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Monday, February 26, 2018

Launch Grant: The Bible and Bookmaking Technology

Upper School teacher Zoe Balaconis did an interesting launch grant with her Sophomore English class:

In Sophomore year, students are required to read excerpts from The Hebrew Bible so that they gain a foundational understanding of a canonical text. While The Bible is exciting for literary and religious reasons, the language often fails to hook students' imaginations and they lose out on the historical weight of the document itself. I plan to use the Tech Launch Grant to create a unit exploring the ancient technology of our first books and compare it to modern technological advances. Not only would we be able to visit the Harvard Library's copy of the Gutenberg Bible, but we'd compare that printing technology to other cultures' oldest texts. Furthermore, we'd be able to use laser-cutting technology to create letterpress blocks to print our own original texts. It is my hope that this more experiential exploration of the physical nature of books will give students more of an appreciation of the trajectory—both from the past and forward in time—of the written word.

 In addition to reading The Hebrew Bible, the Sophomores delved into the history of printing, translating, and disseminating the text—but didn't stop at a survey of its historical timeline. With the expert guidance of Ms. Tangusso and Dr. Patel, groups of students chose passages they wanted to try their hand at mass producing, and, using a variety of printing methods, set about to putting them on paper. Some experimented with letterpress while others made stamps while others researched digital font design. At the end of our unit we had a more interdisciplinary understanding not only of the text's significance, but also the significance of the technology it galvanized. The way that we consume media continues to evolve, and it was eye-opening to examine and attempt to recreate a moment of that story.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Launch Grant: Peer Feedback in Upper School Biology Class

Upper School science teacher Amanda Borking did a launch grant this year to explore the use of peer feedback through the PowerSchool class website. Students used the wiki-pages feature of PowerSchool to post content. They uploaded work there (such as this drawing of a chemistry example) and then used discussion boards to discuss their work. They also recorded and uploaded videos to add a more personal means of communication asynchronously.

In this example, students made a cartoon strip to illustrate chemical bonding.  

A few examples of peer feedback comments posted to the discussion board:

"When looking at their fairytale I really like how they represented the loss and gain of electrons by using shoes, I thought that was a really smart way to show this action. One part that was a little unclear was which atoms were bonding was which ones, I didn't figure it out until the end when you drew the final solution/equation. So in the future I would just write which atoms each ones are just to clarify. Secondly, another way to improve your fairytale might be to use more of the scientific words we learned such as ionic bond, valance electrons, intramolecular bonds, etc to relate your fairytale more to what we have been learning in class."

"I really liked their representation of how the two Chlorine atoms get the one needed magnesium electron. I think that perhaps they could have used more vocabulary such as non-metals and metals, or ionic or other words to describe what kind of reaction is taking place. I think that they could have also added a more scientific picture of what the atoms would looks like when they had shared them. I'm  a visual learner and it would help me understand the movement of atoms a little more. However, this group did an excellent job and I truly loved what they put on their story board."

Creating Online Resources for US Chem Course

During the 2017-2018 school year Upper School chemistry teacher Jake Nagy used a launch grant to create supplemental informational resources "chemistry online notes" for his students. He wrote,
The concept of Chemistry Online Notes (CON) is inspired by the BACON program currently employed by Prof. Neil Garg of UCLA. Garg's BACON program is an interactive and digital program that assesses and reinforces the learning of students taking his introductory organic chemistry course. I would like to explore the creation and implementation of a similar program designed for the BB&N high school chemistry curriculum. Link to BACON website:
Mr. Nagy put together PowerPoint files and uploaded them to the class website for each unit. His goal was to create notes not just for use in class, but more so as a stand alone resource for students to access when they've missed class or if they would like to review topics discussed in class. He says the students have gotten used to using them as a supplement and they've really gotten a lot of use out of it. He includes some questions on the slides that allow them to test their understanding as they look through the slides. He plans to continue to refine and improve this new resource for students.

