Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Contagious

It's Contagious

Seeing students create with technology is exciting! When other colleagues see its power and begin to explore using it in different ways then we know our initiative is working. Mrs. Patten, who is not a member of the initial Teach21 team, has gotten on board and tried something new using a product called voicethread. Mrs. Patten is a small group resource teacher who wanted a new way to get students excited about reading so she chose some plays, assigned students their roles, and used a digital camera and voicethread to put a new twist on readers theater. Her fifth grade students posed for pictures to illustrate the play with everything down to props and costumes, and then narrated the play by posting audio comments.
It was something new, and something she wasn't totally comfortable with, but Mrs. Patten took "the leap." The product is pretty impressive, and you can view the play about Franklin Roosevelt by clicking on the play button above this post.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making It Routine

At our most recent Teach21 collaborative meeting the team shared their first tries at making Smart Board lessons. The varied lessons showed creativity, some fresh thinking, and some new twists on some older ideas. Their use of their Smart Boards helped them with not only instruction and assessment, but also basic management of student information and managing their day. One thing was crystal clear - having the Smart Board in the classroom to use every day is a critical piece to success. We also discussed how me might share our Smart notebook lesson school-wide so the we benefit from each other's creativity and lighten the already overwhelming workload.
An interesting aside came about in a recent casual conversation with a colleague here at Bolton. That person was refreshingly forthcoming saying they were skeptical as they watched the beginning phases of Teach21 as they unfolded this year. However, now that they've seen just how impactful it has been they have changed their perspective. They now realize how a technologically rich environment can engage and motivate students. If we as educators can make that routine, then we are bound to educate our students with variety and depth.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pics from Our Smart Board Installation

Smart Board Installation

Students were gone, but teachers, electricians and carpenters were hard at work changing the faces of our learning spaces. As part of the Teach21 Bolton initiative, teachers were guaranteed to have a Smart Board interactive whiteboard installed for everyday use. Over just four days WSFCS carpenters and electricians worked tirelessly to get 14 boards installed. By the end of fall break, two classrooms in each grade level had a new, operational Smart Board ready for use. Now, 16 collaborative learning spaces have a Smart Board at Bolton Elementary. Thanks to all those who worked on this installation!

Scratching The Surface

On the first day that our Smartboards were fully installed and available for use (the first day of the 2nd Quarter) Teach21 teachers were using them! Mr. Cachia developed a whole math lesson using the notebook software, some teachers were just getting comfortable powering it on and playing with the functionalities, and others were allowing students to get used to touching and manipulating the board itself.

In second grade, Mrs. Foster developed a way to change her morning routine using her new Smart Board. The routine is basically the same, but the Smartboard made it more interactive, more enagaing for her students, and the depth of the learning her students display is truly outstanding. We've started the process of mastering the use of the Smart Boards, the notebook software, and the many flexible choices it gives us. And part of this process will be sharing ideas, sharing lessons, and working together when a new idea emerges. We're just scratching the surface, but the next phase of Teach 21 is under way!

The following video shows how Mrs. Foster first decided to use her Smart Board.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bolton Elementary's Mock Election 2008 - With a 21st Century Twist

Bolton Elementary Students participated in a mock election using 21st century learning skills October 28th, 2008. Teachers all over the school have been teaching about the election giving our students a well-rounded and comprehensive education about the process. A genuine effort was made to make this mock election as realistic as possible.
In the weeks leading up to our mock election all 2nd through 5th grade students registered to vote online using a custom form placed on the school's website. Each registration form was printed, and class sets were given to homeroom teachers. Kindergarten and first grade students were provided a voter registration card with a line on which to print their name. All students were required to have their voter registration and check in before they were allowed to vote. All the 5th grade classes took shifts manning the polls as classes came to cast their votes.
To complement instruction about the election the school's tri-weekly news broadcast team began doing election reports at the very beginning of the school year. They covered everything from polls, to political parties, and profiled candidates as well. Thanks to parental permission and the permission of our principal, the entire broadcast crew covered vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden's political rally held at nearby Wake Forest University on Oct. 23rd. Each of the seven students interviewed everybody from university officials, to local law enforcement, to people attending the rally and campaign volunteers. An edited report was shown on the Monday, Oct. 27 news broadcast.
The mock election was run off the school's teaching blog, "Bolton Bloggers," using a web 2.0 survey tool. This allowed classes to cast their votes quickly (around 10 minutes/class) and get on with the rest of their day.
President (692 teachers/students casting votes)
Winner: Barack Obama - 576 votes (83%)
John McCain - 101 votes (15%)
Bob Barr - 15 votes (2%)

