Innovating Inside the “Box”

It is a challenge to think of innovation inside the box, but even more challenging for me when I ask myself… what box?  Is that the teacher box?  The resource box?  An empty box?  Or the student box… the mind of a child?!

Really, what if the box were the child?  How do they view their experiences and opportunities.  How do they see change?

Change is inevitable and in many ways inspirational!   As George Couros, author of Innovator’s Mindset, reminds us…

“Change is an opportunity to do something AMAZING!”

So why does change worry so many or worse off scare so many?  Do we create an environment that makes it intimidating for a child or is it exciting, inspiring, and AMAZING?  Every child has their own home-life, experiences, conversations, access/resources, goals, desires, mental/physical health, ability, and support…

or lack of.

What about the child facing changes each day when their own life may look so different.  Change is a good thing, right?  Have you asked a child lately?  I have.  For some, change isn’t for the better.  Life for them doesn’t reflect innovation or even embrace it.  Whether it is a mindset within their surroundings, a comfort-zone of knowing the predictable, or a lack of resources, I simply have students that shun the change that I have brought to their learning… to their world.  To the one thing they considered safe and predictable.

So how do we bring upon change that is within their grasp… their means… their box?  What would life look like to them if we simply did not change because our resources were less limited than that of a neighboring district?  Are we then sending the message that they are just stuck in a situation that they have little to no control over?  Are we validating excuses to define our situations and outcomes?

As stated in this week’s IMMOOC Podcast, the phrase “Don’t Over-complicate It” stood out to me along with many other #EDUAwesome moments with Katie Martin, John Spencer, Aj Juliani and Brianna Hodges.

Brianna Hodges, Director of Digital Learning at SISD, talked about the social concern and her creation of “A Heartbreak Story” to bring empathy and compassion for the child that does’t fit into the box we have created in education and society as a whole.  This hit home with me… that was me!  I had very little, but I believe that is why I was so innovative from a very young age.

I was forced to think within my constraints so that I could feel a glimmer of the “AMAZINGNESS” George talks about.  As a child, my projects looked nothing like the store supplied ones that my peers brought to class.  I had to find something within my home that could portray the concept being taught.  I chose to empower myself by using what was available to me and finding ways to borrow or seek out resources from places like my local girls club or library.

I had to dream a little bigger. 

Dig a little deeper. 

I had choices to make each day… either I could take full advantage of every opportunity or allow it to slip through my fingers.  I needed a teacher who would create better opportunities for me… someone to bring better learning to my world.  I needed innovation… it was a sense of hope… a brighter tomorrow that I yearned to be a part of in this world.

As an educator I feel the restraints… the limitations of not having resources at my disposal.   I have a classroom of students with a WIDE range of experiences so how can I bring change for the better to each of them?  What do I have to offer?

I continue to empower myself by connecting to other educators, writing grants, borrowing materials, and creating my own opportunities with professional development.  Empowering myself to develop my own skills has been key to the successes my students have gained.

I must be a part of innovation… to create a sense of hope… a brighter tomorrow that my students yearn to be a part of in this world.

I must create change…

Amazing change…

I simply must innovate inside the box, the mind of a child.

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#IMMOOC 4 Week 1: Breakthrough

Innovation is not set aside for the elite.  It is not a term meant to be used in education alone.  It describes a global effort towards betterment.  It is necessary that we not only recognize innovation, but that we find our own role in it.

When it comes to innovation, I find myself intrigued with EDUicons and their story… they are the epitome of innovation… of breakthroughs in all walks of life.  I reflect back to history’s “greats” and look for parallels.  How did they get there or here?

In Katie Martin‘s Book, Learner Centered Innovation, she continuously asks “What if ?…”  She also challenges us to look at different points of view.  From the administrator, to the teacher, to the student, Katie targets the idea of… “BE THE CHANGE”

“What if ?… and begin to create the change that you wish to see in your context.” –Katie Martin 

Think about Albert Einstein‘s mindset.  Would you consider him a problem solver?  An innovator?  A person looking to improve life for all? A CHANGE MAKER?

