Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ACDS & Davidson- All About Teaching and Learning


Davidson College is known as a very academic liberal arts college that is dedicated to supporting the craft of teaching by its professors. Davidson's professors do research, write articles and books but their primary focus is on teaching. To support their efforts, as part of the strategic plan, Davidson in August opened its Center for Teacher and Learning (CTL) in the school library.

The connection to Alexandria Country Day School is that we also opened our Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) in August. What is striking in reading an article from the Fall 2011 Davidson Journal is how similar the two programs are. It demonstrates the forward thinking and student-centered nature of our administrators and TLC staff when we are mirroring the program of a college such as Davidson.

Central to the work of our TLC team members, Liz Hendrickson, Jill Millet, Kathy Heyder and Dianne Bartalot, is the focus on collaboration with the classroom teachers. This partnership looking at how best to reach learning goals as well as meeting the individual student needs drives how the TLC teachers help design instruction and provide one to one support for our students.

An additional part of this "collaboration team" approach to supporting teaching and learning is the involvement of our instructional technologist, teacher librarian and director of technology. As part of the iPad pilot program the fifth grade teachers worked with our technology and library team members over the summer to review and adapt the fifth grade curriculum to further support the students in attaining skills for the 21st century. The curriculum was further adapted to meet the information, media, and visual literacy standards supported by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) along with the technology literacies published as the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for students. The collaboration team in January will be joined by members of the TLC as they review the sixth grade curriculum in preparation for next year and the continued roll "forward" of the iPad Pilot program.

The Davidson Journal article describes the same team effort of their Center for Teaching and Learning.

"(the CTL)...brings together  these centers- along with the instructional technologists and information literacy librarians- to help students take a comprehensive approach to strengthening academic skills. The CTL also advises faculty who want to experiment with new teaching tools and to discuss different approaches to teaching."

One might say that Davidson College is in good company with its pioneering efforts. :)

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blended Learning at ACDS

Student learning obviously does not stop when the students leave school in the afternoon. Students read textbooks, do math problems, create presentations, play their musical instrument, etc. all in preparation for their classes the following day. We use the term "blended" or hybrid learning when technology gives students outside of school further access to learning materials while also being connected to one another and their teacher so that they can use class time for discussions and other learning activities as opposed to teacher delivery of content.

Previous posts reported how blended learning takes place at ACDS. Mr. Ros authors an online textbook as well as using Evernote for sharing documents. Haiku is the class learning management tool. Ms. Cook and Ms. Weaver use Haiku extensively delivering content while also collaborating via the forum feature to have discussions outside of class. The 5th graders through their class blog review content and then collaborate by using the comment tool. Take a look at the comments by the 5th graders as they offered feedback on a social studies app called City of Wonder. This online sharing really expands the learning communities of our classrooms giving students time to reflect and share their ideas at their own pace.

One aspect of blended learning that is taking place in the lower school is through subscription math and reading online tools to support self-paced learning while offering reinforcement and enrichment activities. Students interact with Raz-Kids at school and at home working on individualized reading programs. They also are gaming (and learning) through the EveryDay Math online games which records their individual progress. The 1st graders are about to pilot the XtraMath program which reinforces their learning of math facts. The lower schools students also have access to our Web Resources site which is filled with educational learning links that they also use at school and at home.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Teleprompters, Astronomy and Differentiation

One of the wonderful things about putting technology in the hands of students is seeing how they adapt it to meet their needs. A group of 6th graders were seen using the library iPads with their built in cameras to see themselves on the screen for further primping before their photos were taken. Our 5th graders are also  pretty creative in their adaptations. The latest problem-solving took place when a group of students was video recording a skit and they needed help in "remembering" their lines. While one student was using an iPad to record the skit, another iPad was being used as a teleprompter with an enlarged version of the script on the screen. See the image above for a visual example. 

