Bring Your Own Device and 1:1 Pilot in Updated Tech Plan

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At its latest board workshop on 23 April 2013, the School Board accepted revisions to the Division’s six-year technology plan. The Division has been using the plan since 2010 to direct major initiatives and to plan budgeting towards infrastructure improvements, such as wireless networking at the schools. This revision has added two new pilots announced at the workshop, as presented by technology team members Tom DeWeerd, John Hendron, Peter Martin, Sean Campbell, Jennifer Bocrie, and Bea Cantor. The first pilot will be a “Bring Your Own Device” scenario where select high school students will be allowed to bring mobile computing devices such as cell phones, e- readers, or tablets to school. Similar BYOD programs are being explored locally and around the country. The technology team’s recommendation was to start with high school seniors as the team monitored network usage during the trial. The team will be working with GHS principal Mike Newman to work out the details before the expected September start of the trial. As part of the pilot, a BYOD committee will be formed which will include teachers and participating students. The second pilot is a 1:1 computing initiative, where students would receive a tablet device from the school to use both in the classroom and to take home. This pilot would replace traditional paper textbooks with digital versions, including media that includes apps and videos. The Division decided to try this pilot at Goochland Elementary School, which currently has the fastest connection to the Internet of all three elementary schools. GES also accommodates the technology department’s repair depot, where Martin and Campbell report each day. “Our teachers are ecstatic about this opportunity, and really cannot wait!” mentioned GES principal Tina McCay about the 1:1 pilot. The pilot could provide up to three grade levels with computing devices. It will be financed through textbook funding. GES media specialist Tiffany Ray will be enlisted to assist with the pilot in both technical and instructional capacities.

Hendron told the board that these initiatives help position a technology plan as a vehicle that provides students rich learning experiences. “That’s always the primary goal,” he said.

Want a High Tech Job or STEM Career? Think Manufacturing!

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STEM is more than a buzz word; it is a new way of thinking about learning and careers.  There are many new ideas for careers in the field of Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) and many new courses and programs.  Bio-Inspired Robotics, Geo Science Modeling, Electro Optics, Submarine Design . . . these ideas have a “sexy” appeal,

Beyond the college and university programs, there are growing STEM opportunities in high tech careers for our non-college bound students as well.  In Goochland, we believe in college and career ready pathways.  We encourage students to try and explore new options; a list of our Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses tells some of this story.

Our CTE Director, Bruce Watson, and I recently met with the Virginia Manufacturers Association to talk about our new CTE offerings and our goals for STEM in Goochland Schools. We are excited about the future and the opportunities to partner with this association to increase awareness and to provide opportunities for students in manufacturing.

One remaining concern is the perception both students and their parents have about manufacturing.  We want to address this!  Today, manufacturing is a high tech operation with little to do with the old concepts of an assembly line and a monotonous job of the past.

This clip from the Today Show helps explain the message about today’s manufacturing. As we grow programs for Goochland High School, we hope to find a way to explain and to encourage students and parents to discover the many opportunities in manufacturing.

KEEP VOTING — GHS Library Video

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The GHS  library is a 21st century learning center where students and staff meet to complete projects and have fun. In the library media center, students go beyond the walls of the regular classroom  to get enhance learning and get engaged in 21st century skills.

Please vote for our GHS library in a contest to win money to meet the needs of our students.  See a video and VOTE.

 

 

Success With Higher Order Thinking Skills

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Please congratulate members of the Forensics Team for their stellar performance at districts last night.
Russell Gambino and Adrian Miller won 1st place for their performance in humorous duo. They will advance to regionals as members of the James River District team.
The following students also placed in their event:
- Chad Johnson (4th in Prose)
- Lilly Johnson (3rd in Original Oratory) who will also advance to regionals on the JRD Team!
- Hannah Wagner (4th in Impromptu)
- Noelle Ware (5th in Impromptu)
- Chase Ray (5th in Original Oratory)
Overall, Goochland placed third in the competition. Not too bad for a first year team!
If you are interested in seeing these students perform, next Wednesday at 7 PM in the GHS auditorium, the Speech and Debate students will be putting on a forensics showcase for the community.

Budget Workshop

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Last night’s budget workshop was a positive departure from past practice.  From the format of the meeting to the delivery of information from key stakeholders (principals), the new budget software, and finally, the positive interaction between our school board and our new superintendent, Dr. Lane, and our new director of finance, Ms. Deborah White, this evening workshop demonstrated the new day in GCPS.

While we remain in a flat funding mode which requires more belt tightening as there are naturally some increased costs and needs, the thrust is positive and the outlook clearly toward continued improvement in student achievement and academic progress.

One area that Mr. Lumpkins highlighted after the breakout session with the secondary budget is the need for more science equipment and supplies.  While apparently, there is no possible way to meet the total need in this year’s budget, there is clearly an understanding of the necessities.  The knowledge of our school board on our needs is based on the transparency of reviewing our budget line-by-line and by providing more staff involvement in the process.

