Parent Shadow Day

During the week of November 28th, 2016 we hosted times for our parents of the program to come in and observe their learners. It was an incredible week of having parents come in and visit with us about the different opportunities that are happening in our studios. This dialogue that we had with our parents will help us make changes that will enhance the program moving forward.

Here is a parent perspective on what they saw and think about the program:

Some great quotes from our parents after their visit.

My kiddos are absolutely loving the EPIC program!  They are so excited about their learning and about the new things they are doing.  I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing and hearing from them at home.  EPIC Parent

I’m very pleased with the language and passion for learning that my kids are coming home with. Their understanding of their own learning has been amazing and I’m pleasantly surprised at how much initiative they take with what they are working on. I’m so happy that both of them got in. EPIC Parent

My student has had a very positive experience with the EPIC classes this year. I would recommend this to anyone. Great job by the facilitators with the program. I especially appreciated the way kids help each other. I think a child has a comfort level with his peers and does not feel intimidated to ask questions to his friends that they maybe would not ask a teacher. Great job! EPIC Parent

We still have areas we need to improve on to continue moving the program forward, but we are excited to what the future holds.

We are currently setting up school visits for the spring. If your school would like to visit and see this learning in action please visit our website Schedule a Visit Today! and click on school visit tab.

Our local news did a story on our program and on how we are trying to change school. Watch it here  Keloland News Report

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Breaking Down School Walls

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~We all have a unique fingerprint. It is time that we make school unique for each learner~ 









As we enter week 5 of school, we step back and reflect on where we have been and where we are going. This year we have set out to do school differently at Freedom Elementary. Last spring we spent a lot of time preparing and planning for this year. You can read what we envisioned to do this year with our learners from an Edsurge article. (Article Edsurge)

The first ten days of school we spent a lot of time developing SOPs (standard operating procedures), building relationships, and working on Habits of Mind. These ten days were vital to our program’s success because it is the foundation that we work on each day. You can see what videos and lessons we used with these activities.

Habits of Mind Videos 

Habits of Mind Lessons

We will continually visit SOP’s and Habits of Mind all year long. It has started to stick with our learners. You will now hear them talking about the Habits with each other when working on assignments. One of the best ones was a group of learners were out in our personal flex area, and they were getting frustrated with the technology. One learner came over and said are you “thinking flexibly” right now. Boom that is a learner helping another learner through a problem by applying the habits of mind.

The true strength in our classroom lies in the collaboration of our learners, not in the knowledge of one expert! 

csugbtuwiaa0zpwOur program is focused around a lot of voice and choice for our learners. With this comes a need for an LMS that can help our learners stay organized. We are currently using Buzz to help our learners stay organized. With any LMS there are hurdles we must overcome, and we are working through those, but overall this platform is allowing us to make playlists for our learners. These playlists are set up in the following order:

1.) Must Do’s
2.) Resources
3.) Artifacts

Must Do’s
These are the items learners must do for the learning target. To start the year learners must attend a seminar. This is a whole group instruction where the learning facilitator is sharing the concept in the large group. They must also attend one or two coaching workshops depending on the week and what they need. After that our learning facilitators have taken a little Daily 5 spin on the other must do’s for the week.

The resource folder has videos and other items for our learners that will support them when they are working on creating their artifact to prove mastery of this standard they are working on.

Here are a few examples of our learners sharing what they know about Decimals and story structure. Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” This is important to our program is having our learners decide what is the best way to show their learning. Some of our learners choose to take a test. Some of our learners want to make a video or a poster. The choice is up to them they just have to make sure they prove their understanding to the standard of learning.

