Marshmallow Towers? It’s Staff Development Day, again!

So I think I’ve decided what it is that I will be doing on Staff Development Day for Term 3. I think I have …

I was inspired by a keynote at the Office of Schools Conference last week. We were shown a video of a TED talk by Tom Wujec who explains how he uses the Marshmallow Challenge to encourage reflection on the nature of collaboration and innovation. The TED talk can be viewed here. There is also an official site for the challenge that can be viewed here.

Like many other delegates, I was inspired to bring the Marshmallow challenge to my staff. I mean, it just looks like heaps of fun – but I also ‘get’ what it’s teaching the participants.

As you probably already know (and if you don’t, just check out my last couple of posts) I have been feeling unsure as how to best approach teacher professional development. I feel that I have taken the ‘inspirational’ angle as well as the ‘stand and deliver’ angle as far as they can go. I’m up to the ‘let’s play’ stage of our collective shift from 2oth century teachers to 21st century educators. I want to engage my learners – I want them to be active. So far it’s been entirely passive and often this results in ‘OK. cool – but I don’t think I could do that. I wish I could, but I know I can’t’. I’m going for risk – force them to confront the awkward moment when you know something must be produced – kids get this often. As teachers, we forget.

I’m going to plan this one proper, just like (I think) I was told to at uni.


Students develop an understanding of:

  • why technology is a useful tool to enhance learner engagement
  • why technology is a useful tool to enable communication between learners
  • why technology is a useful tool to enable collaboration between learners
  • why technology is a useful tool to enable and encourage creativity
  • which software applications and web 2.0 applications can be used for the above
  • the power of group work (collaboration) to enhance learner engagement
  • the need for facilitation over straight instruction
  • the benefits of the Tight Loose Tight strategy for blended learning

Teacher will:

  • instruct learners on the outcomes of the lesson (see above)
  • explain the purpose of blogs
  • explain/demonstrate how to access BlogED
  • explain/demonstrate the use of edmodo as a communication/collaboration/reflection tool
  • explain the purposeful use of mobile phones in the classroom
  • explain the rules of the Marshmallow Challenge
  • assist learners by walking and talking to students as they work
  • facilitate reflection and discussion at the close of the workshop

Learners will:

  • listen to trainer instructions re: blogs and tasks
  • watch video on blogging
  • work together in cross-faculty groups to create towers made from marshmallows
  • take photographs of their towers on mobile phones
  • send photos to DERvice via bluetooth, mms/email
  • post photos of Marshmallow towers to DER edmodo group
  • create a simple blogED blog reflecting on process of creating tower – can use video – OneNote, audio – audacity, images – mobiles phones, text, comic strip – toondo etc
  • post a link to their blog on edmodo for other learners
  • comment on other group blogs
  • vote on best tower (tallest, ugliest, most creative, biggest fail) using polls on edmodo


1. Bianca’s brief intro – explaining connect, collaborate, create (again) as well as Tight Loose Tight (5-10 mins)

2. Watch blog video (5 mins)

3. Hand out ‘Marshmallow Tower Kits’ and explain rules of the project. (5 mins)

4. Explain outcomes of the task – not just the tower but the blog post w/ multimedia and edmodo posts. (5 mins)

5. Groups work on their project. (30-40 mins)

6. Awarding of prizes. (10 mins)

7. Reflection in the form of group discussion and posts on edmodo applying this to their classrooms. (until bell)

So, what do you think? I haven’t been brave enough to add up the minutes – lol. I think it’ll be too optimistic. I just want teachers of different creative and technical competencies to work together. I want to break down the barriers. I want them to play. I want them to see that learning can be fun.

Will this work or can you see MASSIVE holes in my planned presentation?

PS: I know this isn’t the direction I was going in the other day, lol.


9 thoughts on “Marshmallow Towers? It’s Staff Development Day, again!

  1. An interesting SDD activity, Bianca. Still gets them to engage with technology but also fun and thought-provoking.

    Structure looks fine and timingg is okay. Only possible flaw re timing is in the use of technology to reflect on their project eg uploading images etc. When there is a time limit involved, technology is sure to muck up! Still, that can be a follow up activity for later in the week and will not detract from the purpose of the activity.

    Hope it all goes well. 🙂

    • Yeah, maybe I will give bottles of wine as prizes to those who manage to get a couple of photos and/or video up on their blogs by Friday recess staff meeting?

      Could be fun. Or even for those who set up own blog for students?

  2. The best thing for staff development is let staff have a say in what they do…having the power to choose makes a difference. Inspiration is great, but it needs to go beyond just that day…
    Would love to share some more me…

    • Yes, I agree – I definitely need to be more organised as this would give me more time to ask what staff would like to do.

      I have run parallel sessions that are graded and these received positive feedback – teachers chose which they wanted to attend.

      I would do it again but this time, want to counter the laptop as paper weight. Will show some date from a student survey and their concern that laptops are not being used to engage them or challenge them – just as work processors.

      Happy to chat further! Send me a DM @biancah80 🙂

  3. so great to see you walking the walk….not just talking the talk!!
    Very brave-very necessary to provide the catalyst for changing pedagogies.
    Go girl…I wish I was there.
    My only suggestion…see if you can have at least 1 or 2 offsiders who fully understand what the go is and can ensure that everyone is “understanding” and “engaged in the right task!!” If your staff are anything like mine-once the presenter has given instructions they ask huh?? what are we doing? and just about everyone has different ideas about what we are supposed to be doing!!!!
    Maybe you could get some staff to feed back to you what they are to be doing before they go off into groups!!!Give them prizes for listening well AND UNDERSTANDING TASK!!

    • That’s a great idea! Thanks 🙂

      I was thinking of putting one of the DAGs in each group and will prep them early on what is happening, the outcomes etc.

      i’m also going to make a prezi outlining the outcomes etc.

      Thanks again – hope it works, could just be a shambles but I have had so much staff feedback fed up with being told what to do for an hour and just forgetting it all within five minutes because reality of being a teacher hits!

  4. Hi Bianca, just read your blog above. How did it go? Did it work, how did the teachers enjoy the task? I’m curious.
    Cheers, Leonore

    • Hi Leonore,

      They loved it! They had a ball – really chatty, laughing, playing, creating!
      I got HEAPS of positive feedback from the session.
      I would recommend it – the structure worked perfectly.
      The only issue was with the uploading of photos but I solved this by using my oen camera and putting pics on edmodo whilst they built towers. At end we all checked out the pics of towers on edmodo up on IWB.


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