NC Governor (658 teachers/students casting votes)
Winner: Bev Perdue - 331 votes (50 %)
Pat McCrory  - 194 votes (29%)
Michael Munger - 133 (20 %)

 Local CBS affiliate WFMY News 2 covered the mock election on their 6 PM newscast Oct. 28th.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Covering the Election

Bolton Elementary's Tri-weekly news show "WBBB" (Bolton Bear Broadcasting) has been covering the 2008 elections with fair reporting from the very beginning of the school year. The cast and crew have profiled all the candidates, covered the history of political parties and their ideology, issues, voting, and even covered polling. The news show also sponsored a 5th grade essay contest where all 5th graders wrote about why it is important to vote. One essay from each 5th grade class was chosen, and that student was audio recorded reading their essay, which was played back "on the air" in the three broadcasts leading up to our school's mock election.
The WBBB crew experienced the presidential campaign first-hand when the entire crew was granted permission to attend Senator Joe Biden's political rally held at Wake Forest University Thursday, Oct. 23. All the students on the WBBB staff conducted video interviews and provided reflections on the election process as part of their report. We think they covered it very well. Watch and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One View of 21st Century Learning

This video represents a vision of k-12 students as 21st Century Learners. It was posted on YouTube last November by "bjnesbitt."

Work SMART-er

If there's one major theme that runs throughout everything we are doing with Teach 21 I believe it is we understand that it is not all about the technology. It's not the hardware that will transform our teaching and our students' learning, but what we do with that hardware that will be the difference maker. We can't just install equipment and - presto - all our students become straight-A students and proficient on North Carolina's End of Grade Tests.

I found this on back in June, and it aptly describes the learning community we are trying to create here at Bolton.

"What I see in the CyberCamp presentations is that good teachers will be good no matter what the tool — a piece of chalk or thousands of dollars worth of technology tools. But, when you hook up a great teacher with engaging tools — that’s when magic happens. The tools become transparent. The teachers in our school that are making a difference with students, connect with kids and listen. They observe the world and try to bring a piece of it into the classroom."

With that in mind, our most recent Teach21 gathering (Oct. 9) was a half-day training at Clark-Powell, a local systems and technology vendor. The "big" piece of technology that each classroom teacher is receiving as part of Teach21 is a SMART interactive white board. The notebook software that comes with a SMART Board gives teachers a powerful teaching and presentation tool that both teachers and students can and should use.

Our trainer from Clark-Powell focused on the latest version of the notebook software and time was spent with small groups of teachers actually touching the board and manipulating the software.

The morning was very productive, we were treated like true professionals (which we are), and teachers are now very anxious to have their SMART Boards installed. Moreover, the SMART Board isn't just for use with it's fabulous software. It will allow teachers to manipulate just about any software on their computers straight from the board giving them ways to open up the whole world to their students.

I've said this over and over, but I truly believe it. The teachers on our Teach21 team were already masterful and talented. With hardware in hand they can use those talents in new and engaging ways, and I believe, will motivate/educate students like never before through the rich learning communities they are creating.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Watch Me Learn!

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." - CONFUCIUS

The challenges of teaching students with special needs are great, but in many cases technology is providing a freedom these students did not previously have. Mrs. Mace, our school's Pre-K teacher serves students with different learning challenges. One of the strategies she used with a student was to use her Flip Video to show him how to count during her daily calendar time. This student learned best when he could see a demonstration of the desired learning behavior. After seeing himself on video he was able to duplicate the behavior and better internalize what Mrs. Mace wanted from him at calendar time. Using video in this context was a great bridge for this student and it represents a big step forward instructionally. Wow!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flippin' Out