Working Tuesday nights in January to get constructive involvement in budget building can be difficult; however, last night confirmed support for the dynamic energy and hard work of our team.  Our GMS principal, Johnette Burdette, and our new GHS principal, Mike Newman, made crystal clear presentations on their school budgets.  Thanks … school board and Dr. Lane for making this all possible.

Of course, the budget is not the only way to meet our needs.  An announcement this week at GHS demonstrates the creative way our teachers work.

Kelli Bratton has received grant funding from the Math Science Center.  She will be purchasing supplies to help our science department incorporate nanoscience and technology into our curriculum.  Congratulations, Ms. Bratton!

What Do GHS Teachers Think?

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What do GHS teachers think … about engagement?  The recent publication of the Goochland Instructional Newsletter  featured short quotes from teachers on page 5 detailing what they thought about engagement.  One was from Jennifer Abbott, teacher of English at GHS.

When I asked her for her definition of student engagement, she wrote, “It’s so interesting that you should ask this because I introduced my students to Edmodo today, and I feel like the level of student engagement shot through the roof.  If a teacher can successfully engage his or her students, the majority of the battle is won in that classroom.   Engagement leads to less classroom discipline and more productive interaction between one’s peers and teacher.   Edmodo is offering just that.  It’s offering my kids a unique opportunity to interact with me and with one another in a way that they can not only understand but relate to.  They’re accomplishing the same thing that a worksheet can do, but they’re not fighting me the whole way.  They want to answer the question or complete the task.”  One way you can see her engaged ideas is through her blog. Ms. Jennifer Abbott uses active strategies to keep her students thinking, participating and writing; she enjoys the tools of technology and so do her students.

Another high school teacher, Preston Gordon, who teaches mathematics had thoughts about this subject as well: “Student engagement is the ability to provide a learning experience that allows a class to participate and enjoy instruction.   A teacher can evaluate the engagement of students by their performance in class through one-on-one questioning, group activity, class discussions, projects, along with numerous other activities that allows for student participation.  Teachers need to sell themselves, their class, and lessons everyday, so the students will have the best learning opportunity available.  I have found that being energetic and entertaining has helped me improve student engagement.”

Mr. Preston Gordon when on to say, “One of the best teachers that I have been around at GHS is Ms. Erin Yearout-Patton, and the kids love her along with her teaching methods.”  Erin is on the cover of our recent instructional newsletter.

Erin Yearout-Patton regularly presents lessons that model engaged learning.  She comes at teaching from the perspective of being a student herself.   “As educators, we too remain students, because many of us have a commitment to lifelong learning. As a student myself, I know I am engaged when the professor ends class, and I find myself wanting to continue the class discussion or activity. Sometimes, I will stay after class or email my professors because I am very interested in the concept.  As a teacher, I apply the latter to my own classes. When my students compliment the lesson, provide ideas to improve it, tell me how the lesson applies to a principle from another course, or an event in their daily life, I know I have made a connection. A more concrete example: students will send me emails or tweets on events they want to cover in class. They also send me copies of letters they write to their Congressmen, concerning legislation, and the response they receive. Last year, it was SOPA. They also enjoy bringing in political signs and banners to support their political ideas. Furthermore, I know they are engaged when I go to vote and they are working the polls, ensuring a just and fair election. This is exactly what the Class of 2012 did, thanks to our community partnership with the Registrar’s Office. Every year our students complete their Senior Projects. The Class of 2011 raised over $15,000 for charities. It will always be an honor to be a small part of the process that engages our nation’s future, our children, in creating superb and dedicated public servants!”

Finally, our secondary instructional technology resource teacher (ITRT), Bea Cantor, who helps teachers connect technology with their lessons, knows first hand what engagement looks like. “Students are engaged when they are learning by doing, when they are active in a meaningful task rather than repetitive busywork: using technology, collaborating with their peers, applying knowledge to solve problems. This engagement is most meaningful when students are aware that what they are learning is not just to pass a test, but something that will be useful somewhere beyond the classroom walls”  Bea Cantors blog reveals the many engaging lessons she assists with from the 6th through 12th grade.  She is also writing a eBook about the photography of insects.   All of us can learn more about engaging lessons from Bea Cantor’s blog, Tech Salad.

Invested… Stakeholders in Learning

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In the upcoming newsletter from our schools, Explorations in Learning, one GMS teacher, Leona Barnes is quoted — “Student engagement occurs when students are actively invested in their own learning . . . they see themselves as stakeholders in their own learning.”

This statement is the tip of the iceberg for Ms. Barnes.  She is the epitome of the teacher/facilitator who works daily to keep ‘her kids’ involved in learning.   When she was asked to define engagement she wrote:  ”Tom, thanks for asking me.  It really allowed me to step back and analyze what I do with the students.”  She appears to reflect frequently about the way she teaches.  Her full statement describes her philosophy of engagement.

