Live, Adapt, Change

3827311548_ae05383bbd_mLife, Change and Adaptation are themes of the newly released LIFE documentary.

Recently, I attended the premiere showing of LIFE a new documentary from Discovery Education. The event was held by Discovery and Siemens  at the Franklin Institute. Timed to occur during the National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA) conference in Phila., it was also supported by the  EPA-Environmental Protection Agency. The event was the kickoff for the Siemens ‘We Can Change the World Challenge’ a collaborative effort between Siemens and the NSTA.

Students at the high school level have been asked to join this year also to participate in the challenge as described on the DEN blog.

At the website,Siemens ‘We Can Change the World Challenge’,  schools can find materials and lesson plans for participation in the challenge which encourage students to seek solutions to environmental issues. The site is full of resources for this purpose and it also has an interactive ‘green’ classroom.

All materials will be available on the Discovery Plus site.  Since all of our K-12 schools have daily access to streaming digital content though Discovery Education, I am always glad to hear about the many new offerings in what they provide to our students and schools.

The LIFE video was full of fascinating stories of animal life with beautiful videography  and scenery and it told an intriguing story.

Adapt and Change

The  LIFE video focused on adaptation and change. They are necessary for survival and growth in the animal kingdom.

Adaptation and change are universal themes to growth. Seeking creative solutions to everyday challenges is essential for all. In today’s world technology brings change. Change is a constant. Preparing our students for learning and working an ever changing world requires creative adaptive solutions and a commitment to change.   As educators looking to the future and adapting and changing brings learning and growth. We help to prepare students for a future full of adaptation, innovation and change.

Technology That Makes a Difference

Today on a visit to St. Hubert’s School in Philadelphia, I observed a teacher and his Physics class in a very engaging lesson. As the teacher explained the concepts, students were following along, contributing and collaborating.  The teacher and the students were using an interactive whiteboard to create, and to conceptualize their learning. Along the way, they were discussing the whiteboard technology and trying out some features.

The teacher, Wayne Flood said “This is technology that makes a difference”. With this, the teacher has the tools he or she needs. The students can interact well with the content and ‘it all comes together.”

Wayne had recently requested a interactive whiteboard for his classroom because he feels empowered by the environment that can result when this particular technology is used well. What I was quite surprised to find out was that this was the first day that he had a wall mounted smartboard in his classroom.  It had just been installed the day before. Prior to that, he had to wheel one in our just project onto a plain whiteboard. He quickly used it in the best way to his student’s advantage.

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Here they had created, analyzed, collaborated and even saved work for future use. Clearly, these students and the teacher were connecting to the learning in powerful ways.
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Another favorite tool this teacher highly recommended was the Smartview Emulator TI-84  software for demonstrating use of the calculator. This visual display has made all the difference in the way his students use and learn the calculator.

Interactive Teaching What was easy to see though is that it wasn’t the interactive whiteboard itself that made this lesson so successful, it was the inspired way the teacher and students were using it. It was the dedication of the teacher and the school to creating a 21st century classroom environment.

We know that just having a technology equipment is not what makes technology work. In many recent discussions found here and in the twitter edchat and in this report educators are discussing and sometimes disputing the value of interactive whiteboards mainly because meaningful use doesn’t happen magically just because the equipment is purchased. It takes much more than that.

Effective and meaningful of the interactive whiteboard (and in fact any technology) requires:

  • Quality Professional Development
  • School Commitment to Ongoing Upgrades and Tech Support
  • Ongoing Teacher Commitment to Learning and Innovation
  • Meaningful Student applications and assessment
  • For more detailed indicators, visit the NETS Standards

I feel that the results are well worth the effort!

In summary, the Interactive whiteboard can make the classroom an engaging and empowered place when coupled with dedicated educators.

Resources

There are many excellent resources for learning Interactive Whiteboard lessons and tutorials.