One of the most powerful pieces of Teach21 is the ongoing staff development that everyone committed to when they joined our learning community. This has truly grown into a learning community. With the major classroom upgrades still not in place (equipment and installation is still in process) teachers have utilized those three small tools (a Flip Video, a Microphone headset, and a webcam) in very big ways. At our Teach21 meeting on September 23 members of the team all shared ways they were using their Flip Video cameras in their classrooms. Videos were shown, plans were discussed and it was a sharing time that fostered confidence and grew our ideas and purposes for using this neat little tool. Of course there are still tech issues with the Flip Video, but we're working through that and we know that is part of this process. The bottom line is their use is impacting student performance.
Our school's media coordinator, Mrs. Cormier, went to a book festival recently held in our city called "Book Marks." She video taped authors and presenters to bring back for students to see. Many of these students would never get a chance to experience a festival like this. Now they can and will.
Mrs. Barham, a 5th grade teacher, videotaped herself discussing how her classroom blog has made a difference with her students. Mrs. Lickfeld taped her students doing a choral reading exercise, and videotaped her family's trip to a local fair. Her experiences at the fair caught on video allowed students who had never been there to get some idea what it like. That builds schema and allows them to more vividly describe a fair in their writing. Mrs. Carlson's second graders were taped practicing a group a presentation about Japan. By looking back and reflecting, students could see what could be improved or added to the presentation.
Mrs. Gibbs, a third grade teacher, was working on videotaping a reader's theater activity with her class. Mrs. Mace, our special needs pre-K teacher used video with one of autistic students to demonstrate how to count. It was an especially effective strategy because it gave that student something to refer back to and it became a mental "hook" on which that student could hang new knowledge and skills that were not previously visible. It also made the student feel proud of the accomplishment, building efficacy. Mrs. Gilliland, a kindergarten teacher, videotaped her class' interactions with their second grade buddy class (Mrs. Foster) as they read together. Mrs. Shrewsbury videotaped something as simple as morning work activities. Students were more than willing to share and engage in what they were doing knowing it was going to be "on camera." Mr. Cachia's 4th grade class did a short introduction video which was posted to his classroom blog. Student had to choose adjectives to describe themselves as part of their on-camera presentation. Mrs. Byrd's students recited a poem on video, which was posted to her classroom blog.
The list goes on and on, but you can see something as simple as a Flip Video can be a very powerful learning tool when creatively put to use. With the ongoing piece of sharing and collaboration we all benefited from the different ways it was put to use.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Teach21 IMPACT!

Mrs. Ferguson has been a teacher at Bolton Elementary for 28 years and she has seen lots of programs come and go. Following last April's presentation to the Bolton Staff where the concept for Teach21 was unveiled she invested herself by asking to be part of the team. She readily admits that technology and computers was not "her thing." She didn't much more than check her email with a computer. She's a wonderfully gifted teacher, but had not paired technology and her own creative teaching methods. Now, she says she has changed her "whole way of thinking" about technology and its use in the classroom. Although she knew learning to use technology might be challenging for her she saw the need to learn how. She enthusiastic, and with support, is making great strides using the few simple tools she has been given. It's already impacted her students. She shares her thoughts in this short interview.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Soaring With Success In Just Three Weeks

One of the pieces of the Teach21 puzzle are blogs (web logs). It was one of the popular things we learned about this past summer at our training, and our teachers really got excited about all the possibilities. Mrs. Byrd, one of our fourth grade teachers, is a natural when it comes to technology. She loves it, sees the power in using it with her students, and her classroom blog, "Soaring With Success," is already setting a high standard for what we are trying to accomplish this year. Mrs. Byrd has already layered her use of technology on her blog with video, Voicethread, and one of the most important pieces - setting up rules and parameters for her students to follow when using their classroom blog.
If you want to see the power of a great blog all you have to do is look at the Feedjit Visitor Tracking Gadget she has added to her blog. The wonderful things she is doing in her four-walled classroom here at Bolton have already spread from coast to coast. She's had visitors from as far west as Washington state, as far south as Florida, as far north as the District of Columbia, and some points in between. On Soaring With Success you'll find students who have memorized poetry, written their own poetry and read it aloud, and you can see a focused purpose to inspire both reading and writing using the blog as a motivational tool.
The most powerful part of Mrs. Byrd's success, in my opinion, is her willingness to COLLABORATE. Her colleagues have seen the things she's doing, praised her efforts, and she has reached out to offer her expertise to anybody who asks. This will no doubt allow these integrative tools to proliferate throughout our school and to many more students at Bolton.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gadgets & Gizmos & the First Week of School

