Change is Good

Yesterday I resigned from position at the CMSCE at Rutgers University.

Today I listened to Dr. Punya Mishra keynote at  TechForum NY. Dr. Mishra’s presentation reminded me how important it is to publish and share. He spoke of how it’s not the technology, or the device, it’s the teaching methodologies that help students meet their objectives. Though I already knew this, it was refreshing today to hear it and see the nodding heads in the room.

What do I want to do?

My plan is to continue working with educators, administrators and students on 21st Century skills. What do I mean by that? Dr. Mishra said it well, when he said we need to prepare students for the technology of five years from now. We should not be spending precious instructional time on tools as technology should not be taught in isolation. We should combine pedagogy, content and technology in authentic ways.

This is the challenge I face as I join Mike Searson and Janis Jensen at the  School for Global Education and Innovation at Kean University on November 7, 2011. I’m looking forward to this very much. I will miss my colleagues at Rutgers as change is hard. On November 7, I will start my day with the phrase “BRING IT ON!” as change is good.

Whatever Works – Don’t Fight It!

A middle school teacher that I worked with last year said “whatever works, don’t fight it” when we would talk about all the different things we tried in our classes.   She was referring to how she was engaging her students. Willing to try just about anything, she maintained throughout the year that she was going to keep doing what was working for her.

Because what I was doing wasn’t working, I’ve revamped the plans for one district. The thing is, I wasn’t being effective. It wasn’t bringing on change or improvement. The teachers involved needed something different. It’s difficult to stop something that you were convinced is going to work and to go at it from another angle.

Whatever works, don’t fight it

So, where did this new plan come from? If you look back at my post after Educon, you’ll see that I am thinking that sharing stories is a fantastic way to bring improvement to our classrooms. In order to make this list, I listened to stories from and read and studied information from Kern Kelley, Helen Barrett, the collective wisdom of http://1to1schools.net/ and countless articles and pieces of research.

Here’s the new plan as it stands now (subject to change):

  1. It’s not a tech initiative, it’s a learning initiative
  2. Digital Portfolios (using Google Sites)
  3. Managing the 1:1 Classroom
  4. Starting a student leadership team in grades 5-8
  5. Sharing success stories with colleagues
  6. Parent/Community training and showcases

The thing is though, that this new set of objectives may still not bring on enough improvement and discussion to satisfy the participants. Part of me feels like there isn’t anything wrong with trying to help and ultimately not making a change,  and part of me feels extremely concerned. Each teacher and group of students is unique. How would you cope / deal / discuss / decide what your next step was?

1.       It’s not a tech initiative, it’s a learning initiative

2.       Digital Portfolios using Google Sites

3.       *Managing the 1:1 Classroom  –

4.       Starting a student leadership team in grades 5-8

5.     Sharing success stories with colleagues

6.     Parent/Community training and showcases

Looking for Skype partners

The Supervisor of Technology from Montclair Public Schools contacted me earlier this week looking for ways to spark interest in collaborations with the students in Watchung Science and Technology Elementary School. The Principal of the schools, Peter Turnamian, had reached out to her regarding a project they were working on. (The school serves 460 students in grades K-5.  Their primary language is English.)

The question the students are looking to discuss via Skype is “How are we all connected?”  The primary objective for this project is to increase cultural awareness for students.

We know we have the following invaluable Skype resources:

But if you are interested in kick-starting this discussion, please fill out the following form so that someone from Watchung Science and Technology Elementary School can contact you directly.

Please click on the form to complete it.

Students Speak about Authentic Project Based Learing at #TMNJ11

Students from the TEAM Academy Present at #TMNJ11

Yesterday was the inaugural TeachMeetNJ. The event was organized by Jason Bedell and Mike Ritzius. I was pleased to be able to offer the space in the building I work at (CMSCE, Rutgers). I was equally pleased that the wireless held up all day.

Since I was helping Shelly Krause with registration in the morning and making sure all the rooms were set up correctly, I actually only got to one session during the day (and moderated another as well). I do, however, want to share with you the story the students from the TEAM Academy in Newark, NJ shared with us.

Kristen Sigler is the Technology Teacher (5th-8th grade) at the TEAM Academy, a KIPP Charter School in Newark, NJ. She has designed her program using the Project Based Learning (PBL) approach. Her Google Site, Play, Design, Share, lists the options that the students have developed on their own for their course of study.