“We cannot solves our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them”.  –Albert Einstein

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Problems are a way of life.  Problems are a sign that we are trying.  Without them, that means we’re staying inside our comfort zone of a hamster wheel and allowing life to continue status quo.

In 1915, Albert Einstein published his personal masterwork on the general theory of relativity.  How did this happen?  I suspect it was a result of him pursuing his passions.

Interestingly enough, from the Encyclopedia World of Biography it states, “He was a poor student, and some of his teachers thought he might be retarded (mentally handicapped); he was unable to speak fluently (with ease and grace) at age nine. Einstein’s formal secondary education ended at age sixteen. He disliked school, and just as he was planning to find a way to leave without hurting his chances for entering the university, his teacher expelled him because his bad attitude was affecting his classmates”.

This puts me right back to something Katie said during the first IMMOOC Season 4 podcast with George Couros and AJ Juliani.  When talking about her son she stated, “school simply does not align with his strengths!”  At that very moment I felt like Katie was speaking for me as a child and my very own two sons… it was powerful!  I personally was not “caught in the middle of the turning point in education” as Katie so eloquently puts it.  But my sons are… right in the middle!

One teacher wants them to find their passion… let me rephrase… relight the passion that other teachers put out. 

One teacher demands a shared Google Doc, while the next doesn’t even know what a Google Doc is.

One has flexible seating, which allows for my son’s inattentiveness to have laser-focus, while others continue to call him out on inattentiveness in a compliant, rows of desks, teacher centered world.  

The BREAKTHROUGH IS HERE… the serum to save education… to save our children’s love of learning… to create change… to be a part of an innovative world!

What is your role?DVYI6RGXkAIHfXf

What will you do with it?

 

Guaranteed Impact: make it POSITIVE!

When a child walks into your life, what thoughts race through your head?  Are they thoughts of…

excitement? Excitement for the opportunity to have someone’s precious child in your life.  A chance to make a difference.  A gift of time to impact their life… to open doors and encourage them to walk through!

wonder? Wonder of who they are under that smile… frown… or look of fear.  Wonder of how you will connect and build a relationship that will set sail the journey of learning together.

worry? Worried that you may not be able to connect.  Worry that they may be the most challenging student you have had to date.  Worried that their own life may hold them back from trusting you.  Worry that you don’t have enough time in a day to make a difference.

judgement? Judgement of who they are…

When you walk into a child’s life, are their thoughts the same?  Are you setting the stage for a relationship with EVERY child…

Do you make school exciting?  Do you give them a reason to be there?

Do you create a connection to every child or do they wonder why they don’t fit in your world like others do?

Do you foster a caring environment?  One that eliminates worry from their life… possibly the only stretch of time in their day to let their shoulders down.

Do your students feel judged?  Or do you give every child a “Planet Fitness: Judgement Free Zone”?

This Christmas I received a very special gift from a very quiet and reserved child.  A child that walked into my room withdrawn, with limited social interaction, lack of engagement, and little interest in school.  None of this due to home life… as a matter of fact he comes from a beautiful loving family that builds him up and sets him off each day to conquer the world trusting that his teacher will bring out his best.  

This precious child handed me a special gift.  Then he did something that caught me off guard… he insisted on opening it for me, which warmed my heart to the core because he was so invested in the moment.  He unwrapped a snow globe that took my breath away.  It had a 3 dimensional silver snowflake with the words WISH*LOVE*HOPE that sparkled while music played and snow floated effortlessly within the globe.    He said, “Oh Mrs. Nan, I know the snow globe is nice, but look what it says to you.”  To which I looked at the inscription that read:

“Students may forget what you said, but never how you made them feel.” 

Tears of joy streamed down my face.  Not the first time my students have seen my emotions.  Why?  Because they impact my life!

Over the months we connected.  We found his passion of art and embedded it into his learning through sketch-noting (THANK YOU Carrie Baughcum @HeckAwesome in my EDUAwesome @Twitter PLF)  This child is now engaged.  He is building relationships stemming from the one that we created together.  He is happy to be in school and moving his bright mind forward with each given day.  He is a #LeadLearner with Sketchnoting, #MakeyMakey and #Osmo in class.  He has found relevance in learning and a purpose for being a part of a learning community.  He is empowered! 