Definition:  From my vantage point, student engagement occurs when students are actively invested in their own learning.  In other words, at this point in the learning process, they see themselves as “stake-holders” in their own learning.  I feel like I’m in “teacher heaven” when this happens in my classroom. 

 As I was reflecting on this question, I realized that there were several strategies that I keep in mind to foster student engagement:

1.  Each unit begins with a big question.  Students have to view their learning with a sense of “wonderment.”  Giving them an opportunity to express what they would like to learn in relation to our unit engages them right at the beginning.

2.  Material is presented in small “chunks.”

3.  Students are given a variety of ways with which to work with these smaller pieces of information.

4.  Once students have mastered all of these pieces of information, they have to put it together to make sense of the whole. (Sometimes, I start with the “whole” and then we analyze the “pieces.”)

 Because the lesson was broken into smaller steps, students will arrive at #4 feeling a sense of confidence and security, so it’s easier to take risks when learning.  I’m also very careful as to what kind of feedback I give when students are engaged.  The feedback must always be stated positively, so that students will continue to feel confident and secure during this learning process.

Thanks Mrs.Leona Barnes for your exciting teaching and your visionary instructional leadership at GMS.

Low Retention Rate in STEM Majors?

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Dr. Richard Carchman, an active member of  the Goochland Public Schools STEM advisory committee, posed the question, why a low retention rate in STEM majors?  His question is based on an article Low Retention Rate in Stem Majors Prompts Study.

This is a good question for America but specifically for Goochland County Public Schools.

The answer may come from this research: “A new study being conducted by researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) and the University of  Colorado Boulder will attempt to answer this question and look at what can be done to encourage more students to remain in  those fields.”

We need to look for some answers from this study.  Even without this research, good preparation from our K-12 schools remains a wonderful start.  I applaud the support of STEM by our Goochland School Board with the hiring of a STEM focused CTE director, Bruce Watson, and an active STEM advisory committee adopted by them last year. Our efforts in the secondary schools continues to be part of a larger emphasis on engagement and 21st Century skills.  John Hendron, our supervisor of instructional technology, addressed this at an advisory meeting last year by showing what we are doing with project based learning such as our G21 initiative.  We need to continue our exploration for answers to Dr. Carchman’s inquiry while we seek ways to inspire students to follow their intellectual curiosity.  
 
Additionally, I suspect from my personal experience with two daughters graduating from college in STEM areas, that an increased emphasis on aiding students with the rising cost of education will help. By offering more scholarships and assistance like Pell Grants and by finding ways to address the massive school loan debt issue, Americans can encourage students to enter and stay in expensive STEM related fields. The Goochland Educational Foundation (GEF) that meets tonight at 6:30 p.m. at our school board office is committed to providing more scholarship opportunities.  This is another exciting local response.

Learning from Tweets

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David Warlick tweeted that he was watching project based learning at a middle school in Vermont.  This example included writing a script for a Wonder Years episode for the study of the 60′s era.  What a quick and easy way to connect; n this case, hearing about students engaged in a fun activity imbedded with learning!

As this blog embarks on exploring the engaged learning we hope to continue encouraging and providing in Goochland, a good source will be the tweets and links of so many experienced educators.   Another suggestion from David Warlick: TeachThought.

Keeping My Kids Out of My Basement

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That is a goal for education… yes, I want my kids to finish school and move out and find success as only they can define it.  I don’t want them in my basement!

This was one of the messages from Dr. Yong Zhao’s presentation last week at the Region I Superintendent’s study group.  Dr. Yong Zhao is an internationally known scholar, author, and speaker. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education.

Although the goal of education to “keep my kids out of my basement” was said with humor, we all understood his message.  Sometimes it is hard to define what we want out of our educational system.  When we say we want our students to be successful, what does that mean?  Dr. Zhao convinced me that promoting creative entrepreneurship can be a positive outcome, and may well happen, if we pay more attention to the child than the content.  Mastering tests is all well and good.  We want mastery.  At the same time we need to build relationships, foster engaging and inquisitive study and promote growth.  As I continue to think about what I want for Goochland school students (and  for my own grandchildren) out of an education system, I am thinking about these three pillars: growth, relationships and engagement.  We have been talking about this in our leadership team meetings since July.  Dr. Yong Zhao reinforced this idea or ‘movement’ to go beyond test scores as a measure of our schools’ success.

I have asked a number of our GMS & GHS teachers to tell me what engagement looks like from their point of view.   For me, this is not engagement devoid of content but rather engagement encouraged by the relationship the teacher has built with each child and engagement created with the purpose of fostering growth in student thinking, content knowledge and self-awareness. In the next few weeks, I will share in this blog what our secondary teachers have told me.

 

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