Parent Connect Parent Connect

18Nov/120

Learning About Communities…Not From Textbooks

I recently wrote about Thinking About Learning Differently- Talking to Strangers, where I mentioned our third graders journey of skyping around the world to learn about different communities.

They have spoken via Skype with classes from a suburb of Los Angeles, CA , an rural community in Missouri and a city, Weatherford, TX. The latest connection was with Anna Faridaku, a teacher and children’s book author from Indonesia. Students took turns speaking with Anna, who was just amazing in connecting (via the screen) to the kids, answering and asking questions. She engaged them and pushed them to deeper thinking about similarities and differences about our communities.

They have now also spoken to a class from Prague, Czech Republic and we are working on our next connections with Argentina and New Zealand.

The goal is not to only collect cold data, but to:

  • make connections between the different locations and communities
  • learn about geography
  • talk "to strangers", practicing speaking skills and conversation skills, be aware of body language...
  • reflect on how and what we are learning
  • invite a global audience (including parents and grandparents) to continue a conversation via the classroom blog
  • continuously becoming better at asking questions and learning that questions don't stop at the end of a lesson, day, Skype call

Overcoming geographic boundaries

Conversations about Alligators in Florida and Prague :)

Two native Hebrew speakers meet across the Ocean

Documenting through various lenses

Documenting

Using tools for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration

Formulating questions and collecting data

The comments on the classroom blog below came from family and friends of our students who continued to contribute to students learning after the call ended.

Family continues a conversation after the call ended

It is time to THINK DIFFERENTLY about learning!

14Nov/120

3rd Graders Continue to Learn About Communites Around the World

14Nov/120

Quality Tutorial Designers Checklist

Helping students become quality Tutorial Designers has been on my mind and agenda. The reasons are plentiful, from the train of thought "if you can teach it, you know it", being a vital skill in the 21st century, Alan November's work "Who owns the Learning?"/ "Digital Learning Farm" to tutorials being an important piece in the self-motivated and self-directed learning of our times.

Teaching, nor creating (digital) tutorials, may come natural to everyone. There are are several skills involved. which are valuable for our students to learn.

  • communication
    not only understanding content and process, but being able to express and communicate them to someone else. The communication can be accomplished in a variety of media.
  • collaboration
    curating all student created tutorials in one place (ex. wiki) will create a hub, where students can search for tutorials of content, that they need a refresher on and it creates a depository for students in future years to come.
  • writing
    writing a script is an essential part of tutorial design. Tutorial writing could be considered part of the expository writing and technical writing genre
  • vocabulary
    using specific vocabulary related to the content explained
  • storyboarding
    "Storyboards are graphic organizers in the form of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualizing"~ Wikipedia
  • digital storytelling
    a tutorial is a special type of story. It requires the "teller" of the story to engage the "listener" via different digital media
  • networking
    tutorials are meant for others to learn from us
  • digital media
    creating, editing, and mixing of a variety of media forms (text, images, audio, video, etc.) and the fluency to work with a variety of media and switch effortless between them
  • empathy
    the ability to understand and share the feelings (ex. not know how to do something or understand) of another

In addition to supporting students in gaining competency and fluency in the above mentioned skills, we  emphasize QUALITY work. It is about depth of content knowledge and  emphasis on showing evidence of learning, not just using a specific technology tool.

In an effort to support teachers and have a handy list for students when creating tutorials, I created the following checklist. The checklist is divided into three parts:

  1. Steps
  2. Technique
  3. Quality Considerations

Each part is divided further into different sections

Steps:

  • storyboarding
  • creation
  • dissemniation

Technique:

  • screencasting
  • audio
  • movie
  • images
  • text
  • comics
  • miscellaneous

Quality Considerations:

  • audio
  • video
  • images
  • text
  • content
  • strategy & procedures

1Nov/120

Thinking About Learning Differently- Talking to Strangers

Our third graders are learning about different communities.They have spoken via Skype with classes from a suburb of Los Angeles, CA , an rural community in Missouri and a city, Weatherford, TX. The latest connection was with Anna Faridaku, a teacher and children's book author from Indonesia. Students took turns speaking with Anna, who was just amazing in connecting (via the screen) to the kids, answering and asking questions. She engaged them and pushed them to deeper thinking about similarities and differences about our communities.

