Friday, April 21, 2017

HSE Libraries Empower Students

This week's entry comes from the HSE Library Media Specialists.  Since April is School Library Month, be sure to thank yours, or better yet, talk with him or her about collaborating on a new project!

Meet the HSE Librarian Team on their website.

From the HSE Librarians: No More, "Shhhh.... No Talking in the Library."

This line is a thing of the past! 

The HSE libraries are ready for the future and empowering students with collaborative spaces, instructional technologies, and lifelong learning opportunities. When you walk into our HSE libraries you will see more than just books to "check out." 

Click the hyperlink in the text to see the huge database
of resources available to you and your students through
our partnership with Hamilton East Public Library.
Our School Library Media Specialists are integrating STEM activities and materials such as makerspaces, 3D printers, Spheros, OSMOS, and various recording capabilities, such as studio spaces and green screens;  all to allow our students and teachers to learn and explore.

Our libraries work to provide more access to reliable, current information. Through our partnership with the Hamilton East PublicLibrary we have access to over thirty databases that include Salem Press, Opposing Viewpoints,, and Overdrive. 
Digital Citizenship at RJH
Librarians are empowering students to become critical users of information by analyzing and ethically using appropriate sources.  HSE school libraries are full access centers allowing students, teachers, and community members a chance to use, analyze, and create information.

Here are some things your libraries are doing to EMPOWER students:

Riverside Junior High: Shawn Humphrey
Nonfiction work at BSE
Students worked in groups to teach different strands of Digital Citizenship.  They were required to do a presentation which defined the topic, explained its importance to teens, and offered advice for being a good Digital Citizen.  The class created a Quizlet Live about Cyberbullying.

Brooks School Elementary: Kristin Patrick
Makerspace at FCJH
Mrs. Patrick has been focused on making students aware of all their reading options, including non-fiction.  Students in 4th grade wrote non-fiction pieces and presented them using FlickSnack. 

Fall Creek Junior High: Kristen Hall
Mrs. Hall received a HSSF grant for her makerspace items and 3D printer.  Students are encouraged to take old computers apart, build circuits, or use Little Bits and Makey Makey to create new projects.  Makerspace Club meets twice a month in the library.

Fishers Junior High: Sharon Deam
Students participated in coding projects during Hour of Code.    Students learned the basics of coding and computer programming through activities on
Fishers High School: Renee Isom
CODE RED is a group of Fishers Tigers who are willing and able to help other students with their technology problems. 
Coding games at CRES
Cumberland Road Elementary: Kristin Hicks
Students use a new coding game with the Osmos and our Ozobots and learn coding skills with the Ozobots with paper and marker or with an iPad. 

If you want more examples of exciting collaboration work with HSE Librarians, or if you want to create brand new examples, just contact an HSE Library Media Specialist.  

They are here to EMPOWER your students and you.

Respond to any HSE Librarian directly or through Kristen Hall at

Have a great week, HSE.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Who is Your Hero?

This week's entry comes from Susan Drumm, one of our Instructional Technology Caoches.  She invites you to think about who your heroes are and to meet a couple real-life heroes in June!

From Susan: Hero Time

Question: If you could have dinner with any living person, who would you choose? Think about it for a sec. An entertainer? An athlete? A politician? 
This definition is a good one.  How does this fit with what
you do every day in schools?

Now narrow the field.  What renowned educator would you most like to converse with over dinner? Is there a teacher, a professor, or other educator whose lectures or writings always give you innovative ideas for the classroom? Is there someone who challenges your status quo, makes you think, and, in the end, inspires you to keep making a difference in the lives of kids?

I have several “education heroes”—those famed teachers and professors, authors and speakers who I’ve appreciated from afar over the years. When it comes to education, these individuals challenge my thinking about school, teaching, and learning. And they challenge my thinking about kids.

I wish I could meet them in person!

Your Wish Could Come True

What does an educational instigator do?
What if, right here in Fishers, you had the opportunity to actually meet and converse with a couple of education hero types? What if, while learning from these education heroes, you had a chance to gather ideas, ponder, and design new learning experiences for your students? 

Well, you do. On June 7 and June 8 at Launching Inquiry!

Meet Will Richardson. His Twitter profile reads, “Teacher. Father. Author. Speaker. Blogger. Instigator.” Says Will: “It’s an absolutely amazing time to be a learner. But what we know about how kids learn most powerfully and deeply isn’t what we practice in schools.”

Will is this year’s Launching Inquiry Keynote speaker for June 7th. In addition to his sure-to-be-provocative Keynote, he will be leading two challenging breakouts:

  • “This Is Personal: Modern Learning in Self-Determined Classrooms”
  • “Exploring New Literacies for a World of Networked, Self-Directed Learners and Makers”

Learn more about Will and what he believes about school at and

Click the link above to preview and register.
Meet Jed Dearybury. Energetic, arts-infusing, idea-driven veteran of the second-grade classroom. “Teaching starts with the first handshake, high-five, or hug…Not when the lesson begins,” says Jed. 