I start my Christmas vacation with heart full… of love and joy for I know that I have lived by my own advice…

You WILL have impact on EVERY child… it is up to you whether it is POSITIVE or negative!  

So with that I leave us with my favorite George Couros quote from one of my favorite books, Innovator’s Mindset:positive george.jpg

Merry Christmas!  May your holiday be as bright and beautiful as YOU! 

The Power of a Keynote: an investment in our future!

Why does one go to a conference?  What draws a person in?  The conference mailings arrive weekly in my mailbox at school.  For some I open, but for most I toss them straight into the garbage.  In order for it to grab my attention it needs to provide me with more than my daily growth within my PLN and twitter.  (Twitter alone nurtures my love for teaching and can be done from the comforts of my home.)  It cannot just be a buzz word.  It must be legit.  So for me it is the keynote.  The person chosen must be relevant to teaching and learning… not only for my students, but for me.

So how did #SASInstitute2017 get it right?  For starters, they sought out one of the most powerful influences in education today… George Couros, author of Innovator’s Mindset!

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George is key to my attendance.  It really is that simple.  I am an educator making positive change in the classroom.  I am pushing myself forward every day without a conference, so for one to grab my attention, be worth my financial investment, and hold value to my students and to me, it must have impact!

IMPACT: the kind that pulls on every emotion possible! The kind that changes me for the better!

Truths that were spoken by George… hard core truth:

Truth:   “Learning is your job so stop whining and settle down.”  (I about jumped up and gave him a standing ovation!)

Truth: “If you do not have a twitter account you are no longer relevant to teaching!”

Truth: “If you still have a computer lab, the question is do you have a pencil lab too?”

Truth: “Isolation is now a CHOICE that educators make!”

Truth: “Do kids do it because of school or in spite of it?”

Truth: “Data driven is the stupidest term in education!”

Truth: “Stop making excuses!”

Truth: “What serves kids the best?”

Truth: “Make the positive so loud that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear!”

Truth: “CHANGE IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO SOMETHING AMAZING!”

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The energy in itself… the mere magnitude of educators buzzing with enthusiasm has drawn me in to conversation.  Conversation that I don’t normally engage in.  (Don’t laugh too hard… I have the gift of gab, but I’m talking about the choice to put myself in conversation.)  The truth is, I don’t like the downers… the fun suckers… closed mindsets.  Most groups I have encountered at school conferences have always included closed mindsets.  One that sucks the positive life right from my soul.  But this conference is different… the buzz is about George.  His truths.  His innovative practices.  His doors he opened… for us!  His relationships he nurtured… with us.  In turn, I have engaged beyond the keynote… into small groups… lunches… dinners… downtime.  I came with an amazing group of educators, connected with my twitter family, and am growing each day with incredible educators!  The power of a keynote has created an opportunity for me to do amazing things!

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Game Changer: George Couros and yours truly!
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Fabulous colleague and goal driven friend, Donna Steff

 

Creating Change Agents

Most often people choose teaching as a profession because they want to create change… change for the better!  Some will even tell you that their own experience was so negative they felt compelled to become “the change” that children need in the classroom.

Do you feel our children deserve more… do they need more?  If so the question is… are we delivering instruction in a way that will create this opportunity?

I often wonder why so many graduates are cramming for interviews.  Literally, I have witnessed interviewees grab hold of books such as Innovator’s Mindset (George Couros),  Teach Like A Pirate (Dave Burgess) and STEAMMakers (Jacie Maslyk) right before interviews in order to gain the edge on hiring.

Why are they cramming?

Do you feel our future teachers continue to prepare the same way as teachers did 5… 10… even 50+ years ago?  Are we helping to create change or are we still teaching and learning in a way that is no longer relevant in today’s society?

If we are given the opportunity to create change in education why wait until teachers are graduated and in the trenches to fire them up with incredible learning opportunities?

