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Category: News (page 1 of 19)

Earth Day Extended Celebration

Last Friday and today, Ms. Kass and I took the students in her Science classes outside to do a little exploration of our environment. In a scavenger hunt type activity, we made a list of concepts the kids have studied during the year and went outside to look for examples. We looked for stages of life cycles, evidence of the water cycle, erosion, pollution, and documented the organisms in our ecosystem. Over the next few days, students will share the images they made with their iPad cameras in a Schoology class discussion. We will discuss what we found, and if we have a chance, we will make a plan to clean up the substantial amount of trash we found in the woods.

Here are a few of the pictures I made of during our outings of little things the students found.

Soldier beetle

Lichen and moss

Toad

Grasshopper

Sawfly larvae

Damselfly

 

Stop Motion Cells

Mr. Summitt’s students have been learning about mitosis and they have put together really nice animations using their iPads. I have edited four of my favorite animations turned in through Schoology into a single movie.

Watch these cells divide and learn.

 

Purposeful PBL

Yesterday I walked into Mr. Rooke’s room to do something menial and simple. I walked away awed and inspired, and with a sense that we really are making a difference in our schools.

Mr. Rooke, our very deserving Teacher Of the Year, has a very non-traditional way of teaching Spanish. I’ve never seen his students filling out worksheets. I’ve never heard his students complain about unfair amounts of work, boring lessons, or tough tests. Mr. Rooke’s students go on to perform outstandingly in advanced Spanish classes, genuinely like Mr. Rooke, and treat him with the utmost respect. Mr. Rooke embeds language learning into study units that are of personal interest to the students, and that is what we discussed when I was in his room yesterday.

Students have been learning about Central America through movies, novels, and classroom discussions. They have learned about the role of poverty in the civil wars of the 1980’s, and the effects of intervention by outside powers such as the United States and the Soviet Union. Recently, they have been discussing MS-13, a violent gang that traces its origins to refugees from the civil war in El Salvador.

So, as the students are learning Spanish, they are also becoming aware of recent cultural and political events that are not covered in traditional Social Studies classes, and they are becoming very aware of how interconnected our world is. They are also learning about real people involved in events, not just learning about events in an abstract manner. This personal connection is crucial.

To reinforce these connections and foster empathy, Mr. Rooke has added another dimension to the learning. He has funds in an account with Kiva.org that the kids will award to applicants for microfinancing. To decide who gets the funds, students have selected loan applicants to research.  They are using Explain Everything and other tools on their iPads to prepare Shark Tank-style presentations for their peers. Then, as a class, they will vote on the top applicants and award the funds to them. When the loans are repaid, probably next year, the next group of students will be ready to evaluate a new set of loan applicants.

This project embodies everything I’ve always imagined for our G21 initiative. It is about the kind of learning that is not for the test. They are learning about people who live in places they have never even heard of. They are learning about the reality of life in these places. They are becoming aware of their privileged lives as citizens of the United States, and of the power and responsibility that comes with that privilege. The kids will always be able to point to this time in their lives when, as a class, they made someone’s life better. 

UPDATE: If you would like to help the students fund additional Kiva micro loans, make a donation at their GoFundMe site.

Learning On the James

This week we celebrate Earth Day, and our 6th grade students have spent the past few weeks learning about wildlife and water quality on the James River. Last Friday I joined the last group to participate in a field trip to Presquile National Wildlife Refuge.

We had perfect weather for outdoor learning, and the docents did an excellent job of engaging all students in learning. From sturgeon to solar energy, we learned about research, restoration, and protection. We discussed Kepone and its effects 40 years after news of health problems emerged. We learned about LEED building certifications and how they help keep Presquile clean and comfortable. Most of all, we had engaging conversations about the importance of the James River for all of us.

Over the next few days, I will be working with the 6th grade team to incorporate what we brought back from our field trip into our Earth Day celebration plans.

Presquile, a former peninsula, is now an island and a wildlife refuge.

Learning about blue catfish, an invasive bottom-feeding species.

