Gaining DENsight!

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.”  I choose to post today for Open House Week because it was exactly one year ago that I attended my first DEN event and what an excellent adventure this last year has been.

On September 10, 2011 a Day of Discovery was hosted in Asheville, NC on the Biltmore Estate.  I was a new DEN member not sure what a Day of Discovery was but who can pass up free staff development.  The North Carolina leadership council team worked very hard to line up a wonderful agenda so we could delve deeper into the resources DE provides.  Dianne Ripollone shared the experience here.  I met talented professionals and learned some new techniques to bring to my school.  I left thinking, “wow, Discovery really cares and spends a lot of time and effort on educators”.

With this in mind, and having just received my new STAR packet, I excitedly spread the news at school, “You can be a STAR too!”  The timing for my excitement was fortuitous because my school system started a push to enlist more DEN members.  At my home school it was more about spreading the good news of Discovery Education during PLC meetings and having STARs starting to twinkle on each hall.  I have to admit though that I still thought of the DEN as a great place to read blogs and find out about resources and did not really realize what the Discovery Education team does and what being a DEN member meant.

At some point Matt Monjan and Kyle Schutt came to visit our school.  They were gathering information to make Discovery and the DEN more accessible and helpful.  They also shared their interest in building a student network.  I didn’t realize the scope of their interest until Discovery invited 30 students in grades 4th through 11th, their parents and teachers, for an exciting tour of Discovery headquarters in Silver Springs.  On the bus ride up children shared what they hoped for.  It was an AWESOME trip empowering students to build new relationships in order to grow this student network.  We look forward to fantastic initiatives from this group during the school year and beyond.

Meshed with this event was the opportunity to create a video in order to be selected for the DEN Summer Institute 2012 (DENSI2012).  I applied and hurriedly scanned each new weekly update to see if I had been selected.  The DEN Summer Institute is a week long completely free (with room & board included) educational conference.  You only have to provide your own transportation to get to the event.  I could not believe my luck when I got the email I was in! DENSI2012 is where I truly came to know what it is to be a DEN member.  The Discovery team, spearheaded by Porter Palmer, works tirelessly year round to provide a phenomenal line up of activities.  Working with the discovery team, leadership council, and other DEN members didn’t end with our sessions.  We were up late into the evenings sharing ideas, “geekery”, and creating content.  The official sessions are highlighted in my last few posts.  Many connections were made to extend our student’s and fellow teacher’s PLC’s as well.  The DEN now feels like a family.  Much like you can look to a parent or sibling, the DEN provides a huge family for advice, to share successes, and soundboard ideas.

I have pledged my allegiance to the DEN and will continue to shout from the rooftops how wonderful the community is because each individual is dedicated to buoying their peers, to collaborating across the globe, and I feel like I matter here.  If you have been lurking or have not had a chance to really get to know DEN members yet then let this be your call to action.  There is something here for everyone.  So to Mr. Holmes, I say, A moment’s DENsight is a life experience!

Brain Friendly Learning

I was starting to get concerned about my gray matter after reading this article; so was very interested in Ginny Washburne’s Brain Friendly ideas.

In a nutshell, our brains absorb information better when we’re happy and active. Our brains are resilient and are all different, however there are many strategies included from Ginny’s DENSI2012 talk that you can use to use to activate those 50-200+ brains you work with daily.

My notes from July below:


positive = endorphins —     negative = cortisol
emotional intelligence is equally important to IQ
strategies – goal setting; create a culture of learning, give hope, empathic listening, growth mindset, “you matter”, choice, at my school we Capturing Kids Hearts as a way to build positive relationships.
Angela Myers “You Matter” look up Ted Talk
use paper slide videos for goal setting

Establish “Buy in” with students

Start with Why – look for Ted Talk – Simon Sinek
to get learning into long term memory – meaning always trumps sense (we’ll memorize, but it has to mean something to remember)
Diana Laufenberg – world of 100 – blog activity
use framing (hook, story), enthusiasm, build mystery in a topic, “bigger kid” challenge, meaning (use authentic problems)

Movement & Brain BreaksBDNF – look into this
Eric Jensen – learning with the brain in mind – 12-15 min in middle school most time without movement   loved! rock paper scissors math
kinesthetic lectures – let students move around and then reflect after the thoughts processed during movement

Play – using the right side of the brain

“What we describe in ‘A New Culture of ]Learning’ is learning driven by the relentless pace of change. It takes place without books, without teachers, and without classrooms, and it requires environments that are bounded yet provide complete freedom of action within those boundaries. This familiar dynamic, in fact, structures all our contemporary notions of play, games, and imagination. Play can be defined as the tension between the rules of the game and the freedom to act within those rules. But when play happens within a medium for learning—much like a culture in a petri dish—it creates a context in which information, ideas, and passions grow. Play, questioning, and imagination lie at the very heart of arc-of-life learning. They have a tremendous effect on, and resonance with, learning today. And where imaginations play, learning happens.”
—Douglas Thomas, co-author (with John Seely Brown), “A New Culture of Learning”; associate professor, University of Southern California in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
teach with tournaments – look up
use: gaming, virtual labs, experiments, stations, project based learning, digital storytelling (paper slide videos)

Feedback – during the learning process, is the single most powerful tool to enhance learning.
teacher, self, peer, community (****ask 3 then me – great idea)

Thank you Ginny!

