Thursday, February 27, 2014

Integrating STEM in the Classroom: Resources

This past Tuesday, February 25th, we held our weekly #NJED Chat at 8:30pm EST. Our topic was: Integrating STEM in the Classroom. I was very excited about this topic because we are in the planning stages of opening a 4th Grade STEM Magnet Class for our district at Bear Tavern Elementary School.  I will be writing various posts about our progress as we continue to move forward; however, after the chat I received this tweet:

The easiest method seemed to be on my blog. So here is a list of the hyperlinks that were shared during our chat. It is a pretty good list of resources for anyone interested in STEM Education; HOWEVER, if you have others, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE share them in the comments below so that we can all benefit.

Why Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy went MAD!
Framework for 21st Century Learning
Don't Squelch the Creativity #SAVMP
Falling isn't Failing
Infographic: The Value of STEM Education
12 Steps to Great STEM Lessons
If school is supposed to prepare students for real life, then why doesn’t it look more like real life?
NASA Explorer Schools

Also, here is a link to the entire chat archive. I encourage readers to peruse the chat because the interaction between the participants was rich with insight, suggestions, and ideas.

"Integrating STEM in the classroom" #njed Chat 2-25-14

Please join us each Tuesday evening for our weekly chat. Our topics are varied and focused on what we do as practitioners. We welcome participants from all over the country and all over the world!
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Friday, February 7, 2014

#DLDay: The Verdict is...

I know, Digital Learning Day was February 5th, but on the 6th I got to be involved in a fantastic example of technology tools being used effectively to break down the walls of the classroom and allow students to learn and connect with students and teachers beyond their school.  I was fortunate to be asked to judge a Virtual Debate! South Orange Middle School sixth graders debated with Lower Alloways Creek sixth graders about the merits of homework.

Before I talk about the technology, let me first say that these boys and girls were wonderful. They were prepared with strong arguments, they formed coherent rebuttals, and they presented convincingly. I was impressed with the amount of support that was cited on the subject from people like Alfie Kohn, Robert Marzano, Harris Cooper and other researchers in the field. The students understood that presentation is an important part of debate and they worked to put forth a compelling and convincing argument for their given side. The only part that was unfortunate was that I had to fill out my rubric and decide on a winning team. They both did such a remarkable job. If you don't believe me and you have about an hour, you can check out the debate here .

I was invited to be a judge by Melissa Butler, one of the teachers involved in the project. Here is the first instance of technology playing a role. Melissa (@AngelinaShy) is a member of my PLN. We connected through twitter and are both part of the planning team for #edcampNJ. Using twitter as an avenue for professional learning, growth, and connection has afforded me various wonderful opportunities (like this debate) and introduced me to some of the most amazing and passionate educators. Melissa co-teaches with Elissa Malespina (@SOMSlibrary) (another #edcampNJ organizer), who is also the media specialist at South Orange Middle School. They were connected with Ruth Williams' and Kristen Ayling's students in Lower Alloways Creek, NJ through another twitter connection, Jay Eitner (@iSuperEit) (you guessed it, #edcampNJ organizer), who is the Superintendent of the district and a strong proponent of technology as a tool for learning.

The students used various methods to research their arguments. It was clear during the debate that the boys and girls were using laptops and desktops to quickly get information to use in their rebuttals. I can only assume that with their teachers facilitating the process throughout, the students utilized resources in the schools' classrooms and media centers, including books and web based tools.

The debate, itself was held using Google Hangout. This is a personal favorite tool of mine. We use it often to hold meetings in the evenings to plan. However, the debate illustrates an amazing use of the tool to allow students to interact with people from other locations. Of course, there were their adversaries in the debate who were several hours away in another part of the state. In addition, the judges consisted of:

Tim Charleston @MrCsays - District Technology Coordinator of Green Brook Twp Public Schools - NJ

Tom Murray @thomascmurray - Director of Technology and Cyber Education for the Quakertown Community School District - Bucks County, PA

Annie Taranto @tarantoannie - Literacy Consultant for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Columbia University, NY

Frances Ann Squire @FASquire - Jr. High Technology and LA teacher - Prince Edward Island, Canada
******Her entire class viewed and served as judges!

Bruce Arcurio (me) @PrincipalArc - Principal of Bear Tavern Elementary School, Hopewell Twp., NJ

As you can see by my highlighting above, the Google Hangout allowed these two schools to debate with judging from 3 states and a Canadian province! This was a wonderful example of
how technology serves as a means and not an end.  The tech was NOT the ultimate goal. The goal was to allow the students to research and conduct a debate using persuasive techniques. Technology served them in their research and presentation. It allowed for a connection between schools.  In addition, it provided an authentic audience with judges bringing their expertise to the process. It is unlikely that these students would have been able to debate for a similar judging panel live. However, in my case, I was able to close my office door for an hour and participate fully without the time and schedule juggling of going to one of the schools.

I was thrilled that technology allowed me to be a part of this experience and hope to participate next year. As far as I am concerned, the verdict is... Everybody wins in this situation!

What did you do to celebrate Digital Learning Day (#DLDay)?

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Evernote, Backchanneling, and Tabs, Oh My!

George Couros
I just read a short post entitled, Stating the Obvious, by George Couros on his blog, The Principal of Change. Basically, the post is about the penchant of adults to complain about how kids are so distracted by their devices, yet when it comes down to it, they are simply doing what adults do when they are bored. I agree with the sentiment that this is stating the obvious; however, it is amazing how many people complain about this phenomenon and don't realize the hypocrisy of it. I guess my post is just expanding upon the idea in Stating the Obvious. By the way, if you don't follow The Principal of Change blog, you should start. I have learned a great deal from reading it.

All of our minds have wandered at meetings and we've opened up our email on our handheld device, tablet, or laptop. When I do that I am generally not engaged in the content of the meeting or session. But, I also want to note that I often use a device and may look as though I am distracted or not paying attention when, in fact, I am actually more engaged than others who may appear to be listening and attending to the teacher or presenter.

First, there is simply using an electronic device to take notes. I hate writing with a pen or pencil. After about the third word, my hand cramps up (likely psychosomatic) and I stop. So, when I am typing on a device, there is an excellent chance I am taking notes in Evernote. This is evident from the blog posts that I have written from my notes after sitting in sessions at Teachers College during their Saturday Reunions. (#TCRWP Saturday Reunion - March 2013 - Laurie Pessah's Workshop, #TCRWP - Cornelius Minor Session on the BYOT Movement, or Depths of Knowledge (DOK) is More Than an Acronym!)

Second, there is backchanneling! Generally, when I am at an #edcamp or #TCRWP session (or any other for that matter) I look for others who are having a conversation about the topic behind the scenes. I find that backchanneling  has provided me with a renewed ability to focus on the points that a presenter is making. When I can tweet out or use some other backchannel to converse about the topic as it is being presented, I am able to better digest the material, wrestle with it, and ultimately engage with it in a deeper way.

Third, I am often finding resources that a presenter is mentioning. There are sessions that I have attended where I have actually ordered a book from Amazon as the presenter had it up on the projector screen. When presenters mention other thought leaders, bloggers, and researchers on the topic being presented, I generally like to pull up a tab in my web browser immediately with the blog or connection so that I can easily find them when I get home.

While I realize that our students in school may not be doing the things I mention above. I think that we should find out what they are doing before we get upset. If they are productively engaging in their own digital way, then we should probably let them keep doing what they are doing. If they are just playing around and doing other things, we should probably try to figure out if it is our instruction that is lacking before we blame the devices.

How do you "pay attention" at meetings and conferences?

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