Creating Latin American Website at the Middle School

Seventh grade students create an interactive Latin American Country website using Weebly. Their country pages include an historical overview with a photo collage of images set to music, an embedded map, an interactive map with “hot-spots” to provide more information about specific points of interests, and a game designed to teach and test others about their country. Here are a few examples:

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Middle School drama class video chats with school in Tanzania

Ms. Crewdson's class is starting a collaborative project with a school in Tanzania. Students met and chatted with their counterparts and even shared some songs.

US STEM fair

Girls in Dr. Gatti's GAINS club put together a STEM fair for Upper School with many student exhibits. One exhibit used the school's VR system to let students experience VR apps like Google Earth and Tilt Brush.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

US Students in "Advanced Topics in Computer Science" Code in Machine Language

Upper School students explore coding languages in their Advanced Topics in Computer Science course. Through collaboration and curiosity, they build on their skills to complete a variety of projects including the video game Pong.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Grammar Website in the English Classroom

Grammar Website created entirely by the MS English Teachers (through the launch grant program) is a new and innovative approach to teaching and learning grammar. The site is a comprehensive writing resource for BB&N Middle School students. Students use the website to watch Parts of Speech grammar videos, review the definitions of the Parts of Speech and play Parts of Speech review games.

Building a Lamp In the 7th Grade English Classroom

A sampling of BB&N student lamps in the makerspace.

Last November when I visited Park School for the gathering of the MEMSET educators (Massachusetts Elementary and Middle School Educational Technologists), I have notices a display of some beautiful lamps in the Library. Dean Laabs, an Art Teacher at Park school has been building lamps with students in his art class.  I knew right away that this could be a great project for one of the MS teachers at BBN.

The goal of the pilot MS launch grant project (Betsy Canaday, English Department Head) was to have students integrate their understanding of a novel with concepts of design thinking. The project hoped to forge new ways of connecting students understanding of literature to the planning, design, and creation of a piece of art.  Students in 7th grade English classroom build a lamp that demonstrated their understanding of their Choice Reading Novel. Below are some of the snapshots and a quick video from the this pilot project.

Made with Padlet

The Makey Makey Learns a New Language! - YEAR TWO!

In the second annual Makey Makey science project, 7th graders designed an interactive objects using a MakeyMakey kit. Touching different locations on the object complete a circuit and produce different sentences they are currently studying at the Middle School.

Made with Padlet

Art, Tech, & Math: Vinyl Cut Decals and 2D Tessellation Geometry Patterns on Pottery

Eighth grade students in Sasha’s Bergmann Wheel Pottery and Surface Design Class are learning tessellation patterning through a hands-on artistic application using the Silhouette Cameo printer and exploring a cutting-edge ceramics technology for glaze decoration. Each student designed a shape and printed the pattern repeatedly to create tessellation patterns on their decorative pottery.

Made with Padlet

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Presentations at One School One World

An impressive number of projection screens were used at our biannual celebration of world cultures to show images and videos of those cultures.

Pictured below is an older technology which has an image on a screen being lit from behind.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

US Spanish Class at Podcasting Studio

Podcasts have gained considerable popularity these days. As an instructional medium they are effective for language teaching because podcasts bring words into focus--how they are spoken and expressed. 

Professora Gabriela Gonzenbach has done impressive podcasts with her Spanish students for the past few years. The photo below shows a few of her Spanish students recording a podcast at the Podcast Garage, a community recording studio, an amazing facility in Cambridge. 

This project is a great example of instructional practice that builds on traditional technologies (theatre and radio) while incorporating digital technologies and connecting a classroom lesson with community resources.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Library/Tech Classes Supporting Middle School Technology

At the beginning of the school year, the librarian and academic technology specialist provided a library orientation and taught information literacy and technology classes to all 7th and 8th graders. Our curriculum supports the middle school’s 1:1 laptop program and ensures that our students have the skills to succeed in our technology-enriched school environment. The program includes:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Technology in English Classroom

"Two technology initiatives, facilitated by and co-developed with Svetlana Grinshpan, are now mainstays in the English curriculum. The first initiative is the To Kill a Mockingbird blog, which enables students to share their analysis of complex ideas in the novel. During the course of their reading, each student posts and comments several times. The blog not only enriches students’ dialogue about the novel, but it also creates a lasting resource as they need to pull those ideas together and organize them into a final essay. They are much better prepared for this final essay in terms of organization, crafting thesis statements and providing quotation for support as well.

