Showing posts from 2017

FAST FORWARD - Weava New Way to Research

Michelle and George travel from Hong Kong to Madison, AL to meet with students and teachers using their chrome web app, Weava, which is a new way to navigate the research process for students.

Digital Portfolios: The Whole Child, The Whole Story

We present to you our largest and most important production to date. This film and accompanying Google Drive folder is intended to accelerate the understanding and adoption of digital portfolios. At just under 40 minutes, it is designed to be watched by entire faculties, education majors, and whole classes prior to beginning the process. We ask that you share it anywhere and everywhere. All resources can be found via the link in the description of the video.

FAST FORWARD - Virtual Reality

Bob Jones High School graduate, Fred Williams, brings the wonder and awe of virtual reality to the instructional leaders of Madison City Schools. We are partnered with Fred's company, Light Bulb Education, to design and implement transcendent learning experiences for a more beautiful future.
Shot/edited by Christian Arnsparger.

FAST FORWARD - Think Global, Act Local

Dixie Paschal and a team of students at Rainbow Elementary School in Madison, AL work together to create a new recycling initiative at their school. Although the goal is to create globally minded citizens, the team at Rainbow has chosen to act locally to get in the habit of making an impact.
Shot/edited by Christian Arnsparger.

FAST FORWARD - Speakeasy

Library media specialist, Missy King, and the English department at Discovery Middle School in Madison, Alabama recreate a 1920's-style speakeasy to make the learning as real as possible for these students.

FAST FORWARD - Activating Global Citizens

Rachel Gibbs (@RachelGlass88) at Heritage Elementary School in Madison, AL reveals and explains a long-term project dedicated to activating global citizens in a 5th grade gifted classroom. She and her students elegantly combine the four primary categories of growth of the Forward Team to make an impact on the world: highly meaningful technology integration, global participation, project-based learning, and accomplishment-oriented assessment. The giant misconception in education is that activities of this nature are reserved for gifted classrooms or electives. We can do this every day, everywhere.

Anything You Can Teach, YouTube Can Teach Better: Why Being A Good Teacher Is More Than Just Content

Most of us have heard the song made famous from the Annie Get Your Gun musical. In this cute little number, a man and woman are competing to see who can do a task better than the other.

This is pretty reflective of the world and culture we currently live in. Women and men competing against each other about wage and domestic responsibilities. Athletes competing against other athletes for bragging rights and trophies. Celebrities competing against other celebrities for sold out shows or box office numbers. Students competing against other students for scholarships and highest honors.

Everyone is, seemingly, vying to be number one and in order for that to happen, one must be better than the other. And if that’s going to happen, one must be highly skilled.

Enter YouTube.

YouTube has become the technological Rosetta Stone for anything that needs deciphering, from fixing a garage door to learning a skateboard trick to understanding a religion. YouTube even has something for the couple that’s t…

Change Happens

“We were doing things fine before, why change now?” “These kids are always on their cellphones. When I was in school, no one even had a laptop.” “I feel pulled in too many directions--I can barely keep up with grading--how can they expect me to teach all of this material and help with extracurriculars?”

As teachers, there is always a list of complaints. While some are genuinely valid, most of the time griping about a policy change or workload is not going to positively affect the outcome. In fact, the “whiners” can often be loudest, but they usually are the ones who are overly attached to the job. Being attached may seem like a positive quality, but too much attachment leads to change resistance. Living in the 21st century compels us to change -- personally and professionally.

The other day my husband mentioned, “5 years ago, I never would have thought I’d be purchasing practically everything online.” Yet we have found online platforms to be more time-efficient and, oftentimes, more af…

FAST FORWARD - A Mean Green Screen

Madison Elementary School, Madison, Alabama:

Beth Woodard and Bonnie Howard team with their plant manager, David Gray, to create a large green wall to replace the older cloth green screen. This video explores WHY you might benefit from this type of green screen wall and HOW you might choose to do it for very little money.

Edited by James Clemens High School student, Christian Arnsparger. 
Hand-drawn animation: Mollie Bounds.

Council of the Future

Alvin Toffler published Future Shock in 1970. I'm convinced we were not ready for this book until much more recently however, as the infamous "accelerative thrust" to which he frequently refers has become hyper-driven by the advent of the internet.
Let's begin with an introductory quote from Future Shock's "The New Educational Revolution":

Taking quotes regarding education out of the immense context of Future Shock may very well not have the impact I hope. This, perhaps, may only be remedied by the reader reading the whole book. But I'll risk it and just accelerate toward the punchline:

So who will generate these assumptions...then define, debate, systemize, and continually update them? The most compelling and realistic solution I can currently imagine is outlined in great detail immediately following.

Toffler even mentions Huntsville specifically in the game plan, especially in regard to community partnership in this endeavor. But these councils should…


It doesn't work...yet. 
I'm not ready...yet.
I can't say YES...yet.
I can't say NO...yet.
I don't know how...yet.

I think this word epitomizes a beautiful mindset. It is loaded with possibility. As I've been reading through our conversations in the Forward Team Classroom, about saying YES and NO, a lot of you talked about just saying, "not yet," instead. This simple response speaks to me. 

For a student, "It Doesn't Work Yet" vs. "It's a Failure" represents the same moment in time, yet it is a crucial point. One in which the future pivots. 


Do we give our students space to say "yet," and be proud of it?
Do we allow ourselves?

Yet. Pivot.