The 5th graders recently used several software programs to complete an activity for the astronomy science unit. The goal for each team of students was to come up with something they wanted to research about the solar system and make a plan as if they could travel to the actual planet, moon, asteroid, etc. They then were to produce a map showing the pathway they would take to their destination along with the return route. Each team began the process by using a website that locates the positions of all the planets by the current or future date. The next step was to open the Inspiration mind mapping software to populate their screens with images of the suns and planets. They then positioned them from what they learned at the location website. After taking a screen shot of their work, the students imported the image into a photo editing software. There they used the paint tool to draw the route of their cosmic journey. See above for an example.

Haiku continues to offer our students a rich virtual learning environment that helps support their various learning styles. The forum learning module in Haiku offers students and teachers the opportunity to either start new discussions or extend ones that began in the classroom. Forums give students who want more time to reflect the chance to share their ideas when sometimes they don't choose to in the classroom. Forums also help our learners further construct their understanding by going deeper on topics that they might not have had time for in class or to pursue new topics that come up after class.

One way Ms. Cook uses forums is for literature discussions. It was something to review one Haiku forum discussion with several students building off one another's ideas as they discussed a reading. New ideas were shared as well as having students clarify and take the role of subject matter expert. This learning community whether taking place in school or virtually is one of the ways our teachers work to help our students develop the very important skill of knowing how to learn.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Baby Book for an Element?

How might a science teacher engage her students' curiosity and creativity in learning about the elements in the periodic table? Ms. Bentley worked with her 7th grade students to research their assigned element to then create a presentation. The presentation would be in the form of a baby book telling the story of the assigned element. Take a look at some baby books shared by Sarah and Ikea.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Screencasting for Differentiation

In a previous post we looked at students using a screen capture app on their ipads to demonstrate their thinking when they solve math problems. Ms. Weaver uses screencasting to differentiate her instruction and to provide online tutorials that students can access from Haiku. By using a screen movement, multi-colored pens, shapes and audio descriptions, students experience a full sensory experience when interacting with the screencasts. This activates many areas of the brain while giving them the opportunity to watch the video on their own time and as many times as they need to. Here is a link to a math tutorial screencast by Ms. Weaver. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Learning Math Facts

How can you help your child improve his/her addition, subtraction, multiplication and division skills? We have a section of the Web Resources site that lists websites with flashcards and other math skill activities. Go to your child's grade level page and look for the "math flashcards" section to find the links.

If you have an iPad, one app that our 5th graders are trying out is MathBoard.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

E-Textbook in the 8th Grade

Chris Ros has two pilot efforts taking place with his 8th grade science class. He is using the Fujitsu tablets we have been using for several years in a 1 to 1 environment. Chris also took Sherry Ward up on her idea to have teachers supplement their course materials by constructing an online e-textbook. The e-textbook is web-based so it can be accessed via a browser at school and home. The software provider is The Learning Mag which is headed up by Will DeLamater who is a former ACDS administrator. 

Chris has published the first sections of his online textbook. What makes this endeavor so powerful is that the instructor is in control of the content that goes into the textbook as opposed to a textbook publisher. The teacher individualizes the content drawing from his/her personal knowledge, books, media and web resources. The end result is a textbook designed to meet the specific learning needs of the students while aligning with the learning outcomes set by the teachers.  

E-textbooks also provide further engagement for the students when they collaborate in researching information and publishing with the support of their teacher. One of our goals for graduates of ACDS is to help our students be active and independent in their learning. Chris' effort is one very concrete activity that engages and empowers our students in their learning. 

Take a look at The Dynamic Earth e-textbook that Chris and his students are developing.  


Chris shared the following insights about his class:
  • We are using online textbook and source of information for the kids - www.thelearningmag.com
    • I am currently putting in the information as a combination of culling from resources, gathering information off the web and writing my own material.
    • Eventually the students will be involved in uploading and creating some sections for the online book.

  • Students are using Evernote as their note-taking program.
    • They can download the software, which is free, onto any device they have - PC, MAC, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
    • We can share pages as well.
      • I can share my notes with the students.
      • They can share their notes with me to show me the work that they have done.
      • We really are building a learning community based up easy access to information through our e-textbook and note sharing via Evernote.