Will Richardson talks about Three starting points to think differently about "Learning. In addition to "Thinning the Classroom Wall" and "Being Transparent", he lists "Talking to Strangers" as one of the starting point!

Being able to connect and learn with strangers is an important skill for all of us, and especially for a generation that will be learning online for the rest of their lives.

The above image visualizes how we are taking learning about a country from only looking at a map and reading about it in a book to talking to a "stranger "who lives in that country. We still used the map and books for background knowledge and preparation, but information is amplified:

  • Information comes from a primary source
  • Information is fluid, not rigid, it will adjust to the questions the students have (a book will only hold the information that editors have decided on including and will not magically switch in front of your eyes :))
  • Information can take on directions, tailored to your students' interests
  • Information can

"Talking to Strangers" is a critical skill to possess. It contributes to information fluency. It so dramatically contrasts the drill we heard over and over again from our parents. We used to be taught "DON'T talk to strangers" and now need the skills to do precisely that.

Disclaimer: I am not talking about talking to a stranger in a dark alley at night! :)

10Oct/120

State of the Blogging School Address

State of our School Address (regarding Blogging)

3 years ago, we created blogs (WordPress platform) for ALL classroom teachers and resources. There was an expectation for teachers to be at least on the first step of the blogging ladder, illustrated in the image below. Their classroom blog needed to be, as a minimum,  a replacement of a weekly folder filled with parent-school communication and homework assignments. Teachers were expected to learn how to update their blogs (at least on a weekly basis), insert images and videos and categorize their blog posts. (Getting to Know your Blog- A Beginner’s How To Guide)

This was a steep learning curve for some teachers. In addition,  it was extra time consuming, as it was taking teachers longer time to learn and be comfortable with uploading and inserting images, creating photo galleries, creating links, posting, etc.

Then the question shifted from How to We Did it… We Built It…Will They Come? Some teachers continued to email parents weekly, pointing them to the blog to look at images and news, others resorted to “bribing” students with extra credit if their parents went on the blog, yet another class created a  Blog Tutorial for Parents & Grandparents video.

In preparation for our students to become actively involved in contributing on the classroom blogs, as a school, we needed to Update & Upgrade Our School’s Media & Publishing Release in order to reflect the shift from students as consumers to students as producers.

Some teachers felt ready sooner than others, to climb the next step on the ladder. They opened their classroom blog up for comments to their students. They started to shift from merely pushing out information to parents and students to see the opportunity for a conversation. Teachers were learning to, not only post information, but posing questions for students, encouraging them to think and to participate in a virtual conversation. – Preparing Students for Commenting with Wall Blogging.

Once students were well on their way to begin. They were comfortable in logging into their accounts, reading posts and submitting a commenting, the next step was to focus on the QUALITY of their writing. What constitutes a quality comment? One class answered this question by creating a newscast- Quality Commenting Video by Third Graders

The next step on the classroom blogging ladder was for not only the teacher to produce content/posts, but for students to take ownership. For one teacher, it meant the realization that her classroom job list was in need of a 21st century update What is… What Will Be Obsolete…in Second Grade?

Some teachers:

  • had daily  student “bloggers”,  who were in charge of updating the classroom blog, being the Official Scribe of the day.
  • had students take (handwritten notes) summarizing the daily learning during each subject area, to be then typed and uploaded on Friday to the blog (younger grades).
  • highlighted best work from students as it was produced.
  • put students in charge of photographing classroom/resource activities and learning taking place during the day, the class discussed and voted on the final images to be uploaded at the end of the day and write a short blurb to each image. – Let’s Ask the Kids: 2nd Grade Bloggers

Some classroom blogs were growing beyond homework assignment, as teachers found opportunities to amplify the use of their virtual spaces to get kids involved and engaged in conversation

As commenting and posting to the classroom blog became the routine, especially in the upper elementary grades, students were eager to “earn” their own blogs. It was up to the teacher to set the criteria for students to earn them (ex.5 quality posts moderated and published on the classroom blog).