Programming in the Classroom

At the DENSI2012 conference, David Warlick opened on July 23rd with many thought provoking topics. The main points ruminating afterward are that education needs to be:

  • responsive
  • provoke questions and curiosity
  • open ended with opportunities for conversation
  • make it possible to safely make mistakes

Sounds easy enough (and fun for teachers & students). Are there great tools to allow students to ask questions, problem solve creatively, and safely make mistakes?

During the keynote, David introduced Scratch. Scratch is a programming language made by MIT which makes programming accessible to anyone. Chris Betchler says in his blog that students,

“really seem to engage with the big ideas of programming – problem solving, thinking mathematically and using logic and reasoning. It’s the practical application of those ideas and the creative thinking required to solve authentic problems that forms the basis of a truly engaging learning experience. While I don’t believe that everyone necessarily needs to become a computer programmer, I do think that everyone would benefit from learning the basic skills and mental gymnastics required to write simple computer programs. I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful skill”.

Alice is another programming game. “Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web.”1

Making a programming activity a part of your weekly classroom routine will provide valuable collateral learning that can be applied in the curriculum and will motivate students while they are learning.

Storm Chasing

The DENSI2012 Summer Institute opened with Reed Timmer (@reedtimmerTVN) of Storm Chasers fame.  Be sure to look through his website as he has set up so you and your students are able to track storms live or view the live video weather cams.

If you look up exuberant in a thesaurus, all the adjectives describe Reed and his passion for meteorology.  He is such a good sport, shown at the right posing with Kathy Schrock before his presentation.

Reed TImmer & Kathy Schrock

In his presentation, titled The Science of Extreme Storm Chasing, we got a glimpse of the excitement and seriousness of his work.  His true passion is what inspires me most.  While working with teachers and students, being able to find ways to light a fire of passion about a subject is the ultimate goal.  Children love to wonder, this naturally connects to the STEM subjects.  Give them access to inspired people and their research and chances to experiment to find their own passion.





Thank you for inspiring me and others!

What will you chase?!?!

Allegiance to the DEN

This year I was honored to attend the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute (#DENSI2012).  DENSI2012 was hosted at Montana State University in beautiful Bozeman, MT.  I have long known Discovery Education’s dedication to education and have seen their heart in my eight months as a DEN Star educator but the intensity of the DEN spirit at DENSI2012 is awe inspiring.

The uplifting enthusiasm of the DEN members and Discovery team buoys everyone in the group.  We were treated as professionals and motivated to share our talents.  The Discovery  staff are dedicated to providing content to the DEN which in turn encourages members to provide community service to both lift the community and recruit new members.

The experience has changed me and I’m left indebted to the new friends I have made as a result of DENSI. There are too many people to thank in one post.  Thank you to the entire Discovery Education team, to the wonderful featured speakers, and to the DEN community.  Thank you for:

  • the inspiration
  • providing high quality, relevant sessions
  • giving access to renown speakers and passionate people interested in improving education
  • treating me as a professional with talents to offer
  • making me really understand what it is to be part of the DEN community
  • finding time for so much fun and geekery

I will follow with posts to share session content.

Bus 1 – Anticipation

Students talk about what they hope for…

Bus 1 – Anticipation

Check it out

Hello World!

Hello World!!! Why mess with a great opening?  This is the premiere of my DEN blog.  Just in case you are curious, here are some other connections:


Tomorrow our school system will begin an exciting trip to College Park, Maryland to launch what will become the Discovery Student Network (#DSNtrip12).  Our crew is extremely excited about what lies ahead.  You are acquainted with the DEN, DSN looks to be the next step of connecting student leaders around the world.  Discovery has fantastic vision and I foresee magnificent things from this group of students.

A super brief overview of what we will do: meet Bill Goodwyn, President and CEO, meet and work with Kelli Campbell and Hall Davidson.  The students will have a DEN-mazing race, we’ll meet Chris Weber, tour the Natural History Museum, tour the 3D editing suites at Discovery Creative Technical Center (DCTC), and tour the Discovery Television and Technology Center (DTTC).


Excitement is building as it is a little more than a month before the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute (DENSI12)!  I can’t wait to board the plane and find myself in Bozeman, Mt.