An adult Chironomid fly. Its aquatic larvae are an important source of food for fish.

Pulling in a net, hoping for fish.

Pink and green grasshopper hiding in the tall grass.

Beyond the Book

Ms. Thomas’s students have been reading the play based on the Diary of Anne Frank. To better understand why the Frank family was hiding, students researched other events recognized as genocides. Each student taught the class the causes, events, and outcomes of each genocide. I’m sitting in class right now listening to presentations on the Holodomor, Armenian genocide, and Australia’s lost generation.  The questions the students bring up prove they are listening and they are interested. What was the global response? How does this genocide affect global politics today? What are the survivors doing now? How did governments managed to hide what they were doing? Why didn’t they fight back? The presenters are answering, but the class is actively discussing, citing current and historical events. I’m very impressed.

These kids are connecting all sorts of things: Malala Yousafzai’s story, ISIS, current fighting in Ukraine, redrawn borders after World War I, Al Shabaab, the Trail of Tears…

The conversations are great. This might not be covered by an standards, but these kids will always remember this activity and will have a very different awareness of the world for as long as they live.

Of course, I’m also very happy the kids used Google Slides  and cited all their works properly. Beautiful work, Ms. Thomas and kids.

Fix Your Mail App

Many of our teachers have been reporting that they are unable to send messages using the Mail app in Snow Leopard. Here is a video showing what needs to be fixed. If you need any additional help, please let me know.

PBL and Cross-Curricular Connections

A few weeks ago I interviewed Ms. Kass and Ms. Krickovic to highlight what was going on in their classrooms. Both teachers told me about projects that let students publish their work based on research using Schoology as a platform for discussion and collaboration among students.

There are many overlapping aspects to these two projects, and now that the teachers have had the opportunity to reflect upon the results, they are making plans to make this a cross-curricular project next year.

 

Parents in Schoology

For a few weeks now, I’ve been getting complaints about the Schoology logo on the GCPS homepage linking to the “wrong” Schoology website. The link is not wrong. We linked to the non-Goochland Schooloyg page on purpose.

When parents log in to Schoology, they do so from the non-Goochland page. We are hoping more parents will do more than dip their toes in Schoology and embrace the tool as a main avenue for information to flow between home and school.

If you have not already done so, please share access codes with your student’s parents. The codes are easily accessible from the Members section of any of your courses. Parents can learn all about registering and keeping up with their children on the Schoology help page. They can even sign up for email alerts any time their children have overdue assignments.

Active, Engaged Math

“Well, of course you can do that in (fill any subject). Math is different.”

“I can’t use that tool if it does not have a built-in equation editor.”

“I don’t have time for that. My students need to practice solving math problems.”

I can hear these things a million times. I still don’t believe them. Here’s proof that we can have relevant, real-world, engaging learning activities in math class. And these are just three examples.

Cathy Yenca’s blog

Robert Kaplinsky’s lesson ideas

Mr. Orr’s blog

 

Teacher Dashboard Update

At the end of the month, Teacher Dashboard will transition to a new and improved version of itself. You can switch to the new version now, or wait until the change is automatic.

Here are the most important changes to keep in mind. 

  1. Update your bookmarks. You will log into Teacher Dashboard at a new URL
  2. You can now rename your classes so they are easier to identify.
  3. You can group your students and students can belong to multiple groups. This group structure can mirror groups within classes in Schoology.
  4. You can now share multiple documents at one time using Smart Copy, which is now called Smart Share. This button is also found along the left side of the screen rather than at the top left corner.
  5. You can now share documents with multiple classes or groups at one time.
  6. Teacher Dashboard will now generate a random string when resetting passwords. If you do not want to assign a random string of characters as a password, you can still type your own. Please remember not to reset passwords unless the student is requesting this in person, and always check the “reset password on login” box to help us maintain a secure environment.

I’ve created a video highlighting some of the new features. b  (GHS and GMS faculty groups) rather than here since so many student user names and full names are visible in the video.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

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