  1. There is even an active ning called Smartboard Revolution for discussing best uses. Find a mentor or peer who is using the smartboard well either online or in your own school.
  2. Many lessons and tutorials are found on my saved Smartboard links on Delicious are found here.
  3. There are online tutorials for all brands. Video tutorials for the SMART model are found here and here.

Do you have interactive whiteboards? What do you think the most successful ingredient is in using technology well?

As all educators work to bring the best to our students everyday, I wish to celebrate and offer kudos to this school for bringing a relevant 21st century environment into it’s classrooms.

Connecting As Needed

Recently, Casey Flanagan, a student at Sacred Heart School in Royersford, Pa has had to endure some pretty challenging times. She suffers from cancer and her many treatments made it impossible for her to make it to school.

This was not insurmountable for the Tech Team at Sacred Heart. Though this was something that they had never done before, this group of parent volunteers, decided, when asked, that they would figure out how to bring the classroom to her.

They researched webcams. They figured out the various audio and video needs. They reached out to the local public school for spare equipment. They researched software.

And finally, they webcast the third grade class every day so that Casey could see her classmates and keep up with the various happenings in the 3rd grade classroom.

This was not simply one-way communication. Not only could she see and hear them, but they could see and hear her all the way from Boston where she was getting treatments. They could view her on the large smartboard and could talk and instant message back and forth. Their project, dubbed Casey Cam, made clear and meaningful connections for the students.

Did this help her academically. Surely. Did this connection with her class mean that and so much more? Undoubtedly!

At a time when technology can get some bad press, we need to remember that it can make a real and positive difference – connecting us not just with information, but with each other.

Thankfully, Casey is back in school having the regular face to face time that all students deserve.

Kudos to the tech team (voluteers!), and to the third grade teacher, Donna Stolnacker, the principal, Dorothy Gudz and the tech teacher, Mary Schott and to the pastor Fr. Timothy Judge.

Do you find that technology connects people and makes a positive difference? Feel free to share your examples.

Read more about this in the Catholic Standard and Times.

Collaboration – Philly Style

Today 2 of our Philadelphia Archdiocesan Catholic high schools had a combined professional development day for learning about Technology, 21st Century Learning and Web 2.0 technologies. This was the first time ever that the faculty members of these 2 schools met for this purpose. If you saw some teachers early this morning walking down Vine Street, past the Cathedral and towards the Art Museum, they might just have been our Roman Catholic High School teachers as they walked to Hallahan High School to spend the day. Kudos to the principals Mary Kirby at Hallahan High School , and Bob O’Neill at Roman Catholic High School for arranging this opportunity for collaboration.
The day was arranged in 3 sessions.
1. Intro The first session was an intro talk by me in which I shared resources and ideas for technology use in departments and a few of my current favorite video clips, A Vision for Students Today and Thoughts of Students and Teachers from Karl Fisch. Also shared was the Technology Weekend page put together for the Archdiocesan Technology Conference held this past February in Avalon. Karl Fisch and Anne Smith shared so many fantastic, creative ideas with us there and kindly together a great website for the Technology Conference for using technology in our schools that we thought this was a good time to share it.
2. Web 2.0 – The second session was an inspirational and highly informative talk by Joe Konecki, an Instructional Technology Coordinator at Cardinal O’Hara High School. Joe shared Web 2.0 ideas and implementation tips. See Joe’s blog post here.
3. Departmental Sharing – Teachers collaborated with their own departments and those in the corresponding departments at the other school. To get the conversation going, they were asked to discuss their vision for technology use in their schools using the Questions to ask yourself and each other as offered by Karl and Anne at our recent conference. Essentially teachers were asked to discuss the following: ‘Do you have a vision for where you want to be as an educator? for your department? for your school?’
The conversations that started today between these 2 schools will hopefully continue for a long time and will perhaps include a shared vision for innovative ways to use technology for teaching and learning and maybe even some Philadelphia soft pretzels.
Of course the web offers unending, quality opportunities for collaboration and sharing with teachers and it will only get better in this regard. Meeting other teachers and sharing ideas will always inspire us as teachers, whether online or face to face.