Parent Connect Parent Connect


Parent Connect: Personalized Learning

Slide and Resources from March 31st Parent Connect with Andrea and Karin:

Personalized Learning: Meeting the Needs of Each Individual





Want to learn more?

EdTechworkshop: "Personalized Learning in a 1:1 Classroom: A Tour Through My Inbox"

Star Sackstein: "One Size Never Fits All"

Creative Educator (Tech4Learning): "Creative Personalized Learning"


I have iPads in my Classroom! Now What?

I have iPads in the Classroom. Now What? from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

Professional Development Day- January 28th

On January 28th, while students had a day off, MJGDS teachers spent the day learning together, sharing ideas and resources and nurturing our professional learning community. We watched Adora Svitak's TED talk, "What adults can learn from kids." We discussed the importance of deep, reflective learning.

We then had the opportunity to practice using our blogs (on our faculty ning) for professional reflection by writing our individual philosophies or vision statements. Here is the wordle of our philosophies:

Through this exercise we were able to see clearly our common beliefs about teaching and learning. Connecting these beliefs with our standards and benchmarks puts us in the position to think critically about our curricular materials and strategize our next moves in upgrading content and curriculum. Stay tuned!

In the afternoon session, we watched two short videos about passion, one called "Finding Your Element" from the ImagineIt Project and another short video that our very own Mrs. Tolisano created, also about passion (this one shows footage from our school, and we enjoyed it so much that we watched it twice.)

Teachers were given the opportunity to search the creative commons images on flickr to find one image that represents their passion. It was fun and highly educational. Many teachers were unaware of the image resources on flickr; others learned the importance of searching for images within the creative commons. As always, discussion centered around how to use these new ideas and skills in their own classrooms with their students.

Finally, teachers took the time to share and discuss our individual plans for professional development. Each teacher has identified a specific area for professional growth and outlined a plan for the year. During this session we learned about our colleagues' goals and discussed the connection between our passions and our professional growth as teachers.


How to Subscribe to the MJGDS Podcast Channel

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is an audio file, similar to a radio show, that you are able to listen to anytime and anywhere with a computer or MP3 player (ex. iPod.)

Martin J. Gottlieb Day School Podcast

Our podcast is a continuous collection of episodes that showcases events in the classrooms and highlights curriculum content and student learning. Students learn to express themselves in different media that reinforces their studies.

How can I subscribe to MJGDS’ Podcast?

Click on the MJGDS Podcast Channel Link here. You will be asked to open the link up in iTunes, You can then subscribe to the podcast within iTunes

You can also go directly to iTunes and search for "MJGDS" under Podcast. Click the "SUBSCRIBE" button to automatically subscribe to our Podcast Channel.

You can also subscribe manually to the Podcast Channel:

Copy this RSS feed by highlighting the following, right click and choosing “copy”:

Paste them into your favorite podcatcher, such as iTunes.

Click on the Advanced Tab, subscribe to podcast  and then paste (right click, then choose paste)  the RSS feed.

iTunes will automatically subscribe you to the MJGDS’ Podcast.

Now you are ready to download/sync them to your MP3 player.


Sowing the Seeds for a More Creative Society

Guest post from Andrea Hernandez, MJGDS Technology Director.

In an earlier post, The Science of Play, I shared my ideas about the importance of playful learning, the type of learning observed in very young children. In my personal experience as a teacher, I have seen that as children mature they often lose some or all of their natural comfort with learning through spontaneous and playful exploration.
Think of a toddler with a big pile of blocks. Does the toddler ask an adult, "What should I do with these blocks?" or does a toddler start with a "product" like a big tower in mind and ask, "How do I stack these blocks to make a tower?" No, the toddler jumps right in and begins to explore, trying whatever he or she wants to try. Does the toddler feel upset and frustrated when the tower of blocks topples over? Doubtful. It is more likely that he or she is delighted by this and may knock it over and rebuild it again and again.
MIT recognizes the importance of the creative exploration of early childhood to the extent that they have created an entity called The Lifelong Kindergarten group.
In the Lifelong Kindergarten group, we're trying to change that. We believe that it is critically important for all children, from all backgrounds, to grow up knowing how to design, create, and express themselves. We are inspired by the ways children learn in kindergarten: when they create pictures with finger paint, they learn how colors mix together; when they create castles with wooden blocks, they learn about structures and stability. We want to extend this kindergarten style of learning, so that learners of all ages continue to learn through a process of designing, creating, experimenting, and exploring.