Teaching is definitely the job I was created to do. It is my heart, my passion, and what wakes me up in the middle of the night… to write down a great idea of course!” Jed will be our keynote speaker on June 8.
Save June 7 and 8.  It's the time for heroes!

Learn more about Jed and what he believes about education at and

Launching Your Summer

You are invited! Come to Launching INquiry, a time this summer to connect with others who, like you, chose this honorable, awesome profession.

Come meet Will Richardson and Jed Dearybury. Let Will help you reimagine school and education with today’s students in mind. Let Jed inspire you with new interactive classroom ideas.

Meet with your colleagues as well. Pool your ideas. Design for next year. Have a blast.

To learn more and register, visit Note: The breakout schedule for Launching Inquiry is now live! Register for the conference and choose your sessions today!

Respond to Susan (and share with her who your educational hero is) at

Have a great week, HSE.  Take a moment to think about who your educational heroes are—and become a hero to those kids walking through your door this week.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team

  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Next Right Step

A rhetorical question for educators: Have you ever felt overwhelmed?

This week, Mitch Hammersley, assistant principal at Cumberland Road Elementary gives us suggestions of what to do when you’re feeling this way—and he gives us some great information about Professional Learning Communities and Growth Mindsets.
When you are overwhelmed, think in terms of the next
right step.  The way forward may become more obvious.

From Mitch: Keep it Simple!

I like the KISS Philosophy: Keep it simple, Sally!  (Or “Keep it simple, Stupid,” depending upon your mood at the time.) Few things, however, are truly simple. I tried to keep KISS in mind several weeks ago while I attended two days of training on Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

In the evening of the training, I texted Lisa after having more than a few moments of being overwhelmed by the thoughts of everything we could or should do to prepare for implementing a formalized collaboration time next year.

The key word for a Growth Mindset: "Yet."
I shared with her a line I have to keep repeating to myself: “What’s the next right step?”

It’s a good question for just about any situation in life, I suppose.  I imagine I will often answer, “I don’t know.” But, one reoccurring theme in our training last week was that a school that is a professional learning community is founded on the growth mindset. So, let me add a “yet” to the end of that statement to make it complete. “I don’t know, yet.”

The fact is that we do know lots already and we have a good start in many areas. Next year, we will continue our work of building a shared knowledge of why we are coming together in a more focused way each Monday.

Four questions will guide the way:

It’s What We Do

All of us in the district have quite a journey ahead of us next year, and each building has something that makes it unique.  At Cumberland Road, we will have a new math resource, a new reading resource, a new writing resource, a new collaboration framework, and new students—all while going through a remodeling project! What remains constant when I view all of this change through the lens of a growth mindset is that when we work together as a community of learning professionals, there isn’t much that we can’t conquer.

Working together is not new, and it’s not a Kumbaya experience.  It is what we know is best practice for the school and for the district.  Instead of being overwhelmed, it helps me to frame the work we will do the rest of this school year and next school year as a continuation of our journey.

PLCs are the next right step.

Eye of the Tiger

"My attitude frames my reality."
With my kids gone to my mom’s for part of their Spring Break two weeks back, I was actually able to sit down and watch a movie. Who better than The Italian Stallion to remind me that the greatest enemy of the growth mindset is myself?

In what I hope is the final installment of the Rocky series, Rocky takes Adonis, Apollo Creed’s long lost son, to the mirror in the training room and asks him, “Do you see this guy in the mirror staring back at you? That’s your toughest opponent.”

How true. It’s not external factors that force me to be a certain way. My attitude frames my reality. Yo, Adrian!

Here’s to the growth mindset. It’s strengthened by looking within and by seeing challenges as opportunities for learning.  I’m thankful we get to continue our journey together as a community of learners.

Respond to Mitch at

We hope you enjoyed your break.  Time flies quickly between now and the end of the year, so take full advantage of the opportunities with the students.  Thanks for all you do.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
When you finish well....
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Intentional, Purposeful, Highly-Structured, and Messy

Steve uses this resource to help
teachers define PBL.
Last week, Steve Loser ended his blog with this question: If PBL is NOT a Project, what is it?  This week, he begins the conversation of answering that question, and he provides several opportunities for longer discussions this summer.

From Steve Loser: What is PBL?

The answer to this question is sometimes difficult to nail down. With the buzz-word power and consequential funding of the concept in recent years, numerous scholars, academics, consultants, and professional development companies have worked to define and brand their own unique definition. In order to redefine the term, I often work with teachers to construct their own working definition from all these sources.

My Definition:  “Project-Based Learning is student-centered or student-driven inquiry.”

Want more depth
about PBL?
Click this link to
Buck Institute.
PBL is strategically taking the naturally inquisitive "wondering" of human nature and targeting that energy and engagement on authentic, rigorous learning outcomes rooted in a standards-based curriculum. This is done with specific PBL components, strategies, and tools that are too extensive for this blog post, but there are some good places to start, such as the Buck Institute for Education.  (Click the link under the logo for more information.)