Let’s look at what current educators are doing to move the world of education forward and in turn pass this practice down to our future educators.

Let’s connect with future teachers.

Let’s make change.

Dave and Shelley Burgess of Dave Burgess Consulting Inc. have gifted education with a platform that works as a springboard for innovative teaching.  Are these revolutionary resources accessible to every college student preparing to be a teacher?

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If not, we must ask ourselves a very important question… Why are we preparing our future with the same mindset we are trying to alter?

Are we creating experiences for our students? Are we still using the traditional checklist that no longer reflects the future of our students or better yet the future of the work force!?

What is guiding our future teaching practices?

In my opinion, you cannot advance a student’s depth of knowledge with a five day death march of a story that was taken from the required/chosen anthology.

Has anyone asked their students?  Do students really want to read the same story over and over for mastery?  Mastery of what?  Who needs skill when you can memorize the central idea of a story by reading and rereading day after day?

Don’t get me wrong, we are all in tune with Bloom’s Taxonomy and how to embed higher level thinking into the traditional way of learning, but that is simply not good enough anymore!  Our children deserve more… they need more and we must deliver our instruction differently to serve them the best possible way.  Our children need to be engaged in their learning where by they are empowered to move their education forward by choice and not through compliance.

It is not a free for all… there is accountability for all of us.  There is definitely a place and purpose for philosophy, domains, and pedagogy.  But who ever said that it had to come from the same mindset and discipline that was used all those years ago.  We must have accountability to change with the times!  As George Couros of Innovator’s Mindset so eloquently states,

“Change is an opportunity to do something AMAZING!”

Over the last two school years, I have had the privilege of being a virtual cooperating teacher for future educators of Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.  Education majors are required to take a technology course their freshman year.  One of the professors is Dr. Sam Fecich and she is a change agent!  She is connecting our future teachers to classrooms while instilling skills for both the future leaders in education as well as the current classroom teacher.  Her students are building their PLN (Professional Learning Network) on twitter and engaging in meaningful learning with a variety of resources including books posted above.   Dr. Sam, along with the education department of GCC, is making change in current practice… investing in our future!

If we really want to educate future teachers to be AMAZING CHANGE AGENTS we need to communicate at all levels.  Colleges, universities, public and private school systems, along with the community and work force… we must sit down at the same table and break bread together.  We need to share in the same meal, prepared by the same hands, and with immense compassion and understanding have the conversation that WE share in the responsibility to MAKE CHANGE FOR THE BETTER!

Why?

Because…

When you know better, you do better!

 

 

 

 

The Day I Was So Grateful I Asked

“I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I started collaborating with others.”

-current student

I was so grateful I asked!  

A moment is all it took.

An opportunity.

A lifetime of learning took place for me as his teacher.

It all started the day before when I was asked to teach a lesson for The Beaver County Innovation & Learning Consortium.  The BCILC is a group of teachers made of three school districts in my county.   The districts are collaborating to bring STEAM learning and Maker Education to children.  We are currently working on an area of lesson study and I was about to teach a math lesson for my team.

Let me bring you in the loop… My team consists of a gifted educator, a learning support teacher, a superintendent, and myself, a 3rd grade teacher.  We chose to have a full inclusion math lesson which included learners from the 9th percentile up to the 97th in the subject area of math.

This in itself created doubt in my head.

I have watched the dynamics of this vast ability range come as a detriment more than a benefit during my years as a full inclusion learning support teacher.  I was worried that the lower ability level students would frustrate easily and the higher ones would check out.

I doubted my own impact on their learning up to this point.

THIS IS NOT TYPICAL OF ME!

I was trying to close the door on the experience and “protect” my children… all 27 of them!  But the mere suggestion of having them all together pressed in my gut and I knew what was best… include all students!

I needed to stay focused on the goal.  To observe students using the 4Cs (Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking) with their groups.  There was no doubt this would be observed!

Typically my students have voice and choice when collaborating.  They are incredible at choosing people they can thrive with and in turn push themselves to conquer the goal set.  But on this day, the groups were picked for them.  I was so nervous.  I didn’t want them deflated before the lesson even began, but I went with it mainly because it made me nervous and I thrive outside my comfort zone.