Once having earned that promotion, students became administrators of their own blogfolio , a combination of an online portfolio and a learning blog. Students were able to choose their own theme from a variety of pre-approved themes available. They chose their own title and tagline, and wrote their About Page.

It takes time for the faculty to see that the students’ blogfolios are NOT a project from/for the Language Arts class. We are not there yet.Teachers, still need to take advantage of pulling in resource teachers and student experiences. Non-Language Arts teachers still need to realize that the blog is a platform for learning for THEIR students too. All this is a process for teachers and students to work through.

We had Professional Development workshops helping teachers subscribe to RSS feeds (Subscribing via RSS & Google Reader to Classroom Blogs) in order to streamline the process of reading AND giving feedback to all their students. This is a daunting task for many teachers, as they are feeling overwhelmed. I have met too many teachers (at other schools) who, precisely for that reason, gave up blogging with their students. It was simply too much work to read and sift through all the writing and commenting (!!). We are committed to working through this at our school though. We are concentrating on finding new ways to embed the reading, the writing, the commenting, the conversation into the “way we do things”, not something we do in addition.

I created the following infographic to demonstrate the flow of blogging in the classroom. The hope is to deflect from the emphasis on technology and the “translation” from analog work to digital work during the blogging process.

You can download the infographic as a pdf file.

There is so much to consider when blogging with your students. You will be able to read about some, some you will hear from teaches who are already blogging and some things you will just have to experience and go through for yourself in order to make it work for you and your students. What we do know, is that no teacher can attend a 3 hour workshop on blogging and is ready to blog with their students the following Monday. I wrote extensively about the process for Stepping it Up- Learning About Blogs FOR your Student as a guide for teachers who want to see blogging as a platform for their own professional development and as a medium for student learning.

Ann Davis, on her blog wrote a post titled “Rationale for Educational Blogging“, an article (and the following comments) worth reading! David Jakes responds in the comment section speaking directly to the teachers “who have kids write for the refrigerator”.

Ann Davis’ quote of “It is not just a matter of transferring classroom writing into digital spaces”, resonates deeply with me. It is a challenge, that we are continuously reflecting on in school, as learning and literacy coaches, but need to do a better job in helping faculty work through this as well. Tough questions need to bubble up  to the surface:

  •  Where it the Authentic Audience?  by Andrea Hernandez
  • What does it mean when students, teachers, parents feel “blogged out”?
  • How do we prevent student blogfolios from becoming an accumulation of “Homework for Thursday”, “Homework for Friday” posts?

Where do we go from here?

We will continue to seek the following through our blogs:

  • quality writing and commenting
  • documentation of the learning process
  • hub for learning artifacts
  • reflections
  • meaningful discussion
  • metacognition
  • authentic feedback
  • global awareness and connectedness

We will encourage, support and participate in activities that will foster the above goals.

Examples:

  • quad-blogging
  • commenting mentor program
  • blogging buddies
  • professional blogs for our educators to build reflective teaching practices, connections to a global network of educators and building a personal brand

10Oct/120

What is the Daily 5?- Parent Connect 9/24/12

This year, we are piloting a new literacy program in grades 2, 4 and 5.  This grew out of our summer professional development book groups, which you can read more about here. The program, called the Daily 5, is grounded in the knowledge base of what activities and behaviors are most effective for developing basic literacy. The Daily 5 was written by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, who also maintain the DailyCafe.com website.

Our first Parent Connect this year was dedicated to sharing information about The Daily 5 and our implementation of it this year. Here is a review for those parents who were not able to join us, as well as anyone else interested in learning more.

Everything we do is grounded in an understanding of what our students need in order to be successful in this connected, high tech world. We believe the Daily 5 helps us help our students to become independent learners.

Our librarian, Karin Hallett, shared some of the research behind this program in the following slides:

If you would like to learn more, here is an excellent article that synthesizes current research and underscores the importance of self-selected independent reading.

We watched a video of Amy Stein teaching her second graders the "I PICK" strategy for learning how to choose "good fit books."

We also watched Stephanie Teitelbaum introducing "Read to Self" to her 4th and 5th graders.

