpet host here in Los Angeles. She used those skills to create a video about the recent earthquake in Ecuador as part of BGL’s weekly current events unit.

 

To teach current events, BGL selects a handful of stories from the week and shares links to the stories along with discussion questions to all their teachers across grades K-8. Each teacher chooses the story and discussion questions that are best suited for the ability and interest of their classes. Choosing more discussion questions – or turning them into writing assignments – takes the activity from a short one (5-10 minutes) to a longer one (a full period or two).

Here are the discussion questions for the Ecuadorian earthquake story. As you can see, they get progressively more difficult so that teachers in older grades choose from the bottom and vice versa for younger grades.

  • What can people do to help when there is an earthquake?
  • Have you ever felt an earthquake? What does it feel like?
  • What causes earthquakes? Are there different kinds?
  • What is the Richter scale? What does it mean to increase exponentially?

How do you teach current events? Tell us in the comments section.

Staying Connected While Teaching Abroad: One Teacher’s Perspective

“…well, I guess you must have a touch of crazy in you to move to and live in China. But I think for some, that craziness comes in the form of strength and creativity; and in such cases, you flourish.”

During a recent semester-culminating professional development session at Xing Kong in Kunshan, China, I was asked to share with the group what I deemed to be my “happy place,” or the one time or place that I have felt “complete bliss.” Such a heartfelt question was a bit tricky for my notoriously restless soul, however my answer drew itself quite clearly: my place of happiness is not just one place at all, it is actually a feeling, an all-encompassing overwhelming that is so specific and so poignant that when it comes I get physical goosebumps. For me, nirvana is waking up and venturing out in a place that I have yet to explore, whether it be a city, village, campsite, or beach. Bliss is knowing that a truly unique moment is entirely mine and that in it, I am completely free. Euphoria is the temporary ownership of time and space to explore, get lost and indulge in all before me.

Personally, the sparkling manifestation of what my life was “supposed to look like” has evolved with changing hemispheres, nationalities and languages. I am now overtly aware that in order to balance unavoidable adulthood while simultaneously nourishing my gypsy-soul, I must have a career that allows both travel and financial stability.  This has become a reality for me while living in both Taiwan (previously) and now in China, both of which were with Banyan Global Learning schools. However, being disconnected from your everything at home while living abroad – and, more specifically, teaching abroad – is not always easy and  is even less glamorous. There are days of small triumphs and beautiful glimpses of the traceable footprint you leave behind in a culture that you will never fully understand… but there is also a creeping sense of isolation that comes with living a world away or “in the future” (as my friends in the States lovingly refer to it).

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Pudong, Shanghai Skyline

Yet, through my personal experiences I have found that much of that which is left behind stays constant as it is me who grows, changes, expands and blooms. It’s impossible to write of the excitement that ensues when you are able to plan a weekend get-away to Hong Kong or Macau, or a four-day excursion to South Korea or Singapore. In order to find honest contentment with your path and lose yourself in the adventure and constant wonderment of living abroad, it takes wrapping your mind around the fact that you won’t be gone forever (that is, if you don’t want to be).

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Ko Phi Phi, Krabi, Thailand

One way to do this is by connecting with other expats, both at your place of work and while traveling throughout the region. Through my travels I have met some truly incredible people: explorers from all over the globe that wholeheartedly believe in and embrace the challenge of life outside of the norm; People that live and see life through a uniquely scoped lens; individuals that I admire, trust and love deeply.  The greatest gift has been meeting and loving this select group of wanderers.  They have taught me to believe in the truth and sanctity of every moment that surrounds me.  Through these relationships and the rare mirrors that they provide, I recognize the my undisguised vulnerability along with my softness to new experiences, rare cultures and unique souls. In a world where vulnerability is so quickly coupled with weakness, I choose to wear mine on my sleeve and to allow myself to be unrelinquishingly real. This, in turn, allows me to connect more genuinely with the people with whom I share these experiences.

So, as I sit here, in this lovely cafe in Xintiandi, a small pocket tucked away in the bustle of Shanghai, surrounded by locals and fellow nomads alike, I think back on and embrace the past five months of my life in China and the past 4 years working with BGL. I leave in the morning for Thailand – an adventure I have hoped for since I was a child – and then will be reunited with friends and family in the States for a few short weeks. Very few jobs that I know of offer such a substantial mid-year perk with time off to travel the globe and have your adventure-dreams come to fruition.

In retrospect, I now realize that the ultimate fortune in my adult-life came four years ago when I faithfully took a chance on a young Los Angeles-based company called Banyan Global Learning . I was promised an opportunity to teach internationally but did not realize the extent to which the experience would be defined by my connections to fellow travelers. It has indefinitely changed my life and how I see the world.
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Adorable K1 Students

Halloween in China: Kindergarten Ghostbusters Dance Off

The teachers, students and parents at our kindergarten in Kunshan, China celebrated Halloween by dressing in costume and dancing in unison the famous Ghostbusters theme from the 1980s. Of course they did!

BGL Teachers Mike, Heather and Lucas led the groups not only with excellent dance skills but also superior costume-ability.
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And here’s a shot of Teacher Ashley celebrating the holiday with Batman himself at our kindergarten in Taiwan:

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How did your students celebrate the holiday abroad? Leave a comment below! And, Happy Halloween!