This is the structure and how we set things up. Now let us tackle how we are going to break down the grade level walls. It all started with the NWEA as a baseline assessment. This assessment allowed us to group learners based on what they need for each instructional focus area. For example, some learners are excellent at Geometry and are ready for more advanced concepts. That same learner is in need of help with number sense. We can support this learner by moving studios and giving them what they need right now. We are using a software scheduling system to communicate with our learners what studio they will need to be in for the next few weeks. In time we hope our learners will be able to start to schedule different choices that fit their need. For example, our technology integrationist is coming down 3-4 times per week to teach and support our learners with the iPad. Our learners can schedule a 30-minute time slot with him to learn about the new creation app they can use to show their learning. By using the software, we can set room limits and know where learners are going. This has been another huge tool to help us stay organized throughout the day.

Personalized learning provides critical preparation for students and keeps them engaged and excited about learning. ~ Jenni T

cr31hrpukaaavohWe are learning every day about what we can do better the next week for our learners. One of our facilitators said it best “This kind of shift has been so overdue, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the team that is putting the KIDS first and not the teachers or testing.” We look to grow and learn more with our learners this year.

I would be totally mistaken if I did not take a little time and talk about our amazing learning facilitators. These educators have taken on the challenge to change the school structure. Whenever you decide to change such a old system it is hard, but these four educators are dedicated to making a difference for our learners. They spent the summer writing curriculum to only throw most of that out in the last two weeks because what we thought would work is not working. Instead of being negative and upset about the time they spent on the old stuff they took on the new stuff. We have revised our practices and always make sure we are viewing this from a learner lens and not a teacher lens. I am so honored to be able to support, coach, and help them through this process. This is not an easy process, but you could not tell that from the attitudes and positivity that these learning facilitators give off. If you can connect with them please do! They are incredible educators and will add value to all PLN’s.

You can follow our Learning Facilitators at @Mr_Muth, @MsGottsleben, @Mrs_wagers, @mrshansen84

We don’t plan to schedule any visits until after the first of the year. This will give us time to get a good foundation set so that we can help as many schools that want to go down this path.

You can follow us at #epiclearners
You can follow me at @travislape

If you are interested in having me speak to your district about personalized learning, please reach out to for schedule details and dates.

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Personalized Elementary Program

IMG_0088What a summer it was for our EPIC team as they prepared to do something different for the learners at Freedom Elementary. It all started last fall 2015 when our district learned that we would be receiving a grant to help support an elementary personalized learning model. In January four learning facilitators, our district curriculum director, building principal and I traveled to Maine to tour several schools. We had a vision of what we wanted this program to look like, but we needed to see it in action at an elementary level. We had all made several visits to Pioneer Ridge Middle School in Chaska, MN to see the work they are doing at the middle school level. Those visits helped us start to create a framework that we could use at the elementary level.

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Where Did Time Go?

1This past school year went in a blink of an eye, but so many wonderful things happened. I will spend a little time sharing about the journey and what is in the works for the summer and next fall.



This past fall we opened up our makerspace for the 2nd year. We added some new tools for our learners to create with. It was an honor this fall to host over 15 different schools to our space either virtually through a Google Hangout or in person. Our students got to share what they love about our space along with things they hope to see come into our area soon.

We hosted a Maker Cadet Camp in the fall for educators to come and spend a day learning and playing with the tools we use in our space. The Cadet Camp was a partnership between our State CTE Department and our middle school. It was a day to remember for all involved.

One of the biggest joys in my life was when my wife Lynn and I welcomed home DJ. We had been on the adoption road for a little over a year. I still remember the night when we got the call asking to meet with the birth parents. DJ has been a real joy to our family and has adjusted well. He brings smiles to Lynn and I every day.

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I Survived TIE 16



Looking back and reflecting on the three days of learning I am not sure what to begin with. Sunday afternoon we had a full house of amazing educators learning about the maker movement and how to make this happen at their school. We covered how to create an authentic, sustainable, and vibrant makerspace in their school. It was four hours of making and tinkering with all kinds of tools. Continue reading

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PRE- TIE 16 Conference


logo2On the evening of April 9th, 2016 I am busy wrapping up a few final thoughts for my TIE16 Conference presentations. I am excited to be sharing about the following topics:

1.) Creativity and Innovation – Makerspaces in Schools

Do you want school to look differently than it does now? If so, this is a session you won’t want to miss. We will explore the ways a Makerspace can enhance a school culture and encourage creativity and innovation in the classroom. We will complete several hands-on activities that will push your thinking and challenge the status quo. You will see the tools and be able to test them out throughout the day.

