Friday, November 20, 2015

Breaking Down the Four Walls of the Classroom: How Future Ready Digital Tools are Changing Student Learning Experiences! Part One

Our students have access to learning in ways the students of generations past have not--the world is at their fingertips and learning can happen anytime and anywhere. Students are now required to demonstrate mastery in technology standards embedded in all content areas and grade levels. . How digital tools are used in the classroom is also a part of teacher evaluation standards within the BVSD Educator Effectiveness rubric. A breakdown of these standards can be found within the grade level and curriculum essential documents on the BVSD Curriculum website.

Through the BVSD Success Effect, there is an expectation that our students are receiving equitable and meaningful learning experiences in the classroom that meet state, national and global standards of learning. The power of technology for enhancing these experiences, as well as providing parent and community partnerships beyond the four walls of the classroom, is a necessity for our students. We’ve shared in our blog before how students are publishing their work; now, we’d like to share the meaningful learning experiences that come with these publishing opportunities for students.

This blog will be in two parts:
Part One: Learning in the Elementary Classroom
Part Two: Learning in the Secondary Classroom (coming soon! December 2016)

Kindergarten: Giving a Voice to Students Through Blogging!

Loran Lattes, teacher librarian at Whittier Elementary, was recently inspired by a session on blogging for kindergartners that she attended at the Google for Education Summit in October. When she got back to her school, she partnered with kindergarten teacher Megan Proctor to pilot the program, and now it has become a regular part of Megan’s classroom.

Kindergartners in Megan’s class use a tool called EasyBlogger to take pictures and videos, then add their own reflections through voice recording. It’s a fun and effective way to get kids to share their stories as they develop in their writing and reading skills. Parents enjoy the classroom connections by seeing their own child’s creations. As connected to the Success Effect with Family and Community partnerships, these blogs share their learning allowing student to make connections with their parent “community”.

Megan is utilizing kindergarten blogging as a way of empowering student voices in her class to be able to describe the people places and events around them, as well as providing an engaging way for sharing their learning.

Megan reports that this format makes students excited to share their learning. Many ELL (English Language Learner) students and shy students have blossomed to be more engaged and confident in their learning through this format. Also, parents have reached out to express their support and give a big thumbs-up for how their students are excited to share their learning!

4th Grade: Talk to an Astronaut! Researching with Real Results

Beth Ellis, 4th grade teacher at  Bear Creek Elementary School, regularly seeks out real-world connections for her students as they learn. This year, her class had the unique opportunity to participate in a live video conference, along with other students from across the country, with Dr. Kjell Lindgren, an astronaut currently living and working on the International Space Station.

This video hangout integrated with the 4th graders’ space unit and a language arts unit on interviewing skills, adding a unique collaboration not possible without technology and a teacher who values the power of making connections.

To prepare for the interview with Dr. Lindgren, students used their research skills to learn about the lives and work of astronauts. Students learned there are some questions anyone can find the answer to, such as, “What do you eat in space?” whereas more complex, higher-order questions can only be answered by an expert in the field. They spent weeks researching, writing and critiquing their questions before they submitted questions to the moderator. An example of a question they created was, “In your training to be a doctor or astronaut, did you have any problems that you had to overcome that made you want to give up and quit? If so, how did you overcome them?” This question, and others like it, were meaningful to both the learning of the students and the experience shared by the astronaut.

Part of students’ work during the science unit was to research space topics and then create a presentation where they shared information, images, and ideas regarding their topic. These students found the value in sharing their learning with the world, much like the astronaut they met online. 

Students were motivated by this project. Knowing they were going to interact with an astronaut miles and miles up in space proved to be much more powerful than interviewing a teacher-selected guest speaker, as they had done in the past. The learning that resulted from this project will help them in their future research projects and their understanding of the access they have to our digitally connected world!

Look for Part Two of this blog coming soon! Secondary Classroom Focus!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Rocky Mountain Summit featuring Google Apps for Education: Learning Together!

DSC00307.JPGOnly a few short weeks ago, the Google Apps for Education Colorado Summit and over 500 educators came to Monarch High School. It was an incredible weekend of learning, fun and leading by the EdTechTeam, educators from around the state and beyond! For our BVSD educators, this summit provided direct support for developing talent, a key priority of the BVSD Success Effect.

The weekend included keynote speakers James Sanders, Mark Garrison & Kasey Bell as well as a series of workshop sessions geared towards meaningful instructional practice when using Google and other internet tools with students, by students and for students.

Many BVSD educators presented, including Jeff Sanders, who shared how his students have a genius hour, or 20% time, during class each week to work on passion projects. At the end of the year, students created presentations that shared how these projects impacted their learning.  Some of the projects included
  • DSC00347.JPGCreating a 3X3 Basketball Tournament to raise money for Boulder Homeless Youth
  • Self-Publishing a Novel, now sold on Amazon!
  • Becoming a Certified Yoga Instructor and conducted Yoga Classes for students
  • Creating a Blog reviewing movies, books and more that the entire school community could use to get ideas for reading

His session, among the many others, helped educators think differently about what students could do in their classes to increase meaningful learning!

Educators left the conference feeling empowered by their learning and looking forward to going back to their classrooms and buildings to utilize their new expertise to empower and engage students at a new level. Even more exciting, many attendees were first-timers!

During the conference, participants shared their enthusiasm and learning through Twitter, utilizing the hashtag #gafesummit to connect.

Screenshot 2015-10-27 at 9.52.55 AM.pngUsing a script called TwitterBot, one attendee collected all tweets from the summit as a way to capture the experience of the learning through this archive of tweets!

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By connecting online, the learning continues well beyond the conference. Check out how first-time tweeter, BVSD teacher librarian JoLynn Scott, connected with fellow BVSD librarians at this summit! They later decided to make plans to share their learning to their schools and staffs.

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The learning from this summit is captured not only through twitter, but in all of the presentation materials available online, too! Check these out and join us for more professional development throughout the year on the BVSD Ed Tech website.

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