As part of their mission to "sow the seeds for a more creative society," the MIT media lab has developed a free program called Scratch that encourages the kind of open-ended exploration and creative problem solving that is not on the test, but that promotes the trial and error learning that is the heart of math, science and technological innovation. The beauty of Scratch and similar applications is that while the processes they engage are complex, most children are naturally drawn to them and find them fun. Kids ask to "play Scratch."

In my STEM classes and, to a lesser extent, my weekly lab classes I attempt to provide students with the time and space to engage in this kind of exploration using freely available resources. In my role as the teacher I model possible approaches, support students in their attempts, validate and encourage them as they proceed, and open the door by introducing them to what's out there. When appropriate, I push students to go a little deeper. Some students are more inclined than others to enjoy the open-ended, for those who require more structure I can help by defining a problem or assignment for them. I can also help them to reflect on their learning styles so that they grow in an understanding of their own abilities. Some students can't wait to get to the computer and play, others prefer a tutorial (there are many tutorials online for most applications. It can be great practice and reflection to have students who are more advanced create tutorials for others), some students are more comfortable watching first before trying. Any and all approaches to learning are valid as long as students understand the process and challenge themselves.

In addition to Scratch, here are some other recommended resources for open-ended, creative exploration:

Whizzball -from Discovery Education, whizzball is a puzzle creator. Students can design puzzles, submit their puzzles for others to solve and solve puzzles created by others. I have found this to be challenging and fun for grades 1-5.

Fantastic Contraption- physics challenge. Use the materials provided to create a contraption that solves the challenge of getting something from point A to point B. There are multiple challenges and endless solutions. I am using this with a first grade STEM enrichment class, and they LOVE it. I could see it being popular with older students as well, although I haven't introduced to other grades yet.

Lego Digital Designer - design tool using virtual legos.

PHUN - 2D physics sandbox. This one is more advanced. I recommend viewing at least one tutorial before jumping in to play. I used this with 5th grade, and it was fun (phun) at first, but many of them became frustrated quickly.


Parent Coffee Talk: Facebook and your Children

Andrea Hernandez and I hosted another successful Parent Coffee Talk in the month of February. This month's topic was Facebook and your Children. We had a wonderful group of parents join us on a Tuesday morning to exchange and discuss our experiences, concerns and questions about Facebook.

We watched the video clip "Social Networking in Plain English"

We walked through and explained step by step common terms and lingo of facebook, such as:

  • Profile
  • Tags (tagging)
  • Wall
  • Status
  • Friend Request
  • Groups

Consensus among participants of our Coffee Talk was that allowing (or not) of our young students (Age limit to have a facebook account is 13 years!) is a family decision. The most important aspect is to continue talking to your children about your family's values and how they relate to the online world. Keeping lines of communication open and be involved by monitoring your child's social network activities.



Learning: It is not about the Technology Tools, It is about the Skills

How do you feel as a parent, when you hear that your children are podcasting, wiki-ing, blogging and skyping? Are you excited? Are you intimidated by all the tech talk? Are you worried that valuable academic time is taken up with gadgets?

The objective of using blogs, wikis, skype and podcasts or other web 2.0 tools is never to teach that specific technology tool. We are merely using these tools to expose, introduce, reinforce, practice and use important skills in authentic situations. We are using these tools to engage and motivate students and prepare them for 21st century literacies that extend beyond the basic literacites of reading and writing. These literacies include:

  • information literacy
  • network literacy
  • media literacy
  • basic literacy
  • digital citizenship
  • ethical literacy
  • intercultural literacy

It is important to understand that a classroom teacher is NOT teaching technology, but is teaching curriculum content.