Here are some thoughts from Andrea Hernandez and Jon Mitzmacher:

This final video includes a discussion about The CAFE Book, which is the counterpart to the Daily 5, as well as information about the data collection process.

Stephanie has started a professional blog, Teach, Blog and Tweet, where she will be documenting and reflecting upon the process as it unfolds. Please feel free to follow her there, and add your voice to the discussion.

 

5Oct/120

Connecting, Comparing, Contrasting, Learning…

Skyping Skills

Third graders have been busy learning and practicing Skype etiquette. Presentation skills, articulating questions, answering, and keeping a conversation fluid are examples of  skills needed to connect to other classrooms or experts from around the world. The class had several opportunities to practice these skills in "practice sessions" with me and with another class for the International Dot Day.

We firmly believe that no Skype call is to be an isolated event. We do not skype for skyping sake, but are using a video conferencing tool, such as Skype, to expose our students to skills and literacies vital for the 21st century.  A Skype call is directly related to curriculum content, it is a learning call.

We are introducing 3rd graders to a variety of Skype Jobs during the actual call. These job responsibilities will rotate with every new Skype connection we will be making.

After the actual Skype call with Mrs. Yollis' class from California (take a look at their classroom blog entry), our students were also asked to reflect on what they had learned.

3rd Grade Reflection of Skype Call between Florida and California from MJGDS Classrooms on Vimeo.

2Sep/120

Twitter Policy and Rationale

We want to keep our parents in the loop about Social Media use in the classroom and are posting the following Twitter Policy and Rational.

Twitter Policy and Rationale

Several classrooms at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School are tweeting!
We wanted to be transparent in our rationale for using Twitter as a platform with our students for academic learning.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a social media platform, a micro-blogging service. Every tweet is limited to 140 characters or less. Twitter is surfacing everywhere in our daily lives, from your favorite restaurant chain to your rabbi, politicians, celebrities, sports team and TV shows. What is less known about Twitter is the academic value of learning with and from other educators and students, experts, authors, organizations, companies from around the world that support 21st century learning. By tweeting with our students, we expose them to social networking strategies, support their growth as global digital citizens and model focused, clear writing.

Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety

Our students DO NOT tweet on personal accounts. The tweeting classrooms are using a classroom Twitter account, set up and managed by the classroom teachers and the 21st century learning team. We monitor and choose carefully, who is allowed to follow the classroom Twitter stream and who we follow on Twitter. Netiquette, Internet safety, digital citizenship including copyright lessons are interwoven throughout the year and continuously discussed and reinforced. Netiquette is defined as the "acceptable" way how to communicate on the Internet. Learning acceptable behavior is part of digital Citizenship, one of the core literacies of the 21st century. We remind students of  our classroom rules and emphasize that "real world" etiquette,  rules and consequences transfer to online behavior as well.

The use of Twitter in the classroom follows the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School's guidelines for Media and Publishing release. Tweets will occasionally mention students’ first name, but never their last name. We will also be sharing classroom images, video or audio, directly related to student learning.

Twitter as a Tool for Learning

We want students to produce and contribute developmentally and age appropriate quality content. This is a process that can only be internalized by “doing”. The focus of Twitter in our classrooms is always learning. We connect, share and reflect on our learning experiences at school as well as tap into and link to individual student background knowledge.  Younger students will tweet  and document experiences they have through observation. Older students will be “thinking” about their learning on a deeper level and learn to articulate their metacognitive process of reflection.

The classroom teacher and 21st century learning team will actively search for and connect classrooms with same grade level twitter buddies and pre-approved mentors, to give students an authentic audience for their writing, with whom students can share their learning, ask questions and gain perspective.

...First graders might read a story with another first grade class from Canada and collaboratively tweet a summary of the story or describe the main characters. They might even share, via Twitter, a link to artwork they created illustrating the story’s setting.

...Fifth graders might tweet with a High School history teacher from Boston about their studies of the American Revolution and might receive images of historic sites.

We will be continuously modeling quality during the process. Before we click the "tweet" button, the class will ask if their tweet:

* is Informative?
* documents their learning?
* asks questions?
* responds to someone else's question?
* curates information for specific audience?
* links to quality resources?
*adds Value to any links re-tweeted?
* states its intent clearly?
* is globally conscious?
* is grammatically correct?
* is spelled correctly?