FAST FORWARD - Partnerships & Portfolios

Edited by JCHS Junior Christian Arnsparger
Digital Publications teacher Sara Baragona and Library Media Specialist Missy King partner together to guide students through the digital portfolio process

FAST FORWARD - MCS GO: More Than an App

Edited by James Clemens junior, Christian Arnsparger.
Xander Voigt, Central Office intern from Bob Jones High School in Madison, Alabama, partners with the team at Central Office to create an app that hopes to serve all the stakeholders in the Madison City Schools community. Discussions of the Rigor Relevance Framework (specifically Quad D) as well as the concept of "partnering for real learning" drive the narrative.

Let Them In

“How are you?”
The tears hit my cheeks, coursing down my face as I walked to my car after work.
Quickly I ducked inside, dried my face, and tried to focus on driving.
It had been a rough day, and even though I knew my dad wouldn’t completely understand, he was a good listener. So I unleashed my thoughts to my dad, who was quietly listening hundreds of miles away.
The challenges had snuck up on me, and a busy work day had masked the inner turmoil I was facing. Getting through work when outside forces are surrounding you (whatever they may be) can be daunting as adults, but what about our students?
What might be the outside forces pressing down on our students’ lives that make it seem insurmountable to face one more quiz, test, homework assignment, or “meaningless group activity” when there are more important worries crowding their thoughts?
Seth Godin writes in his book Linchpin that schools should only teach two things:
Solve interesting problems Lead
If this was the case, then perhaps th…

FAST FORWARD - Animal Allies

Sharon Harris from Mill Creek partners with Jeremy Raper from Bob Jones to solve a real world problem that couldn't have been done without the connecting and partnering of these two teachers and their students. 
Edited by JCHS Junior, Christian Arnsparger

What is my life...? + some great info from LINCHPIN

Today, for roughly 9 hours my job in education focused on receipting money.  Our theatre group was awarded one of the highest honors in the state and allowed to be passed onto SETC, which will take place in Lexington, KY, in early March 2017.  Although it was and is a huge honor, for some reason I feel like I'm being punished.  We juggled over 10 fundraisers and with the help of 5 boosters we receipted all the money over a course of 3+ hours and then I spent the rest of my school day and until about 7 PM tonight inputting all of the receipts into one giant spreadsheet to reflect students' current balances.  The 10 fundraisers have been a constant obstacle to my teaching over the past few weeks because I've been inundated with questions from about 80 students and had class interrupted daily to help students with questions.  One day, we will hopefully pass all of this to a booster club, but we're not there just yet.

When my role in education is receipting money, I ask my…


1) Solve interesting problems and 2) lead. These are the only two things we should teach in school. Yes!!! The more I reflect on this idea in Linchpin (especially the former)the more I agree. I like that author uses the word "interesting" to describe the problems. As a librarian, I am constantly helping students with research. I believe students must really find the problems interesting to fully commit to learning. This week, I started a research project with all my third graders. I started every lesson with this quote by Walt Disney: "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." I want students to know how important I think it is to be curious. It saddens me when students say they are bored or leave the library without finding a book. I do not want them to view reading/learning as a chore, and personally challenge myself to change their viewpoint on a daily basis. I can…

FAST FORWARD - Manna House

Kris Gray, media specialist from Mill Creek Elementary, takes us on a journey into how she and other educators worked with students and their community to connect math, empathy, and community participation into a single longterm project. Edited by JCHS junior, Christian Arnsparger.

FAST FORWARD - Motivalls

This week's Fast Forward comes from Robin Dauma and her "Innovations" students at Bob Jones High School. Inspired by Don Wettrick's Pure Genius, Robin Dauma partners with her "Innovations" students on a journey to improve the look, feel, and culture of their high school. Motivational quotes on the wall = Motivalls. Enjoy! We hope this gets you thinking about the philosophy of using education to improve their world.

Zen and the art of failure
The word failure brings with it a collection of negative emotions and feelings. We are taught from a very young age that failure is bad. Failure is a point of no return. Failure is an end. Webster’s dictionary actually defines failure simply as “lack of success”. I would argue, with the exception of skydiving, that failure is really the catalyst to a new beginning or at the very least, a pirouette to a new direction. As an educator, I’ve had failure on my mind a lot lately. I see students both in the classroom and in the media center hitting roadblocks in learning that they perceive as failures.  It’s disheartening to see a student shut down from what they perceive as an end. I recently watched a TEDed video entitled What I learned from 100 days of rejection by Jia Jiang And it was easy to interchange the idea of rejection with failure. The premise of the video is that by purposefull…

@Instagram in the #Classroom

I first created a teacher Instagram account when I had the idea to have students respond to an image with creative hashtags. As students began to follow me, I realized that I could be using this outlet for so much more than one or two brief activities. These are a few ways that I have used Instagram in the past, both inside and outside the classroom to engage my students and foster deeper relationships.

1. Student Shout-Outs

We all teach students who are involved in something outside of academics, and although it is impossible to make it to every event, I bring my phone with me to the events that I am able to attend and make sure to post a picture of the student I came to see. Oftentimes their classmates will "like" the post and even write encouraging comments. My students appreciate these "shout-outs" and it is an easy way to show students that we care about them.

2. Parent Involvement

I encourage parents to request to follow my teacher Instagram account in order…

The American Dream

The Old American Dream:

Keep your head down
Follow instructions
Show up on time
Work hard
Suck it up will be rewarded.

The New American Dream: 

Be remarkable
Be generous
Create art
Make judgement calls
Connect people and ideas
...and we have no choice but to reward you.

(Seth Godin, 2010)

We all know that we don't instinctively work for extrinsic rewards in our field.  Our rewards are the successes of our students...and this is how we'll do it.