Table Top Mandarin with Teacher Mike

My name is Brittany Michael and I’m euphoric to be a new employee of BGL this year. I am part of the team in Kunshan, China and moved here a little over two weeks ago.
Teacher Brittany, about town.

Teacher Brittany, about town.

Throughout the time I’ve been here, I’ve had the privilege of diving right into Mandarin under the tutelage of our very patient manager, Mike Maraghy.
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On Day 1 in China, Teacher Mike eagerly began teaching us all Mandarin. This was in addition to Mike’s heading up the English department at Xing Kong, the first school to be operated in China by BGL and Tsai Hsing. Mike works with and constantly translates for Xing Kong local teachers and administrators and  prepares the American teachers to teach the BGL curriculum. He also manages the myriad details of our transition from America to living in China. My colleagues – Lucas, Courtney, Heather – and I marvel at how well Mike utilizes his Mandarin skills to communicate with school faculty and deal with the unexpected issues that arise when moving halfway around the world. We couldn’t be more grateful for his patience, perseverance and selflessness as we embark on this journey with him.
Teacher Mike translates for Brittany and her local partner teachers.

Teacher Mike translates for Brittany and her local partner teachers.

When we began learning Mandarin, we had our first lesson on a legitimate blackboard within one of the classrooms of our school building. We discussed basic sounds, touched on vowels and went over a few vocabulary words.

Our second lesson took place in Mike and Lucas’s apartment as they have a beautiful, floor-to-ceiling window in their living room with a gorgeous view overlooking one of the many lakes and parks of Kunshan. Mike creatively used dry-erase markers to write all over the window as we reviewed the vowels we’ve learned and important phonemes that differ from English and then touched on a few new vocabulary words and useful phrases.

9229094_origIn between lessons, Mike checks our retention in real life contexts and points out Chinese characters when we see them. We make Mandarin lessons out of every opportunity: during our trips to nearby Shanghai, by interacting with locals, speaking to administrators and teachers at the school and recognizing characters on signs we pass when walking/biking around Kunshan. Our third Mandarin lesson took place at a local shop called Forrest Coffee. The place is quaintly filled with a variety of little succulents and one of the main workers, Yoku, is working on his English and enjoys practicing with us. Mike used the coffee table to write out our lesson for the day and, during our bike ride to the gym right after our lesson, we continued our Mandarin practice by shouting sentences, requests, vocabulary words and phrases back and forth (much to the delight of the locals walking or zooming past us on scooters; as if five Westerners on bikes was not already a spectacle!).
9008654_origOur fourth Mandarin lesson was written back at Mike and Lucas’s glorious window during the day of the angry Kunshan storm. The wind was incredibly vicious this day and the sky poured down rain as we munched on baozi and cha ye dan inside. With more days like this to come, we hope to continue to pick Mike’s brain as we enhance our abilities to truly connect with the local culture.
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10 Ways for Time-Strapped Teachers to Keep Up with EdTech

Teachers who love technology (like we do!) always want to learn about the next best—and most useful—thing. Whether it be a burgeoning LMS, a free game site with built-in analytics, or an app students can use for creative projects, within the booming edtech world it can be difficult to wade through the tedium to get to the truly fantastic. So, we’ve developed some tips for keeping up with edtech without tearing your hair out in the process.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

1. SCHEDULE – 2-3 professional development events each school year to attend where you think you can get the most information and learn the most. (Great resources here and here.)

2. Keep an ongoing LIST of new apps, programs and resources you hear about.  Give some description after each listing so you can remember, generally, the purpose it serves. (Some of our favorites are: Zaption, Zeal, Formative, BrainRush, DragonBox, NOVA Elements App, GoodReader, Duolingo, and ClassDojo to name a few.) Make the list in Googledoc for collaborative input.

3. KEEP your entire team WORKING on research and testing new technology that is available. Organize a task list and be systematic about testing for maximum efficiency.

4. CONNECT WITH OTHERS – Keep an open dialogue with your team and with your personal learning network. What’s working and what is not? Some top hashtags to follow on Twitter are: #edtech, #edchat, #elearning, #ipadchat, #flipclass, #flippedclassroom, #iPadEd, #EdApps, #iPadClassroom and #mlearning.

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Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

5. Go with the “DOES IT STICK?” approach.  After your team starts testing something, ask yourself: “does it stick”?  If it stays on your radar, it’s probably worth keeping. If not, dump it and move on.

6. COMPARE AND CONTRAST… given there are so many apps and services now that serve similar purposes, choose the top two or three and test those against one another.  Have one of your employees try one and another employee try the other.  Have them take notes and then at the end, collect your team, compare the two and decide which to go with for the time being (A great general resource is the EdSurge EdTech Index which offers a multitude of categories and suggestions).

7. DON’T MIX testing and what your company is currently using at the time.  Implement after testing and decisions are made.

8. BE OPEN TO CHANGE – keep your eyes and ears open to what may be new, better, etc. If you stick with a given piece of tech for too long, you may find yourself quickly outdated and unfamiliar with new stuff that’s out there.

9. STEP BY STEP is the way to work through all the new ed tech options otherwise you could just feel completely overwhelmed and do nothing.

10. ENJOY THE PROCESS – Remember to enjoy the process! This should be fun, right??  Don’t get bogged down feeling it’s tedious work.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

So… how do you keep up? Write a comment below!