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.

Field Trips Live: Holiday Round Robin

Flashing back to the holiday season, the following is a highlight reel of reflections from BGL’s junior high superstars at Tsai Hsing School. This special event was a multi-point Holiday Field Trip Live that connected the students live to teachers in North Carolina, Portland, OR, Los Angeles and Taipei simultaneously. In a brand new round-robin format, students moved digitally from room to room to hear personal reflections on December holiday traditions. 

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A critical component of BGL’s FTL model is to facilitate thoughtful activities after the trip so that students can synthesize and apply whatever they learn during the trip. The students chosen to share their work here showed great attention to detail, thoughtful word choice and a true showcase of their refined English skills!

Chadwick:

Christmas is an especially important holiday for Christians. There are lots of different kinds of ways to celebrate Christmas. Some people wear a Christmas hat and dress up. On the other hand, some people prefer to decorate a Christmas tree or even have a great big meal. Americans have some fascinating ways to celebrate Christmas.

First of all, some people in America get together and do special things. Some make cookies and others make a gingerbread. Some people even make a very big cake for their relatives. Others go out and have a big meal. Same as always, they have a long break and people go out.

Second, Americans help others. Sometimes if they have cookies or some small snacks that they cannot finish eating it, they give poor people their cookies. Some people even invite poor people to their house and celebrate with them.

Last, people decorate lots of things. People usually decorate their house to make their house bright and shiny. Most famous landmarks, such as Venice Canals, put some fantastic decorations to make people feel warm and delighted.

Christmas is a really big day you can spend time with your relatives or friends. You just finished my article. Why not go home and spend time with your favorite people from anywhere in the world and say “Merry Christmas” to them!

Vanessa:

On Christmas, Americans spend time having fun with their family. They have a Christmas tree, stockings, and lots of fun things to do together. They put lots of gifts under the tree for their children. The children think the gifts are from Santa and are excited about the gifts. Children put their stockings on their bedroom door for Santa to put gifts in. People sing Christmas songs with family to spread Christmas cheer. Some people bake cookies and make gingerbread houses with friends and family. Christmas sounds like it is so much fun, I would like to celebrate Christmas, too!

Henry:

Christmas is a well-known holiday in many countries. Today, there are many different ways to celebrate Christmas, not only sending presents. The Christmas tree is always a must on Christmas. Now, people buy artificial trees to replace real trees that were cut down. It is more eco-friendly and more convenient. You don’t need to go to the forest to cut down trees every year just use the same tree is appropriate. If you got the tree, the next step is to decorate it. Ornaments now are more choices not only balls and strings. You can put up your photos from young to old around the tree or write some wishes on a paper hang it up.

Some gingerbread on a cold day is a great enjoyment. Roll the dough and cut the shape you want with cutters. Caroling is also important on Christmas Day. Singing the traditional songs for Christmas is making the day better and more fun. Now, more people don’t send gifts to family members but homeless shelters. They don’t have a home or a family so it kind of you to send them some blankets or hot tea and cookies.

All in all, Christmas is a day of joy and love. Presents or gifts aren’t as important as you think if you do something more than you do normally. Try to celebrate your Christmas a different and fun way.

Amber:

Americans celebrate Christmas in different ways. Many Americans celebrate Christmas with their families or friends. They exchange gifts and eat dinner together. They put their gifts under Christmas trees or in socks on Christmas Eve. And on Christmas, they will happily open their presents. Some Americans will buy Christmas trees and decorate it. The decorations are warm and often have a big star on the top of it.

Some Americans make Christmas snacks, like gingerbread houses and candy canes. Christmas is a warm holiday to celebrate. Every American’s celebration is unique and can’t be replaced. All Americans have their own traditions, we should respect all of them.

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.

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.

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!

An Inventive Renaissance Project with 8th Grade ELL’s

While the Renaissance is an important period in history and the artwork is truly amazing, it is not always the most interesting topic for students to study (especially those in the midst of junior high ennui). However, a class of BGL’s ambitious 8th graders at Tsai Hsing School have worked their magic to bring the study of the Renaissance to life.