2.) Build Creativity and Reflection with Seesaw

Grab your iPad or any device and experience how students, as young as kindergarten, use Seesaw to independently document their learning through photos, voice, video, and drawings. Get hands-on with this versatile app and get tips from initial download to daily use. See implementation ideas in all areas from literacy to science, math, genius hour, ELL, and more! Explore how Seesaw works with other creation apps and makes organizing and sharing digital creations a breeze. Transform assessments and communication with parents, while saving you time! Leave this session with your class set up and ready to create their digital portfolio.

3.) How One World Traveling Robot is Bringing 21st Century Skills into the Classroom

How one world traveling robot is bringing 21st century skills into the classroom. This robot not only comes from another planet to learn with your students, but she wants to learn information to take back to her planet. Students will do all of the following throughout the time Lyka is with them: collaboration, leadership + responsibility, creativity and innovation, media literacy, critical thinking and problem solving, global awareness.

The most exciting part of the next three days:

I get to watch 19 of our amazing South Middle School students showcase our makerspace. Thanks to Steelcase and Interstate Office Supplies we are able to create a classroom of the future with flexible furniture. Our students will be tinkering with area educators throughout the day on Monday. If you are at the Conference make sure to come and hangout with our students. Our local TV station Keloland News had a nice feature on our transformation of our media center to now incorporate a makerspace.

Enjoy a little song that was sung by one of our 8th graders to celebrate this day of making at the TIE Conference.

Make sure to follow #tie16 to see pictures and videos from our students tinkering, and making with educators.

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Edcamp Wagner

On February 12th, 2016 Edcamp South Dakota took a stop in Wagner SD. It was an incredible day of learning and sharing with area educators. You can check out our sessions here.

We have had some amazing partnerships with our edcamps, but one sponsor has been with us at every SDEDCAMP. They have helped with all kinds of needs to make sure the day was about educators and empowering them to take a hold of their learning.


We need to send a huge thank you to Squirrels who just continues to invest in SDEdcamp.


What is reflector?

Reflector is a wireless mirroring and streaming receiver that works great with Google Cast™, AirPlay™ and AirParrot 2®. Mirror your content to the big screen without wires or complicated setups. Play games, watch movies, demo applications or present from the palm of your hand. Even send your screens directly to YouTube for others to watch live. Everything you do on your device can be wirelessly sent to Reflector!

Our sponsor, Squirrels LLC, developed an affordable classroom screen mirroring app that is used in more than 100,000 classrooms in more than 200 countries and territories. Reflector 2 is an app that runs on a teacher’s computer and receives a real-time “mirror” image of classroom iPads, iPhones, Chromebooks, Android devices and Surface Pros.

If you are looking for an excellent tool to connect your devices to your interactive board in your classroom or to just get away from your teacher desk, then you need to check out REFLECTOR. Reach out to them and let them know you were at SDEDCAMP or read this blog and they will take care of you.

We are excited about the future of edcamp South Dakota. We are gearing up for April 2nd in Brookings SD. Come join us by signing up here.

We had other great sponsors that participated in this day and helped us in so many ways. We would be mistaken if we did not take time to Thank the following:

Contraption Maker
Think Cerca
Go Noodle
Dave Burgess TLAP
Answer Pad
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Pinball Machine Mayhem Part 1

I will be sharing about our Pinball Machine Mayhem that is happening in our Technology and Innovation class. We started with a brainstorming session on the process this week.

Blog Post Image.001We began with the Project Idea phase: This is where we explained that they would be making pinball machines. How they made them or what they used is completely up to them during this process.