All projects we do are also aligned with the National Education Technology Standards for Students.

National Educational Technology Standards for Students

As foundational ICT skills penetrate throughout our society, students will be expected to apply the basics in authentic, integrated ways to solve problems, complete projects, and creatively extend their abilities. ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards for Students (2007) help students prepare to work, live, and contribute to the social and civic fabric of their communities. The new standards identify several higher-order thinking skills and digital citizenship as critical for students to learn effectively for a lifetime and live productively in our emerging global society.

For further reading, please take a look at the Framework for 21st Century Learning.

The following images illustrate additional skills being addressed as we are using blogs, podcasts, wikis and skype in the classroom.

Blogging Skills

Skyping Skills

Podcasting Skills


CSI Twitter on Campus

CSI- Crime Scene Investigation at school!

Third graders find unidentified skeleton on school campus.

Unidentified skeleton found on school campus

Unidentified skeleton found on school campus

What is one to do, when you find such a specimen on school grounds? Students across grade levels took a mini fieldtrip to the pond on campus to examine the skeleton. The BIG question for everyone, including teachers was: WHAT kind of animal was it? What an opportunity and teachable moment for students and teachers to collaborate in the investigation process and find out.

We had different approaches to the investigation:

Approach A:

  • took photos of skeleton and xeroxed copies for students to take home and do research involving parents
  • researched online for different images from animal skeletons to compare
  • using parent veterinarian as resource
  • got in touch with school librarian

Approach B:

  • took photos of skeleton and e-mailed them to local Museum of Science and History, local zoo and Florida Fish & Wildlife Service
  • e-mailed photos to local veterinarian.
  • posted request for identification and research help on School Librarians listserve
  • blogged about it on The Barefoot Librarian - Can you identify this Aninmal Skeleton?
  • took the opportunity for lesson with 2nd & 3rd graders to talk about and demonstrate inquiry and research process
    • first stop library for reference interview
    • use books and online resources to narrow search
    • contact local experts
    • evaluate your sources. What makes an expert? (Animal lover versus Florida Fish & Wildlife Service Employee)

Approach C:

  • took images of skeleton with iPhone
  • uploaded to Twitpic, which sent automatic tweet to Twitter network
First set of images sent to Twitpic

First set of images sent to Twitpic

Second set of images sent to Twitpic

Second set of images sent to Twitpic

Over the next three hours the "shout out" for help in identifying the skeleton received over 50 Twitter responses with

  • links to resources to further investigate
  • guesses on what it could be
  • help to get experts involved
  • questions to help further narrow the answers down
  • advice where else to publish questions and take advantage of the power of social networking

The image was also uploaded to the ID-Please group on Flickr after receiving a recommendation on Twitter.

Flickr_ ID Please

After a few hours, comments were left by other Flickr users

After a few hours, comments were left by other Flickr users

Note being left direcly on image, identifying the three teeth being typical of a racoon.

Note being left directly on image, identifying the three teeth being typical of a raccoon.

Another tip came and suggested to upload the image to a site called ""

The Twitter network also jumped in and retweeted (RT) the request for help onward to their network


Guesses and further questions what animal it could be flooded in

TweetDeck-ideasand question








Suggestion of getting in touch with experts who could help our investigation along or expert's guesses:







Links to more Resources:




I am amazed, again, at the power of the network. As the investigation spread across our school campus, so it did across the network. Having a support team, a flood of resources and experts at your fingertips (literally), it is truly an example how learning, research, has changed through the collaboration, connecting and communication tools of the social network era.

I am happy to report, that all three approaches of research came to the same conclusion.

Our skeleton seems to be a raccoon skeleton.