I have to admit I am a gadget guy. I like finding new tools, the unique power of small and portable technologies, and the power to create they provide. Not everyone is like that, and that's okay. But for our team, three small, but very powerful tools were given to them the first teaching week of the 2008-'09 school year.
As we worked and learned together this summer some of the most inspiring and creative tools we used were Skype, which gives anyone the power to make telephone calls and/or video conference calls over the Internet, and VoiceThread, an online tool for having conversations around media (pictures, video, documents, presentations).
After the bell rang and the students swarmed through the doors, the business of teaching rules, expectations and procedures began. And I see that some of the expectations for learning with technology have changed- positively - among those who are part of Teach21. The Teach21 team received a Sennheiser PC Headset with microphone, a Lenovo web cam with integrated microphone, and a Flip Video USB video camera.
These three small, but powerful gadgets would allow the team to put to use the products they learned about and begin getting creative. Everyone was/is waiting anxiously for the bigger hardware that is to come to make their room a more friendly 21st Century learning space. (More to come on that subject.)
These gadgets weren't included in the original proposal, but it became apparent as we worked this summer that, despite their small size, they could make a huge impact. They empower creativity, foster thoughtful response, have the ability to motivate students, and can put teachers and students in touch with the rest of the world.
We met at the end of a hard day of teaching with a fast and furious distribution of "goodie bags." Personally, I received satisfaction from knowing that, at the least, they gave our team something they could use immediately that would put to use some new found tools and knowledge.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

On The Eve of the School Year and Open House

Even before teachers were to officially report to school email requests were were in my inbox requesting equipment and resources for our first days back. Teachers were already planning on implementing some of the technology they learned over the summer at Open House as they welcomed their new students and their parents to the new school year.
What we learned over the summer we wanted to share with everybody at Bolton School. It was imporants that everyone understood Teach21@Bolton was not just for the teachers who were selected to the inaugural team, but that it genuinely was for every educator at our school. Plans about how to share with those who didn't experience our summer staff development were discussed and over the course of the year new tools will be presented to our entire staff. Collaborate, Collabortae, Collaborate!
At Open House, two teachers found the time to use Microsoft PhotoStory 3 to create digital photo presentations set to music to show students and parents some of the things they would be doing during the year. Another teacher created a Powerpoint presentation, complete with pictures, that reviewed her class procedures, methods of communications, and expectations for the year. With details playing on the screen more personal conversations could be had with parents helping establish positive connections. The visuals playing in these classrooms allowed those teachers a chacne to talk one-on-one with parents and students while those waiting watched "their shows."
I think the important outcome from all of this is that enthusiasm remained high! Teachers who would stop to talk about how it was going and what they could do next gave the start of this school year some momentum. In my years as an educator I've found that if the teacher is genuinely excited about they are doing, their students are too. While there's still a steep learning curve, and we know there will be issues to overcome, there is a brave determination to move forward from the least technologically experienced person on Teach21 team to the most tech-savvy people because we know we're all in this together.

Teach21@Bolton Summer Kickoff Pictures

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Teach21 Summer Kickoff

Our summer kickoff was held July 15-18, 2008 and much of what we did revolved around Daniel Pink's book, "A Whole new Mind." "A Whole New Mind" is not focused on technology, although it's role in the information age is discussed in-depth. Pink's subtitle is, "Why Right Brainers Will Rule The Future," and his book reviews what he believes it now takes to be competitive in the job market, and excel in the 21st century.
He outlines six essential aptitudes for professional success - design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. As we read and shared chapters of this book in teams it gave us a specific purpose for what we were to learn.
What we learned over the next three days tools that would allow us and our students to become designers, story tellers, people who can put together the pieces, people who are empathetic and understand others, playfully creative, meaning driven individuals.
The tools we learned, when applied to the educational setting, helps develop Pink's six aptitudes. Over the next three days we learned about a host of Google tools, Web 2.0 tools, Skype, wikis, and digital storytelling. We created classroom blogs, our own avatars, touched on the use of video in the classroom, and learned how to use social bookmarking. With Marlo Gaddis controlling the pace and the direction everyone seemed to be excited about the possibilities.
The reflections we all left on the Teach21@Bolton wiki tell the story of these days best. Here are just a few.