I started the lesson with a hook first thing in the morning.  A pirate bucket covered up with a sign reading DO NOT OPEN UNTIL MATH! Oh I had them, right where I wanted them.  Then I started the lesson with a typical Mrs. Nan moment of craziness because my kiddos know crazy and fun go hand in hand with learning.  There I was…putting my sweat band on with a jump rope ready to roll!

The chosen math problem was a poem about jumping rope that tied in fractions.  Simple?  Well, considering we are smack dab in the middle of a VOICE PBL and my students just wrote “Odes”, but have never learned fractions this was definitely a SMASH MIX UP of learning!  Literally one student asked if this was math or reading class.  I WAS LOVING THAT MOMENT TO THE CORE!

Groups were formed and off they went.  This is when my keen observation skills went into hyper-mode!  I just took it in.  Some literally did not know where to begin, but were not giving up.  My students are “raised” on T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. in my class and this was a time for that to shine!

But here I was noticing what I felt was different.  I noticed:

  • Sketch noting… in math? What? Why?
  • Numbers that weren’t even in the problem.
  • Confusion for a higher level learner.
  • Full engagement for most, but most is not enough for me!
  • I was stuck… stuck on the learner that I though would get it, but “appears” to have checked out.  He never checks out.  What is going on?
  • Jump ropes out.  String being cut.  Rulers being taped to the ground.  Pure madness.
  • One higher level learner “checked out”

The lesson came to an end.  We debriefed and gained great insight to what they knew, what they felt they needed to know to complete the problem, and yes the 4Cs were fired up and easily noted.

The next day came.  I questioned it all… Did this have impact?  Did this opportunity pay forward?  I couldn’t help but think about that one student who appeared “disengaged”.

SO I ASKED!

Me: So tell me about yesterday’s lesson… what did you think?

Student #1: It was cool.  I liked it

M: What did you like?

S: I really liked how “Student #2” was sketchnoting

M: I saw that!  I didn’t expect that in math… what are your thoughts?

S: I didn’t expect it either, but I was so happy he did it.  It really helped me make sense out of the problem.  I’m used to just looking at the numbers and figuring it out, but I couldn’t figure it out until I saw him sketch-noting.  It distracted me at first because I’m not used to that way of thinking, but then it really helped me.

M: WOW!  That is amazing!  Was there anything that you didn’t like?  Anything you would change?

S: No, not really.  It was a great mix of people and ideas.  I would definitely want to work with “Student #2” again because he thinks so different than me.  The problem pushed me.  I couldn’t figure it out. I am really happy that I have people to work with this year. 

“I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I started collaborating with others.”

M: THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me and sharing your feedback.  I thought you were checked out.  Bored.  I had no idea that was what unfolded for your group.

S: S-M-I-L-E

Note:

  • Student #1 is 97th percentile in Math
  • Student #2 is 9th percentile in Math

This teacher just learned another great lesson!

I was so grateful I asked!  

A moment is all it took.

An opportunity.

A lifetime of learning took place for me as their teacher.

#collaboration 

 

 

 

 

Student Voice Shines with Project Based Learning: Igniting Empowerment and Instilling Empathy

Increasing student empowerment and engagement is wrapped up and delivered in “Life Changing Lessons“.  The gift of Project Based Learning (PBL) is one of intense impact… the kind that continues to give, as if you are unwrapping it for the first time throughout the entire journey.  It creates a student driven environment that is begging for more… more opportunity… more hours in a school day.

Project Based Learning is a connection beyond your four walls… a chance to open up the windows, blow off the door to learning, and ignite global impact with student empowerment!

I recently posted “A Walk In My Shoes” (One Ah Ha Moment within the Voice PBL) on twitter and have received countless DM’s asking how to get this VOICE PBL started.  So this one is for YOU!

The Voice PBL that I teach is one of great magnitude.  It covers concepts from every subject in a depth and understanding far beyond a worksheet.  This is a way to take Common Core Skills/Standards and light a fire under learning! Before the Driving Question is even asked, I hook them in like a pirate  …

It starts with the universal language… MUSIC!   

