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Innovative Minds

MSET welcomes member and guest blog submissions from teachers, school leaders, and district level leaders highlighting innovative practices by educators across the state. MSET's Blog "Innovative Minds" looks for pieces that inspire innovative teaching, leading, and learning. 

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  • 12/04/2018 11:53 PM | MSET Webmaster (Administrator)


    Shown is #LEGOtravelbuddy -- originally from Accident, Maryland -- taking some time off to explore in Thailand this fall.


    LEGO Travel Buddy is a global collaboration project that started in 2017. I felt that my students needed authentic connections with peers and educators abroad and that is what gave me the incentive to seek out collaborations. It’s so important to learn from other educators and grow your PLN. Working in a small rural district, it is crucial to connect, seek funding and resources to enhance student access. I love to see how digital access can provide my students with exposure to new cultures, people and places. It's the same concept of sharing an object and visually seeing it in another location.  It is our take on "Flat Stanley". Global collaborations provide windows (opportunities to observe diverse people and their cultures and develop empathy) and doors (incentive to move beyond one location and seek opportunities, connections and adventures abroad).
    Where do I get a LEGO Travel Buddy?
    I received my first official LEGO Travel Buddy kit free with a purchase from LEGO.COM shop and took it with me to ISTE in San Antonio and documented the experience to share with my colleagues. The mini-figure in this set has a very distinct space shirt and comes with numerous travel accessories like a camera, suitcase, fishing pole etc. You can still purchase the set on Amazon or BrickLink. Some of the first LEGO mini-figures that we have shared were custom made to look like the participant. I recommend 
    purchasing LEGO Education Community Mini-figures sets if you want to custom make multiple travel buddies! The mini-figures are inexpensive to mail and everyone loves LEGO! We have collaborated with students of all ages, PreK-12 and adults! Also, LEGO is a great representation of our school library where we host FIRST LEGO League projects and teams! Every LTB is unique and they all showcase their adventures in different ways! Adventures range from riding an ATV through the Atlas Mountains of Marrakesh to visiting the ALA International Conference in Dubai to touring the Harry Potter studios in London! Students from abroad who have received a LEGO Travel Buddy have shared information such as “What in the WORLD are you Reading” about their favorite books and where they live!  

    Need inspiration or just want to follow LEGO Travel Buddy? 
    Please view the links for sample projects, visit our Going Global MAP and share with your students. Connecting with LEGO Travel Buddy has been a life-changing experience. I highly recommend adding it to your educator/librarian bucket list! Last year, we sent a LEGO Travel Buddy to several different places and made our first connections thanks to the librarians and teachers in Hawaii, London, Australia, China, New Hampshire and Pocomoke Middle in Maryland! We also sent and received postcards from both Sarah Betteridge (Perth, Australia) and Lucas Maxwell (London, England) via AIR MAIL. The postcards are so personal and are displayed proudly in our school library. In an effort to save time and money, we found using digital tools has allowed us to increase our connections instantly and for free!  We received beautiful digital postcards from Sarah Betteridge and her students in Australia on a Padlet called “Where in the WORLD do we live?” My students created and shared their own about Garrett County, Maryland using Google Slides! In order to book talk or share information about our locations, our students collaborate on Flipgrid and they post pictures on Twitter.

    Current global connections include

    • Tom Bober (2015-16 Teacher in Residence for the Library Of Congress & librarian from St. Louis, MO) He is helping our 8th graders by sharing strategies via flipgrid on how to navigate the LOC website and find primary sources for our Maryland History Day project!
    • Cassy Lee & Chinese American School (2018 SLJ Champion of Student Voice from San Francisco) has connected us to her School Library Advisory Committee (the SLACkers). They shared how they prepared for an author visit with Stacey Lee.
    • Todd Burleson (2016 SLJ Librarian of the Year) Todd took the LTB to the ALA International Conference in Dubai! He introduced us to the EAU librarians of the year and went above and beyond to create an eBook of his adventures! 
    • Bayden Copely (NMS 8th grade student traveling from the Appalachian to Atlas Mountains in Morocco), Bayden connected with us using the flipgrid app and documented his experience with the Aragon goats, crocodiles and camels! He visits a Middle School in Marrakesh, Morocco and attending classes as a guest student! View Bayden's mix tape here!
    • FIRST LEGO LEAGUE TEAM 5588 Hoek's Future Lab from Holland. We exchange video messages and share ideas about our research and robot missions! Our LEGO Travel Buddy represents GIRLS in STEM!  GIRLS WHO CODE /LADIES of FIRST