Next we moved into the Prototype Design students during this phase was given a blank piece of paper about the size of the actual pinball machines that they will make. The goal here was for them to start to apply the different pieces of their pinball machines to this document. What was incredible about this whole process was before we released the students to go work we asked them what subjects do they think will be covered throughout this process. Right away hands went up and students started sharing.

Math – Area, Perimeter, Height, Length, Pythagorean Theorem to find the slope of their machine.
ELA – Research, Creating a story for their pinball machine
Social Studies – History of the pinball machine, Research on different pinball machines
Science – Volume, Friction, Gravity,
Art – Theme of their board, Creative look of their pinball machine.
Tech Ed – Lights, sensors, buzzers
Makerspace – Students talked about using little bits, robotic kits, makey makey board, along with legos and Knex’s

I was impressed with all the ideas that came from our students. This just goes to show that project-based learning engages learners in all of their core classes.

Next week our students will begin the Creating Process. They will finish the prototype and start building the real deal. After that is done the students will Test them out and if they do not work the way they anticipated or if they get other ideas to make it better they will have time to add those and make their machine better. Once they feel they have it ready to go and showcase our students will Launch their machines for other students to play and test out at HSMS.

Stay tuned to see more post on the progress of our students. They are driving their learning, and it is exciting to watch them be so engaged and excited about learning.




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HSMS Makerspace Journey

The WHY, HOW, WHERE and WHEN of HSMS Tigers Makerspace

Bringing this Makerspace to South Middle School would not have happened without the coaching and support from +Laura Fleming, who is a media specialist at New Milford High School. This idea of a Makerspace did not come from +Laura Fleming, but she has done it at all levels of education in some capacity, and so we felt she was going to be our best sounding board of what works and what doesn’t work. She gave up a lot of her own time to connect via twitter and google hangouts to help us through the entire process.

First, we started out by looking at the “WHY.”

John Klosowski says, “The library should be one of the most exciting places in the school: the hub of learning, reading, research, discussion and collaboration.” We believed the centre of our school should be the library. We wanted to do something in our library that would draw the students into this space not only to check out books, but to be a place that they can create, research, and develop.

+Laura Fleming told us from the start that we could do this on a small budget, and truly we have done that. This entire project cost around $500. We started simple and will continue to add different things to our ImagineNation Station area for students to create, develop, and research.

Next, let’s now look at the “HOW.”

We got a lot of our products from MakerShed, which was recommended to us by +Laura Fleming during our planning period. We started with the following five items to start our Makerspace:

  • Makey Makey (2 kits)
  • Little Bits (2 kits)
  • Snap Circuits
  • Mindstorm Robots – donated to use from our Robotics Club
  • Take Apart station

Finally, let’s now look at the “WHEN/WHERE.”

In our library, we have an open corner that we have designated as our Makerspace area. Students can  be in that area during the following times:

7:30-8:00 am- Open to all students

During school: during directed study time (study halls as long as they have all their work done.)

3:00-3:30 pm – Open to all students

This space is not only for the times listed above, but classes can come into the Makerspace as well. Below you will see that a science class came in and learned about input/output while creating circuits with our Squishy Circuits.

Every 3-4 weeks we will be updating and changing one station out and adding new ones.

One way we are gathering interest is through teaser videos for the students to watch and see what new stations are coming to our space. We created a teaser video for the students to see before us rolling this entire space out.  Each time a new station comes to our makerspace, we will make a short teaser that they can watch that will get them excited to come to our Makerspace at HSMS Tigers.



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Chasing Failure



Prior to reading this post watch this trailer to get your mindset prepared for what you are about to read.

downloadI had the honor of hearing Ryan Leak speak at @iamembrace.  His message was spot on and drove me to write this post. We have known for quite some time that we need to start to change our 19th Century Factory-Model Education System. We have seen some schools being innovative in how they can change this model. As I was listening to @Ryanleak, it became evident to me that we ALL must make a change NOW. We must be bold and courageous and make necessary changes for our learners and their future. Just check this short video out. Despite being a little dated, this video drives home the point that we must change. Continue reading

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