The second initiative, The Outsiders Yearbook, has been adopted by most of the English department. Students “research” an assigned character thoroughly and create a yearbook page that demonstrates understanding of the complexity and nuance of that character. In addition to writing a short essay in that character’s “voice,” students dress as that character and use green screen technology to create yearbook-style photographs of that character. They compile their writing and photographs and create a layout of their work on a “yearbook page.” Students have great fun with the project, and it elevates their understanding of subtleties of characterization and motivation in the novel. "

Betsy Canaday, MS English Department Head

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Wellness Wednesdays

This year Stefanie Haug, MS Counselor (called "Ms. Stefanie" by students) is piloting an artsy way to help kids explore parts of themselves and relax. It's a monthly drop-in activity in the Makerspace called "Wellness Wednesday." She already hosts with Nurse Joanna a weekly drop-in lunch, called Mindful Lunch, where students can chat and explore the ways their bodies and minds are connected and how to navigate stressful experiences that arise. Wellness Wednesdays is a monthly drop-in where kids can create things on a similar theme of mind-body and stress reduction.

The first of the monthly Wellness Wednesdays explored the power of positive messages and random acts of kindness. The new Head of School inspired the idea with her story of Kindness Stones. Building on that, Ms. Stefanie and Ms Grinspan, the MS Tech Specialist, led students to consider uplifting messages and how to display them on rocks. Over 15 students dropped in and decorated rocks with messages for friends, family and for the community. Strolling around the MS campus, you'll come across many rock 'pep talks' sprinkled around the building with messages like "you rock!"

Upcoming monthly crafts remain a surprise until the week they're announced.....however the next craft combines socks and find out more, stop by the Maker Space on a Wednesday. The next Wellness Wednesday will be Nov 15th and then Dec 6th.

At the end of September, MS Maker received a much needed update to the space – installing a sink, cabinets, new workspace, and a better organized flow for students.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

6th grade technology class — lots of hands up for our bridge design project!

US Rocket Club

Another student club offering this year... Rocketry!  Students meet in room 136 Thursday at X Block. Here is an example of the type of competition the club might enter this year...

Friday, October 27, 2017

US Math Students Explore 3D Graphs

Student use "Geogebra" program to explore three-dimensional graphs on their laptops.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

US girls interested in engineering can visit MIT!

MIT’s Women in Aerospace is hosting an event on October 15th for high school girls interested in aerospace to come tour some labs at MIT, hear from a professor, and hear about what it's like to be an engineering student. It is a repeat of the event we did last year, but with different labs, lecture topics, and a different Professor speaking, so that people can repeat if they wish. There will also be lunch provided and a quick lesson on a fun topic in aerospace (basic rocket stability or simple airfoil principles or something along those lines). It should be a really fun day and a good way to get an idea of what opportunities there are in the aerospace field!
If you could please share this event with students you think would be interested, we would really appreciate it! If you have time to send it along to other teachers you know in the area also that would be awesome.

To register for the event, students should fill out this google form:

The deadline for students to register is Oct 8th.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Throwback Thursday - Tom Dacchord at BB&N

Close to ten years ago, Tom Dacchord led a faculty meeting thinking about the impact of technology on teaching and learning. Thanks to the wonders of video-tape conversion technology and abundant online storage this video is for the first time ever available for public viewing...

Tom Dacchord at BB&N Faculty Meeting 2007 from BB&N School on Vimeo.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Leveraging Google Apps for PG&E

In my role as new faculty mentor, I have spent quite a bit of time using and discussing the student surveys that were implemented several years ago. In that time, I have often wondered if there was a better way to provide teachers with feedback from their students. One of the things that is important for student learning is their classroom experience, and I believe if we gave them more of an opportunity to reflect on and share their thoughts with us, we could all benefit, students and teacher alike. Not only does this provide teachers with concrete data and feedback, but it also empowers the students and provides them a voice in the conversation about teacher growth and development.