As students tweet, they learn about word choices, clarity, the writing process (write/revise/edit/publish), networking skills, research skills, summarizing skills, global awareness and connections.

21at Century Skills & Literacies

Twitter is not the only tool that our classroom and students use to connect globally. We use a variety of platforms, such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and Skype to allow our students to practice skills such as communicating, collaborating, connecting, creating and critical thinking skills. These tools also expose them to and support  emerging 21st century literacies (global literacy, network literacy, media literacy, information literacy) in addition to basic literacy skills (reading and writing)

We encourage our parents to follow our classroom Twitter feed to join their students' learning journey.

http://www.twitter.com/1stmjgds
http://www.twitter.com/4thmjgds
http://www.twitter.com/5thmjgds

We will be adding links to more Twitter classroom accounts from school as they become active on Twitter.

You can follow also our head of school, Jon Mitzmacher, Admission's Director, Talie Zaifert, 21st Century Learning Specialists, Andrea Hernandez & Silvia Tolisano, librarian, Karin Hallett and the following classroom teachers on Twitter: Shelly Zavon, Stephanie Teitelbaum, Deb Kuhr, Amy Stein, Seth Carpenter, Pamela Lewis, Sara Luetchau.

31Aug/120

3rd Graders Explain Avatars

3rd grade students explain what avatars are, why we use them, where we use them and how you can create an avatar.

3rd Grade- What are Avatars? from MJGDS Classrooms on Vimeo.

6Sep/110

What’s New?

Welcome to 21st century learning in the school year 2011-2012! (Since we're so far into the 21st century, maybe we should call it something else....any ideas?)
We have lots of exciting news to share with you.

New Tools

First of all, we have new equipment! We are thrilled to have brand new MacBooks for student use at school.  We are working hard to get the new laptops set up and into the carts. We are also going to be piloting iPads this year. Stay tuned to learn with us as we explore the educational applications of this technological innovation.

   

 

New Spaces

As we have all experienced, with the renovation of our office and hallways, spaces really affect how we feel about a place. Learning spaces should reflect our pedagogy. Sam Gliksman, in "Learning Space Designs & Their Impact on Education" writes:

We go to great lengths and expense to provide technology to our schools - hopefully in part because we see it as a means of empowering students to research, explore, experience, collaborate and more. Does your physical learning environment support that vision? How does it impact the process and flow of learning taking place? 

Here, in the room formerly known as the "computer lab," we are giving serious consideration to how the physical environment reflects our beliefs about learning. The ultimate vision for the use of technology in our school is, in the words of Chris Lehmann, for the tools to be "like oxygen: ubiquitous, invisible and necessary."

So, we have dismantled the computer lab and distributed the old desktop computers to the classrooms. No longer will K-5 students have "technology" once a week as a "resource class." We are re-purposing the space as a hub for our new, mobile technologies. Some possible names for the new space are: "cyber cafe," and "learning lab."  We are still playing with ideas- please share yours in the comments!  We have grouped the tables to enable working together and covered them with map tablecloths to inspire thoughts of global connectedness. We will have a green screen for video making. We hope to see teachers and students of all ages working side by side on projects, using the technology tools in pursuit of great learning.

Parent Education

"Parent Coffee Talk" also has a new name for the new year: "Parent Connect."

 If you haven't joined us in the past, please consider checking it out. The discussions are dynamic, and we all learn from each other. We look forward to welcoming you to our newly-designed learning space where we can discuss in detail our visions and dreams for the year ahead. Feel free to bring interested guests and BYOC (Bring Your Own Coffee!).

edJEWcon

This last bit of news is certainly not least. MJGDS will be hosting edJEWcon 5772.0 , a participatory learning conference for Jewish schools, in the late spring!  We have dreamed and discussed, planned and envisioned, and now we will have the real opportunity to open our school and invite others to learn with us and from us. Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs of Curriculum 21 will be our keynote speaker. Much more will be shared as the details take shape, but this is an incredibly exciting event!