Students are given a choice to write/draw/sketch their interpretation on a variety of music shaped cutouts or use of poster paper to sketchnote

  • Allow students the freedom to personal space in the room… on floor if desired
  • Quiet space… lights out… reflection time!
  • Copy and paste each URL into google for each song
  • I do not show videos.  This is auditory only!

This is a quiet journey that typically lights up quickly because the students (UM… and ME) cannot contain ourselves… we end up singing and dancing… moving to the beat of our own hearts!

First up:

Man in the Mirror-From A Joyful Noise (It’s shorter than Michael Jackson’s version) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9paJyh8t_sE

This is a WOWZER!  Students stop in their own tracks when they realize that looking in a mirror can give them so many answers… so much POWER! (C-H-I-L-L-S)

Count on Me- Bruno Mars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc6T9iY9SOU

Every student responds to this song thinking of a time they needed someone or were there for someone.  This is the moment most of them start putting the pieces of their voice together.  

Firework Kidz Bop https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2s-9Kyumgo

Thank you Katy Perry!  What happens when you don’t light a firework?  That’s right, NOTHING!  Let that speak to each of us… we must light learning up if we want to see what is inside!  Fireworks splatter their drawings with thoughts and ideas coming from within! 

Fight Song Rachel Platten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8qDOGLCSFo

Drop the Mic… this song allows every student and every teacher to connect!  This is the song that opens up their little world to you.  Are they struggling?  academically? behaviorally? socially?  Is there worry on their mind?  Are they scared of something? Do they lack self-esteem?  Are they the “little girl with the crooked pigtails?” (Getting R.E.A.L. with Tara Martin)

I actually play 7-10 different songs and it is never enough, but the song pick changes from year to year because my students change and I need to make sure that my choices will resonate with each of them.

#Sketchnotes

So about that Driving Question…

DQ: Why Might Having A Voice Matter?

Empowerment/Empathy/Citizenship/Government/Family/Bullying/Debate

Where do we go from here?

Students pick a song and add creative movement to the lyrics.  They now understand that they can express themselves in many ways.  This is one more life changing moment for them.

This is a video of my amazing students from last year interpreting “The Fight Song”.  (My current class in interpreting “The Man In the Mirror” which they will definitely post on YouTube soon!)

Is this “just a free for all” Ahhhh… NO!  This is a creative way to connect an incredible amount of skill in a unique way to impact all students.  Skills are endless!

ELA:

  • Books from Dr. Seuss’s My Many Colored Days to The Invisible Boy by Trudy Luwig
    • This is where “Walk In My Shoes” was created.  This very lesson is a blog in itself… soon!
  • Choosing a book that shows your voice in a way you haven’t been able to… we end up reading 30+ books in a 4 week time period!
  • Use song lyrics to discuss parts of speech (highlight nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.)

Math:

  • Creating Conjectures and Arguments
  • Collaborating and critically thinking to solve a problem
  • Writing and reasoning

History:

  • Choosing a person of impact such as Rosa Parks, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., President Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, and so many more.

Government:

  • Voting
  • Being a Good Citizen
  • Debate

Let’s not forget that doors are blown off to this process!  Students learn (to):

  • blog
  • code
  • design
  • create
  • paint
  • draw
  • dance
  • sing
  • poetry
  • build
  • invent
  • 4Cs

This list is endless because students CHOOSE their own project that in turn answers the Driving Question.  They also choose their Authentic Audience to which they powerhouse to impress!  My former students created this video showcasing ALL of their voices and then chose YouTube as their “Authentic Audience”.

I can’t wait to see what this year’s students choose!

While leading my book chat on “Teach Like A Pirate” by Dave Burgess, I posted this reflection for my fellow colleagues to ponder:

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Teach Like A Pirate Book Chat #tlap

     If there were a “Life Changing Lesson” that “I could sell tickets for” I believe this is the one!  I hope that this was what YOU needed to get started…

Go light them up and find out what’s inside! #VOICE and #CHOICE