So over the summer and during the 16-17 school year, using Google Forms, I developed a survey that was similar to the one originally created by Charlie Ruopp, the then Head of Academic Affairs. Initially, the technology used to create and disseminate that survey was Survey Monkey. My hope was that by using Google Forms, faculty would have more flexibility in the creation of the survey and  in data analysis.

  • This summer will be research and development
  • Test it out at the first quarter
  • Tweak it for the semester
  • Re-test at semester
  • Implement for EOY
  • 17-18 School Year - Dept Heads discuss more revisions

Please click here for a Slides Presentation that further explains my process and progress. Also here is a sample of what I developed with the help of the MS Faculty and Administration.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Apples Up" Music Video by MS English Teacher Ethan Rossiter

When Middle School English teacher Ethan Rossiter heard the phrase, "Apples Up," at a faculty meeting earlier this year,  he was inspired. Mr Rossiter, who is also a children's music practitioner, began marinating the concept for musical treatment. Saying "Apples Up" is a signal used by teachers to re-focus students' attention during lessons when laptops are in use. When students close the lids of their MacBooks, the Apple logo on the lid is pointed up towards the sky. (The same logic applies to phones; putting the phone down on the table with the Apple logo up means that the screen is down, so it is no longer in use.) "I thought it was a super-catchy phrase," Rossiter says. "That's when the idea for a song started."
"I had never made a music video before, and it was definitely envisioned as just a fun, creative project," Rossiter says. "But I guess my hope is that schools and families could use the song and video as an entry point into a discussion about technology."
After an afternoon of filming and many hours of editing, the final result was a fun, extremely catchy, and thought-provoking pastiche about the intersection of technology and student life.
Although Rossiter wrote and performed most of the music, he leaned on the various talents of BB&N students to bring the video to fruition, including drummer Callie Heppner '27, the daughter of Ethan's MS colleague, Christa Crewdson.
"Aaron Kaufer '17 did all the shooting and editing, and the success of the video was really because of his editing," Rossiter says. "Charlie Heveran '17 and Thomas Mandile '17 were also very involved in the acting—they were in every shoot. And two eighth graders, Katie Gould and Jessie Scheer, choreographed the dance."

Friday, May 19, 2017

LED Circuit Stickers in 2 D Art

In the last couple of years, students in Stephanie Moon’s Drawing and Painting Class art class combine traditional media with Chibitronics. Chibitronics was created by a Ph.D. student named Jie Qi from MIT who combined her passion for craft, art, and engineering and created a DIY manual and kit to that made circuits and LED light accessible to the public.

In class students explored the instantaneous pleasure of designing a circuit and making something light up. Students designed a project to incorporate LED lights within their semester-long drawing and painting exploration. The one requirement was that the drawing had to stand alone--it had to be as visually effective alone as with the circuitry enhancements.

Made with Padlet

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Science Night 2017

This year's 8th grade Science Knight was billed as an evening of Chemistry Connection. Students prepared demonstrations, created poster boards and prototypes of their inventions. Their invention can be a brand new technology or a new application of an existing technology and address one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as set out by the United Nations in 2015. Here is the link to the Chemistry of the Future Videos

Students created a prototype of their inventions using many materials and supplies in the maker space (cardboard tubes, cereal boxes, glitter, electronics …) These are some of the questions students have tackled: Why is spider silk so strong? Why does chocolate taste so good to humans but is toxic to dogs? How can hair be used to solve crimes? Can beet juice be used to melt ice on your driveway?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Summer STEM Opportunities for Upper School Girls


Boston University is pleased to host CODEBREAKERS, a four-week summer program providing an introduction to the fundamentals of cyber security, a field that combines the studies of computer science, forensics, law, and computer programming to protect networks, computers, programs, and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access.