  • The class discussions are lively. We follow a general curricular foundation that allows for the freedom to discuss other ideas. As an inquiry-driven course, we make time for questions as they come up. This allows me as the teacher to develop the lessons and units in a unique way that follows more closely my organizational preferences, and more importantly, follows the way the kids are thinking. This individualized approach is working much better than working from a prescribed textbook.

  • Challenges
    • The kids are adjusting to not having a tangible textbook - we are going to be discussing this today.
    • The kids are also adjusting to taking notes digitally.
    • I am finding that I will likely need to create new and interesting ways of assessing student knowledge and understanding.

Mathcasts and Learning

The 5th graders used the ScreenChomp app yesterday to record videos to visually demonstrate how they problem solve while including their audio step by step problem solving. The students prepared for the learning activity by thinking about how they mentally and physically go about problem solving in math. They then wrote out the steps on paper. With the ScreenChomp app open on their iPads, the students recorded the problems on their screens while reading from their scripts. See example video below.

Ms. Weaver shared that the activity helped the students use metacognition to go deeper in their thinking. The physical movement on the screen while explaining the activity also engaged the students' kinesthetic and spatial learning styles.

The activity provided formative assessment giving Ms. Weaver insight on how well the students understand the concepts behind the problem solving as well as the skills need to do similar math problems in the future. Ms. Weaver also noted that the physical and verbal nature of recording the problem solving steps and the opportunity to see and listen to one's thinking should provide a valuable study tool throughout the year.

Image and Videos provided by Ms. Weaver

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lesson on the Sun

The fifth graders continued their study of astronomy by using special glasses and an iPad to learn more about the sun. Take a look at the post over on the City of 5th Grade blog to learn more. 

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alphabet, Art, Teeth and Technology

Here is a preview of an innovative unit that our first grade teachers, Sally Laha and Laura Carew, will be teaching later in the year. The objective is to help the students learn about good dental health while applying their knowledge of the alphabet. The assessment includes image creation and application by having the students write a sentence using their dental knowledge with their assigned letter of the alphabet.

Technology supports the learning with the students using the tablet computers and Windows Journal to draw their image and write their sentence. The teachers print each Journal page to create their alphabet book. A digital version is posted in Prezi for parents to view from home. You can take a look now to see what the last year's students created.

As a follow up activity, the students use Kidspiration to create a diagram where they pull image symbols on to the canvas, one for each letter of the alphabet (e.g., T for a tiger image). An additional learning objective is to have students further their understanding of how we categorize information using the library categories in Kidspiration
 (e.g., Ocean Life, Transportation).

It was something with the first graders last year to hear the collaboration as the students searched in the different categories of the symbol library sharing “I found a ‘P’ picture in the animal library! Has anyone found a Q?” It was also something to see the students who did some lateral thinking as they went into the US States category to use state names to make their letter matches. Too bad their is no state name that starts with “Q”. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Will the iPads and other Technologies Affect Teaching and Learning at ACDS?

Laptops and tablets become powerful learning tools when the teacher designs lessons that have the students gathering and analyzing information working to make meaning to then create products that demonstrate that understanding. These experiences where students make cross disciplinary connections using a variety of media sources while using critical thinking skills naturally motivates students to be independent and active learners. This approach to instruction involves what we call project and inquiry-based learning that engages the students in higher order thinking skills (HOTS). It is standard practice for our teachers at ACDS to design instruction and assessments that stretch out students to use higher order thinking skills. The hardware, software and collaborative Web 2.0 tools we already are using will be enhanced through the individualized 1:1 nature of the iPad pilot program. It should be noted that while we use the term "1 to 1", we also should say "1 to Many" as students use their iPads to collaborate and create together. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why Pilot with the iPad?

The keyword is pilot in that it is important to try a new technology before fully adopting it. As for iPads, they fit our need for mobile devices that give users the ability to collaborate, access information and create. The price, instant on nature of iPads and the rich variety of applications makes iPads a good choice for our pilot. We already have experience using tablet computers and laptops so the iPads will give us new data from which to make future choices as we expand our 1:1 mobile program.