If you are not that familiar with PBL, take a look at the video the students from the TEAM Academy created.

Camden School District teacher chats with Team Academy student

The three students that facilitated the session were amazing. Using https://sites.google.com/site/teachmeetnj2018iclass/ to guide us through the session, students had us work collaboratively to brainstorm ideas on possible projects. They then introduced the group to Prezi. They articulated how they designed their PBLs and what they learned from the experience. They really worked the room making sure those that needed help received it all while chatting with the participants.

On the class Google Site, Ms. Sigler lists the skills the students have acquired through these PBLs:

  1. Utilize Microsoft Office
  2. Locate and learn how to use web based applications.
  3. Collaborate through web 2.0 applications.
  4. Research reliable websites and cite them using MLA format.
  5. Research and apply the best practices for building a positive digital footprint.
First time with an iPad? No problem

Most of what the students chatted about with us was how self directed they had become. Osamu spoke about how she went to office hours with Ms. Sigler because she wanted to, and now she is a tech teacher in the building. All the students made a point of discussing where you can go when you don’t know how to do something. They talked about Youtube as a valuable resource for them. “The resources are endless”, said one of the students referring to the wealth of information available to them on the web.

These students and their teacher really did a fantastic job yesterday. I truly appreciated their enthusiasm and knowledge. Their presentation at #TMNJ11 was a success!

News Spreads About Bucket Fillers

Back in August I blogged about the Bucket Fillers project my second grader was involved in last year. Part of what had me so excited was that the entire second grade was planning on implementing the project for this academic year. But it got even better than just spreading in the one school. I shared it with some first grade teachers I was working with at Ravine Drive Elementary School in Matawan, NJ and they and their principal decided to implement Bucket Filling school wide.

Tuesday was my first visit there since I originally showed them our Animoto back in September. Here’s what I saw:

Bucket Fillers in the Classroom
Bucket Fillers by the Doors
Bucket Filler Suggestions
Bucket Fillers for the Administration and Office Staff
Bucket Fillers for Everyone - Even the Custodian

The teachers I spoke with at Ravine Drive Elementary School said that Bucket Filling was going very well. The students, grades K-3, were learning how to treat others nicely and fairly. The Principal even told me that being a Bucket Dipper was considered a major offense by students. Hat tip to Debra Skaar at Evergreen Elementary School for bringing this program to schools in the area.

I love, Love, LOVE Technology, but…

Source: http://muskokagirl.ca

I recently received an e-mail from a private school teacher down in South Jersey. She wrote that she had heard me speak at the NJETI conference at Stockton this past May.  She said that although her school technology has come far, they are still behind. The school does not have a network, Wi-Fi, or even school e-mail for the teachers.

I want to change that!!!!

Teri Matus wants to get the computers in the lab networked. She wants to be able to use free resources like Google Apps. She wants to get the staff communicating. She wrote, “I want to change that!!!” after she listed what was not happening in her school.

I am sure that there are lots of enriching and engaging projects and activities going on in Teri’s school. I am sure that the students are immersed in learning. But are they having experiences with the technology they will need in higher ed and in their careers?

I suggested the following three sites as sources for funding. But there has to be more.

  1. http://www.digitalwish.com/dw/digitalwish/grants
  2. http://www.donorschoose.org/
  3. http://www.bbycommunications.com/crnew/teach.asp

I don’t think that the need here is the hardware. The need is for support. Teri’s school needs someone to create a network (including e-mail and Wi-Fi) and then to maintain that network.  Please help Teri and I find outlets for private schools to get technology funding. If you would leave a link, name of an organization, or even a success story as a comment, perhaps we can help get this private school, and its students, better prepare for their futures.

Budgets, Filters and Students – Oh My!

Tomorrow I’ll be presenting at the annual New Jersey Educational Technology Institute (NJETI)  conference. With the way politics has been going in New Jersey and the percentage of districts whose budgets were defeated, I chose my words carefully, yet passionately. I’ve linked below to my deck and here are the resources that I will be sharing:

I’ll be Tweeting from the conference, I’m sure, so if you are there follow the hashtag #NJETI and even if you aren’t, join in on the conversation.