    Students have even shared clues using the 5 themes of Geography on a mystery Flipgrid with students in South Carolina! This week, another Mystery Flipgrid location is in the works! I am not allowed to reveal the location but it is a very special librarian that everyone loves to connect with! We are also excited to see what adventures the following librarians will share with us who have recently received an LTB: 

    Digital and Global Citizens
    This is how we become better Global and Digital Citizens, with authentic connections. It introduces my students to new faces and places! We are often surprised that even when our global friends are 4,000 miles away, we are reading the same books! It also inspires us to learn more about our world that we will hopefully have the opportunity to travel. Connecting on Flipgrid and Twitter gives my students exposure to the world beyond the walls of our small community school.

    Is there a LEGO Buddy in your future? 
    After we sent and connected with our friends, we let them decide what to do next. Many of the LEGO Travel Buddies continued to explore. For example, our Hawaiian LTB "Hoa Hele" has traveled over 40,000 miles and is planning an African Safari next! Some passed it on to another teacher or librarian, also a wonderful option. Here at NMS, we are always seeking out new friends and adventures and would love to connect with you. Let us know if you would like to share your own LTB adventure with us by using the #LEGOTravelBuddy hashtag. Our school system allows access to twitter, so this is a great way for us to connect in school where we all have Internet access! 

    ​Happy Travels!
    Ali Schilpp is a media specialist at Northern Middle in Garrett County. School Library Journal named her the 2018 School Librarian of the Year. Connect with Schilpp on Twitter at @AliSchilpp

  • 12/03/2018 11:59 PM | MSET Webmaster (Administrator)


    By BEN HURLEY, Washington County Public Schools

    December is Computer Science education month. The first week of December is the kickoff with Computer Science education week December 3-9. The emphasis on Computational Thinking is becoming more prevalent in education today. Coding is a great way to foster those skills. Over the last 5 years I have been using the website with my 5th and 4th grade students to teach them the concepts of coding. However, just 3 years ago, at my school, we began an initiative to give all students access to these skills by creating a class that students visit approximately 1 time a week for 50 minutes just like they would go to PE, art, music, or media, that focuses on Computational Thinking and specifically, Coding. The elementary age is the perfect time to begin building the foundation for these skills just like any other academic subject. Once a solid foundation is laid than when they go on to middle school, high school and beyond, they will have a leg-up on those future careers. 

    Mitch Resnick, creator of the Scratch software, in his TED talk shares about the importance of why kids should learn to code. It’s a way for students to create and use their imagination. They continue to have a sense of accomplishment and it supports multiple standards in math and science. The importance of the process of design and taking an idea and creating something functional out of that idea. 

    Elementary age students need a lot of exploration and hands-on time when learning to code. With so many resources and materials out there, here a few of my favorites for elementary age.

    iOS Apps:
    Hands-on materials:
    • - This website is built for everyone. Take the time to explore it. There are activities for coders of all ages starting in Kindergarten. I use this is as the basis for skill building before and after we do hands-on activities.
    • Botley - This robot is great for students starting in PreK through 1st grade. My students learn about directional words and how we build sequences for the robot to follow. Using the materials they set up challenges with the cards for the robot to travel on. Their partner than gives the correct sequence to meet that challenge.
    • Osmo-Coding with Awbie - This activity is great for grades K-2. We discuss the importance of creating a sequence and use the blocks in the kit to guide Awbie through the forest. This gives students opportunity to begin exploring the basis for block-based coding. It also reinforces math skills such as counting, adding, sequential thinking and problem solving.
    • Ozobot - Great for grades 2-5. Students create color sequencing while also learning about the importance of paying attention to detail. Using markers and color sequencing students can draw and create and then give commands for the Ozobot to follow. Upper grades can also use OzoBlockly to use block-programming to code the robot to do even more. My upper elementary students create mazes. Then, their partner has to code Ozobot to solve that maze. 
    • Sphero - Students in grades 3-5, this robot is my personal favorite. Not only can students drive this device around with the SpheroEDU app, they also program it by writing block-based algorithms. One of the first activities I do, “Get Control”, students work in groups and set up an “arena” to code Sphero to move from one person to the next without touching anyone.

    Ben Hurley can be followed on Twitter at @HurleBen and on his website.

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