While the iPads are exciting and engaging tools for our teachers and students, they really are secondary to how we teach and assess our students. Many schools have struggled with implementing 1:1 mobile programs because they haven't changed how they teach and how they engage students in learning. Mobile devices used incorrectly can become very expensive digital notebooks for recording information with students passively receiving lectures and then returning the information in the form only of papers and tests.

We use technology to not only gather information from teachers but also from many other sources as part of our research curriculum. Our students use multiple methods for expressing and communicating their understanding of key concepts and skills. The iPads along with our other computers, software, Web 2.0 sites and audio/image recording devices give students the tools to creatively build their understanding in ways that can be assessed by their teachers.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guide to the iPad Pilot Resources

iPad Pilot Blog – http://acdsipad.blogspot.com/ - This is where you are now. You will find updates to the pilot as well as links to all the other portals and services you and your student will use. Checking this regularly will keep you informed on the activities in the classroom and will give you insights into the philosophy and pedagogy of the pilot. This blog does not require a login.

PCR – PCR Educator – http://tinyurl.com/pcrportalstudent - is where we post grades and report cards. You should check this periodically to ensure all assignments have been turned in. Teachers will update PCR by Thursday each week so you have the weekend to catch up on any missing assignments. You can also update your household information such as changes in email, phone or address. Your login for PCR will arrive in an email before Back to School Night. If you need help, please email or phone Maurice McMillan at the main school number or mmcmillan@acdnset.org

Haiku http://haiku.acdsnet.org – Your child will use Haiku every day. Teachers will post announcements, calendars of upcoming projects, assignments, downloads of worksheets, discussion question, etc.
Students have created login accounts at school and may share that with you. Student households are offered an invitation code that you will find below. You may also just sign in with your student, you will see the same information either way.

Go to: haiku.acdsnet.org/do/register/parent
Child’s Name: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Invitation Code: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

5th Grade Blog City of 5th Grade – This blog is intended for Ms Cook, Ms Weaver and the 5th grade students to post questions, answers, reflections and photos. You are encouraged to ask your child to show you the site. It is located at http://cityof5thgrade.edublogs.org/

Web Resources – Your child will be using online resources at school for research and for honing technology skills. Mr. Carpenter has created a link page for convenience. WebResources is located at https://sites.google.com/a/alexandriacountryday.org/web-resources/home

ACDS Library Catalog – another fabulous resource that is newly available online for you and your student, the library catalog holds information about all the books in the library and also makes suggestions to students about their selections. Link and login info will come later in the fall. The catalog is located at http://acdslibrary.follettdestiny.com

Note: All of these links are on the right side navigation area of this blog. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Essential Questions for Solar System Unit

We spent several days this past summer reviewing the 5th grade curriculum to determine what is most important for the students to learn. To guide us in this process, we developed what are called "essential questions" for each unit. These questions are a centerpiece of inquiry-based learning. The essential questions are shared with the students at the introduction of each unit to engage their curiosity and to spark further questions on their part. 

Miss Weaver recently shared the four essential questions for the solar system unit. To help the students start answering the questions, Miss Weaver collaborated with Mr. Carpenter to use the mind mapping software called Inspiration to create digital mind maps. The image above shows the first stage of the mind map that each of the fifth graders created. As the students progress through the units gaining knowledge, they will return to their essential questions mind maps to expand them adding their responses while asking further questions in the provided "parking lot". This assessment method naturally gives students the opportunity to reflect upon their learning over time and to synthesize their thinking into true understanding of the main themes and concepts of the solar system unit of study. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Haiku: Our Learning Management System

A major move in K-12 education has been to provide platforms and tools to support learning once the students  head home after school each day. Several companies provide what are called "learning management systems (LMS)". Our research lead us to Haiku which allows our 5th grade teachers and also Mr. Ros in 8th grade science to have a virtual classroom accessible at school and at home.

Our 5th graders logged into Haiku for the first time this week using their user names and newly created passwords. They found their "My Portal" home page listing the following information:

  • Their classes 
  • Calendar with a listing of important events and tasks
  • Announcements
  • Recent Activity (new assignments, events, added files, etc.)