"I am enjoying the training and all of the new info to go along with it. I never new there was so much more to google. I am learning about several different ways to use technology in my classroom. I hope to use voicethread, photostory, and blogs with my students. Last year they were amazed with my overhead projector. I can't wait to see their smiling faces when they are using all of the new technology we are being trained to use."

"I really enjoyed creating my blog yesterday. The collaboration between this team is awesome. We have learned so much from Marlo and we are really helping each other. The more I learn, the more I can't wait to use it in my room. Go Teach21 Bolton!!!!!"

"I can see so much potential for using all of these tools. Specialists using a wiki when are planning special events for the grade levels.... Many windows of opportunity are beginning to open here."

"Wow - Two exciting days! I always enjoy my summer breaks however it is training like this that gets me excited about August and all of the posibilities that are ahead of us! Thanks and I can't wait for more! There are so many possibilities of how we can use this new knowledge that it is mind boggling."

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Beginning

It began out of frustration, and with a simple question. In my third year in a new role as Bolton Elementary School's Technology Facilitator I was frustrated. Although I had the wonderful opportunity to teach the entire student population in the computer lab, and I saw the potential for students to create wonderful things and learn using exciting technologies, they had to do so within a 40 minute class in a seven-day rotational schedule. I wanted our student's and teacher's technology experience to be richer. So the question became, "Where do we go from here?"

I felt the need for a new direction, and really believed we needed a direction when it came to technology and learning. In trying to answer my own question, and after studying the new National Educational Technology Standards, I began researching 21st Century Learning Skills. I quickly realized that all the educational scenarios in the standards took place in a regular classroom, with more depth, and much more opportunity for creative expression. Add to that a viewing of Karl Fisch's "Did You Know 2.0" and I had an answer.

Sometimes the right people are together at the right place and the right time and things fall into place. I posed my question to our principal, Doreen Sorensen, and Marlo Gaddis, our school district's project manager for instructional technology. Together, through a long discussion we put together our ideas to figure out - where do we go from here at Bolton?

On April 30, 2008 Mrs. Sorensen allowed Marlo Gaddis and I to first make our case, and then our proposal at an early morning staff meeting. We wanted to first show the need for 21st Century Learning Skills, and then propose what evolved into Teach21@Bolton. After viewing "Did You Know 2.0" a truly collegial discourse went on for almost an hour. Differing views were expressed, concerns were heightened and voiced, but the discussion was ultimately very constructive.

At the end we proposed the formation a team to build a learning community. It team would begin with a three-day summer training, and continue with ongoing monthly meetings/collaborations throughout the 2008-2009 school year. In turn, Mrs. Sorensen made the commitment to get these teachers the technology tools in each of their classrooms for use on a daily basis. Their use and the students' use of technology could become consistent, part of the daily routine.

Participation was offered as purely voluntary. Response was overwhelmingly positive. Over 90 percent of the staff expressed an interest in joining, and making a commitment to be part of a training that would be the first of its kind in our district.

In the end, our principal chose the participants and limited the group to two teacher per grade level, one pre-k teacher, our media coordinator, a technology lab educator, and our science specialist. Our principal and curriculum coordinator as well as myself were also part of the team. We would all learn together. The team had teachers with differing technology comfort levels and experiences, but all were willing to try something new.

Marlo Gaddis composed and delivered a welcome letter to each team member and quickly created a wiki, Teach21@Bolton, a wonderful Web 2.0 tool for the participants to use for planning and collaborating before the end of the 2007-2008 school year. The assignments were to learn to login to their wiki accounts and begin posting to learn a 21st Century tool, and to watch a video entitled "Why Change? Why Now?" from our district's technology blog and post a response. And so the journey, and the possibilities began.