Our librarian has collected the specimen and is shipping it, as we speak, to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Services, who have offered to clean it up, give us a positive identification and ship it back to us.


Middle School Math Wiki

Middle School is working on a student created Math Wiki.

A wiki is a wiki is a web site that allows users to add and update content on the site using their own  browser.  Wikis are being created by a collaborative effort of the site's visitors. The most famous example of a wiki is  Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia in many languages that anyone can edit. The term "wiki" comes from the Hawaiian phrase, "wiki wiki," which means  "quick".

mjgds-math - home

The introduction to the wikis for the students started out with the viewing of the following video.

"Wikis in Plain English"

Introduction of the wikispaces site (at this point our wiki is still private. Once students are comfortable with the platform, it will be a set to public in order to invite visitors from around the world.

  • A username/password is required to view and edit the wiki

How to edit and format the wiki:

  • Enter text
  • Making Links and creating new pages
  • Inserting images
  • Widgets
  • Making changes
  • Saving your work

ClustrMap to show the location of visitors to the wiki
The wiki will be private in the beginning, only visitors from Jacksonville will be visible. Once the wiki goes public, we should see an increase in visitors from around the world.

Discussion Area

  • What do we use the discussion area for?
  • Netiquette for discussion area

Wiki Netiquette

  • Wikiquette= Wiki Netiquette
    A Netiquette is a guideline how to behave and work with others on the internet.
    A Wikiquette is a netiquette on a Wiki.
  • What is NOT permitted on our Wiki
    The Math Wiki is an online extension of our school. The same conduct, values and rules of our MJGDS community apply. The wiki is WHAT YOU MAKE of it!
    Contribute, Collaborate, Communicate, Care, Create, Celebrate

Wiki Help Section

  • Step by step instructions with screenshots as reminders how to edit and format wiki

Content: What are we creating?

  • Definitions
  • Formulas
  • Audio & Video Explanations
  • Tutorials for peers

Content: How are we connecting knowledge?

  • To create new knowledge and understanding
  • To create new perspectives
  • To point out obvious and not so obvious links between knowledge
  • To make sense of the information

Content: How do we organize content?

  • There is a need to learn how to organize, file, archive and later on retrieve a vast amount of information
  • Organize the information in a MEANINGFUL way

In math it is often hard to use the keyboard to write formulas, exponents, angles, etc.. Students were shown how to use the SmartBoad Notebook software on the computers in the lab to record screencast videos or take screenshots with Skitch .

In the next few weeks, students will also use Garageband to create audio files for tutorials/explanations.


What is a 21st Century Learning Specialist?

I am mostly met with a questioning look when I introduce myself as a 21st Century Learning Specialist. Invariably I am asked:

So, what do you actually do?

My work is focused on working with and for the school's administration, teachers, students and parents to help integrate the 4 Cs ( 21st century skills: communicating, connecting, collaborating and creating ) into the school culture.

21st century learning focuses on

the skills, knowledge and expertise students must master to succeed in work and life. [...] Students need to obtain

  • Learning and Innovation Skills (creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, etc.)
  • Information, Media and Technology Skills
  • Core Subjects and 21st Century themes (global awareness, financial literacy,etc.)
  • Life and Career Skills (initiative, self direction)

(Partnership for 21st Century Skills)

To summarize:

  • I am not here to tell you (the school/teachers) what your goals are- I am here to help you  accomplish them.
  • I am not here to tell you, that (or if)  you are  doing something wrong- I am here to help you analyze and reflect on what you are doing.
  • I am here to help you find out what kind of learner you are and what kind of teacher.
  • I am here to create learning opportunities for teachers and students that are as diverse as there are different learning styles.
  • I am here to help you create a learning community that is self directed and independent.
  • I am here to help you communicate, connect, create, and collaborate with each other.
  • I am here to here to help you connect to educational resources and educators and their voices around the world.
  • I am here to to keep you informed of the newest developments in 21st century learning.

Take a moment to watch the following video clip of 21st Century Students.