Done With, not To Students

Teachers often plan in a linear way, but I often try to shift teachers from thinking about a set path to learning.

In PBL, teachers take on a facilitator role to leverage the engagement of student voice and choice to give students an opportunity to apply and use knowledge and skills authentically. It is intentional, purposeful, and highly structured instruction that can appear chaotic and messy because authentic inquiry is never, nor will it ever be, a linear process with a pre-determined path.
This was in last week's blog, but it's worth looking at again!
I use a "fence" analogy to understand the protections and restrictions you wrap around student explorations. This form of instruction is not only the most engaging for students, but also creates the most highly effective instruction.

PBL teachers create the classroom conditions to be responsive to each and every student while bringing students into the instructional conversation so school is done with them and not to them. The struggle for teachers is often just that first step of shifting the concept of "project" and acknowledging they were never taught this way and likely never taught to teach this way.

The First Attempt

What happens when you shift the concept
of "project"?  Often something incredible!
Your first PBL unit and implementation will be a mess, but you find this amazing engagement power and a classroom culture that will give you chills.

This feeling was captured in a voice mail I got from a first-time PBL teacher, who said: 

"Today was the most incredible day I have ever had in the classroom, but I have no idea what I should do tomorrow! Call me back!" 

This teacher is right.  The final key to successful implementation of PBL, or any shift in your professional practice, is to get the support of experienced practitioners innovating with their students in their classrooms. 

If you are interested in learning from other teachers, we have two great opportunities for you to explore ways to use PBL in your classroom.  You can register for these events by clicking the links below:
  • LaunchingInquiry: Join me on June 7 and 8 at Fishers High School to learn more about PBL and many other topics.
  • Authentic Unconference: Join me on June 26-28 in Indianapolis to "Uncover Your Standards through PBL."  HSE teachers can attend for half price.  You can design a PBL unit and connect with the Indiana PLB Network.

Respond to Steve at

Let Steve know if you have questions about PBL or about his plans at Launching Inquiry and the Authentic Unconference.  If you get a chance, take him up on his offer to learn how to design and implement those intentional, purposeful, highly-structured, and messy PBL units.

Have a great Spring Break, HSE! 

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Friday, March 24, 2017

PBL: Changing Your Concept

What images come to mind when you think about Project-Based Learning (PBL)?  Many of us either draw a complete blank, or we think back to an experience we had that wasn't necessarily positive.
Do you recall project work that ended
like this?

This week, Steve Loser, assistant principal at Fishers High School writes about PBL and addresses why attempts at Project-Based Learning have led to some negative experiences for students and teachers.  The follow-up entry will give resources for making PBL an outstanding learning experience for both the students and teachers.

From Steve: The Essential Nature and Dangers of Project Work

The Essential

The need to shift classroom instruction to be more project-based is not just some educational fad. The ubiquity of information due to technology and the need for students to practice, develop, and master "21st Century" or "soft skills” like critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and empathy require us as educators to craft marketable experiences where students apply and use knowledge and skills not just for their own purposes, but to solve actual problems and challenges in their communities.
Connections to PBL are everywhere
in the HSE21 Best-Practice Model.

This results in high levels of student learning, development of transferable employability skills, and connections with the community that not only develops talent in a local workforce but retains it.

The Dangers 

The problem with Project-Based Learning (PBL) is really the word "Project.” Some teachers, students, and parents often bring a great deal of traumatic baggage to project work in the classroom from their own experiences. Ask any individual what they think about "projects" in the context of education, they will likely recount being put into groups and taking days or weeks to create something with their peers.

Ever get this look when you ask a student, "So
what did you learn?"
Depending on their engagement with the project, they will then either describe doing all the work for the group or simply, "it was pretty easy,” most likely because someone else did all the work. Too often, due to our competitive culture, we collaborate poorly. Tie a grade to that collaboration and you get some of the most dysfunctional classroom conditions ever, often with high engagement, but very little learning and students with a wide variety of knowledge and skills at the end.

In fact, the most dangerous but telling follow up question you can ask in these experiences is "What did you learn?" All you get is an IDK or a blank stare. 

Ouch! We can't afford to give and investment of weeks of instructional time for a fun, feel-good, "fluffy" experience with little to no learning.

Rigor Over Relevance

This is not written to be critical of teachers or projects. The first step of moving toward PBL is likely acknowledging your own project baggage, shifting your entire concept of the word project, and committing to pushing your professional practice beyond the project through reflective implementation.

As educators we always plan instruction with the best of intentions. However, we must be cautious to plan for rigor over relevance. Relevance will engage students. Rigorous skill targets that leverage that engagement will ensure high-level learning. 

If PBL is NOT a Project, what is it?  

We know--and maybe experienced--what PBL isn't.  Above is a foreshadow of what is to come in Part 2. I hope to follow up with great ways to implement Project-Based Learning well and to share opportunities for you to learn more about this instructional practice that is essential to helping our students learn the knowledge and skills needed in today's world.

Respond to Steve at

Have a great week HSE.  It will be a short one, and we hope it is filled with learning, for you and for your students.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education