As the year progresses, the teachers will use many of the tools embedded in Haiku to give students the opportunity to:

  • See their assignments (the same as in their planners)
  • Download files
  • Upload assignments
  • Ask questions for teacher and student responses
  • Post their responses to teacher posted questions
  • Access websites to support learning
  • View media
  • Work on collaborative projects

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Why Pilot a 1:1 Mobile Device Program?

One of the purposes of this blog is to provide answers to questions. Here are a couple. 

How are the students being prepared to use the iPads? Half the 5th grade are in the technology specials class and the other half are meeting with Mr. Carpenter in study hall. Some of the topics being covered are:
  • Smart password creation
  • Internet Safety and Privacy
  • Acceptable Use Policy
  • Using the apps of the iPad

Why pilot a 1:1 mobile device program?  It is a natural next step for ACDS as we already have a fully built out technology infrastructure that gives all our students easy access to computer labs, laptop and tablet carts along with computers in the classrooms. With our belief that learning should be individualized and that students should have all the tools at their finger tips to access and evaluate information to then produce projects that demonstrate their understanding, it stands to reason that we need to make the next step one to put a computer in the hands of each student. Each 5th grade student will be assigned an iPad that he/she will have access to throughout the school day. The iPads will remain at school with the students using their home computers to connect to online tools for collaboration and creativity.

A second motivation for the pilot is that we are teaching our students the skills to be learners ready for an ever changing world where they will need to be problem solvers understanding how to work in teams ready to innovate and communicate new ideas and approaches. These 21 century skills as developed by a consortium of corporate and governmental leaders outline a skill set that is very different than what was needed in the 20th century factory worker education model. To support this approach to teaching and learning, schools around the world are making the move to change the way they teach and to empower students with devices to support the attainment of these 21 century skills.

As news sources report from time to time, Singapore has been a leading nation for its innovation and willingness to adopt to changing needs. They started a program several years ago entitled "21C" where they incorporated the 21st century skills developed here in the US for their national curriculum. These skills are very similar to the ones we work to have our ACDS graduates attain. 

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Welcome to the iPad Pilot Blog

Welcome to the ACDS iPad Pilot blog. The purpose of this blog is to communicate how we use the iPads and other technologies to support and enhance teaching and learning at Alexandria Country Day School. This and future posts will provide information about our timeline for the iPad rollout, examples of classroom learning activities and answers to frequently asked questions. Our Technology Integration Specialist (TIS), David Carpenter, will manage the blog. There will also be posts by our 5th grade and specials teachers as they offer examples of how the iPad, various apps, and other web-based technologies are being used in their respective classes. Please email David (dcarpenter@acdsnet.org) with any questions.

In the next few weeks we will be working with students on the procedures and protocols for using the instructional software (apps) and educational websites as well as the iPads themselves. Fifth grade teachers will be using their iPads for instruction during many parts of the day. Students will use the iPads during their first science unit on the Solar System. This will give us an excellent opportunity to work closely with the students in a measured fashion to assure their comfort and success with the iPad and other technologies.

Here are some events and "to do's" that we have on our agenda as we begin the process of piloting the iPads:
·         Work with the students to review our school Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) to develop a section for their use of the iPads.
·         Teach the students how to create "smart" passwords for the Web 2.0 tools that we will be using. Parents will have access to the tools and passwords so they can easily access their child's work.
·         Set a date and time for the iPad parent orientation meeting.
·         Start sharing examples of instruction and student work supported by the iPad pilot program via this blog.
·         Set dates for meetings with students, teachers, parents, and administrators to gather feedback on the iPad pilot program.

Bookmark this blog site or subscribe to it in your RSS reader. New posts will be added to include FAQ responses, as well as information on how we are using the iPads in the 5th grade. We are looking forward to using this space as a place to celebrate the teaching and learning that is taking place in our ACDS community. And don't forget to email David Carpenter (dcarpenter@acdsnet.org) with any questions or ideas that can add to this discussion.