First students learned about Donatello and through his work were introduced to the techniques of Renaissance artists. From this stemmed an art critique assignment in which students chose a work of art by Donatello and unleashed their best inner art critic. This met with some interesting results, some of which are below.

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Next we learned about Michelangelo. This led students to an in-depth look at his famous works at the Sistine Chapel. They learned that Michelangelo created this art to represent the story of Genesis in the Bible. Students ran with this, creating their creation artwork. For a twist, students traded artwork, then wrote a story about the creation of the world. Below are just a few examples of their endeavors.

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The next famous Renaissance artist in the study was Leonardo, who is famous for his unique perspective on the human form and his many incredible inventions. Students used this a springboard for their own inventions. They chose one of Leonardo’s inventions, but found a way to improve on it.

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Finally, the students studied Raphael, who is arguably one of the most talented painters of the Renaissance and is famous for his realistic portraits. Students channeled their own inner artists to create self portraits. What a beautiful and talented group!

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This class will be moving on to study Shakespeare in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for the actors and actresses to unveil the works of Shakespeare through the lens of a Taiwanese 8th grader.

Flipping a Classroom from 6,800 Miles Away

Distance learning (DL) brings exciting possibilities to our Taiwanese students, but also presents some challenges. Our classes have 42 students in them, so how can a distance learning teacher maximize the individual time with each student? Using some #edtech tools we found at EdSurge LA last summer, we decided to do our own version of a ‘flipped’ classroom.

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Teacher Travis flipping his classroom. In the foreground is his laptop, which he is using to teleconference with a small group of students. In the back is the full view of the students in the classroom using H.323 technology to connect to BGL’s offices in Los Angeles. To the right is the view of Teacher Travis that the students see in Taiwan.

In a typical BGL DL classroom, students either do independent Internet research or read iBooks with BGL-designed course content. The teacher will lead a whole-group interactive read-aloud of the latest chapter and then conduct a discussion related to the reading. At that point, the students do an activity that reinforces the content and allows them to practice English in an authentic setting.

A wonderful iPad app and web-based service called Zaption allowed us to flip this model.

Zaption is an online video service that allows you to add question elements into/onto/adjacent to the video. Before Zaption, I would read the chapter with the class and ask individual students comprehension or discussion questions. Obviously I could not get to all 42 students in any given class. Now, I can record the reading and embed questions directly into the video. I can use the Zaption interface to group my students as a class and collect their answers.

Below is an excerpt from the first Zaption lesson we did. Notice that you can ask short answer questions as well as group discussion questions (at the end of the clip):

Here is what some of the analytics look like after students complete the video:

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When the students finish with the Zaption, they use the Quizlet app to practice vocabulary words from that unit or from previous chapters:

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So what is the other half of the class doing? They meet with me (the teacher) through an app called Zoom. Zoom is like a group FaceTime, except that I can also mute individual students, control who is on the main screen, share my screen and record the video (among other features). Now, I am effectively teaching 21 students rather than 42. I can answer more questions, speak to more students and better facilitate the discussion. After we meet on Zoom we may end the meeting so they can work on individual work, we may break off into groups, or I may meet with them one-on-one to discuss their work.

One of the biggest challenges of a distance learning teacher is how to engage ALL your students when you are not in the room with them. By flipping our classroom we cut the number of students we are interacting with in a “whole group” by half. Furthermore, the 21 students who are on their iPad using Zaption are required to respond to all the questions and thus I am able to collect meaningful data during every flipped period. Most importantly, the students LOVE this. Our kids like to be challenged and this allows us to use all 40 minutes of class time VERY efficiently.

This student is practicing vocabulary on Quizlet.

This student is practicing vocabulary on Quizlet.

This student is listening to the zoom meeting. You can see me in the corner of his iPad. I am going over their assignment and sharing my screen.

This student is listening to the zoom meeting. You can see me in the corner of his iPad. I am going over their assignment and sharing my screen.

A student working on an individual assignment after a Zoom meeting.

 

How do you flip your classroom? Leave your ideas in the comments section.