Students will participate in a four-week session of lectures, hands-on training, and day trips to technology companies to receive an immersive and supportive introduction to the interdisciplinary field of cyber security. CODEBREAKERS provides a unique opportunity for high school students to be introduced to career opportunities in the exciting field of cyber security, as well as to be mentored by women who are program coordinators or invited guest speakers.

The program will run from July 10th through August 4th Monday-Friday from 9:00-3:00 pm. Young women currently in 9th or 10th grade who live within daily commuting distance to Boston are eligible to apply. Students do not need any background or experience in cyber security or computer programming is needed in order to apply, only their interest and enthusiasm.

For more information and to apply: go to:



BU is pleased to host the Summer Pathways program July 7-14, 2017. In its eleventh year, Summer Pathways is an exciting seven-day, residential program for high school girls entering their junior or senior year in September 2017. The program targets girls from Boston area high schools who show promise and/or interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). Tuition is $675 and includes room, board, all travel and activities, and an overnight at Thompson Island in Boston Harbor. Scholarships of up to $575 are available to students with demonstrated financial need.

Over the course of the week, participants in Summer Pathways have the opportunity to gain first hand knowledge of a wide range of careers in STEM disciplines, and also to interact with successful women at all levels of science and engineering -- undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and members of industry.

Participants live in a BU dormitory along with their peers, and during this week, engage in many hands-on science activities, visit laboratories and a local industry, hear from a career panel, and learn about the college admissions process. On Thompson Island, they will develop communication skills and experience a process of self-discovery through team building exercises.

For more information about the program and to apply, go to:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox is taking shape.

Working through a school funded Launch Grant, Lower School science teacher Ms. Derrien has teamed up with Technology Specialist, Tony Cai and Makerspace Mentor, Joseph Heitzman to bring an augmented reality (AR) sandbox to the Lower School campus. Stay tuned as this project is built completely from scratch.




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Kahoot! and other games in the curriculum

Playing a Kahoot! game is a very popular MS classroom activity. Students and teachers create games in world languages, music and science. Kahoot! is a web-based tool that allows asking a consecutive, quiz-show type questions using a game-based format. Students respond by joining a game through a unique number using any mobile device.

A list of other teacher's favorite classroom games:
  • Quizlet Live - create a collaborative classroom game
  • Socrative is a student response system that works across all devices. Teachers can ask a number of different question types and gather student data for formative assessment.
  • TinyTap - create fun games, personalized puzzles, question and answer activities, turn reading a book into an interactive activity, make a tappable sound boards.
  • Quia - an online platform to create quizzes, games, and assignments online. There are wide range of games: flashcards, matching, challenge board, hangman, rags to riches, pop-ups and more. Examples of student created 7th grade games in history:

Explore the use of Sketchup in Latin

In the 8th grade Latin classroom, Tony Breen uses Sketchup to expose his students to multiple aspects of architectural construction and lets them get a glimpse into the various phases of the building process.

Sketchup Assignment:
Construct a monument (temple/victory column/arch etc.) to commemorate one of the following:
  • Religion 
  • Janus Mars V esta 
  • Historical Personae 
  • Cincinnatus
  • Constantine the Great Hadrian
  • Horatius
  • M. Agrippa
  • P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus Romulus
Incorporate a decorative element or elements which indicate some aspect(s) of the god/goddess or which refere to an episode of the character’s achievements. Somewhere on the monument indicate a likely date for its dedication (e.g. a cornerstone).

Prepare a short report (5 or 6 sentences) describing the story of the monument: to whom is it dedicated? What are its dimensions? What specific motifs does it include (types of column etc.)? Any symbolism in the monument?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Creative use of Voki in the Spanish Classroom

Margaret Hardy, MS Spanish teacher, had a special assignment for her 7th grade students. They were asked to create a mystery Voki avatar. The identity of each avatar (the student's name) would be kept a secret, but the avatars would describe personal information about a student: is it a boy or a girl, height, hair and eye color, home town, siblings, hobbies....

In class, it's a listening comprehension activity. As each avatar speaks, students listen to guess it's identity The game is not over until all the facts are recalled and the avatar's identity is revealed.