Children are likely to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners as a result of being provided with an engaging curriculum; a safe, caring community in which to discover and create; and a significant degree of choice about what (and how and why) they are learning. ~ Alfie Kohn
Where there are challenging times, there are also opportunities. When the NYS Education Department cancelled the Regents exams, I knew there was an opportunity to address the constraints that many teachers feel around preparing students for a predictable, yet anxiety provoking summative assessment that occurs at the end of every June. I challenged them to teach how they always wanted to and to engage students by making learning real, not just relevant... to have fun! Empower students by providing voice and choice... and shift from traditonal to authentic assessments.
After Week 9... I sent the faculty the following request:
Below are just several examples of student work, explanations from our amazing teachers, and anecdotes about learning from our incredible students. What you will see is that learning can be deeper, more exciting, and real when we empower our students. Our challenge is to remember what is working and carry that momentum into the next school year.
The examples below are a representation of amazing things going on in our "virtual" classrooms and in the homes of our students. Intrinsic motivation increases, when students own their own learning... Our clubs are meeting as well as, as is our student organization and class officers. School buildings may be closed, but we continue to seize the opportunity to making learning real!
Theater & Dance
One of the things that I worried about over the past couple of months doing remote learning was how to still be able to take "performance" classes and still keep them exciting. I think the fact that my students are able to be so vulnerable, and that they trust each other, is what allowed our classes to still do similar things on video as opposed to in school.
I really wanted them to be comfortable in front of the camera and the trust we built as a class really helped. The students are presenting, acting scenes, doing improv activities, working out, and dancing together!
One thing I really wanted to give them was choice. By giving them choices for projects, such as choreographing a dance number, writing a proposal to put on a show, set/costume and lighting design, creating theatre lesson plans (for our future teachers) and writing scripts/monologues, this allowed them to choose what they wanted to focus on and they were excited to create and share with us!
It makes me so happy and excited to see their faces and know that their passion for theatre and dance can still be exciting- even through a screen. Can't wait to be back together again!
-Ms. Oliveri (@AislinnOliveri)
The Webex (face-to-face) meetings with students have been awesome. The attendance has been great. I am constantly inspired by the students. They are present and willing to share. Of course some are having difficulties but even those students 'show up' for the class meetings.
Here are few of my and my students favorite assignments.
Please check out the link below.
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/scientists-have-turned-structure-coronavirus-music (Links to an external site.)
Scientist set the structure of Coronavirus protein to music. Which protein did they use?
What aspect of the structure did they use to set to music? Give some details.
But why would you set a virus to music?
I am looking forward to hear your impressions of music in our next class meeting. Please answer the above three questions either as text or upload your answers in a pdf file.
Many students were surprised at how calming the music was. The students were surprised to see that by combining totally different fields (music and science) that scientist could learn about the structure of this protein.
The Crown Education Challenge theme is:
Hope during a pandemic.
There are three tracks; Art, STEM, and Writing. Your choice! Do not feel obligated to choose STEM.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting millions of lives worldwide. Schools are closing, cities are locking down, and the economy is slowing. During this difficult time, we must remain hopeful. The Crown Education Challenge aims to encourage students to take a stake in this global challenge by responding to the theme of “hope during a pandemic.” The challenge is open for entries until June 15, 2020 at 11:59 PM PST. Please read the challenge rules (Links to an external site.) for more information. If you have any questions, visit the FAQ (Links to an external site.) page or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Assignments 2 and 3 are included because when I introduced these assignments, the students were very excited. Immediately sharing ideas and thinking about working in groups for at-home science (see examples above).
For hope during a pandemic, one of the students is planning on creating a dance to the cornoavirus music from the first assignment.
I heard the beginnings of rap songs, seen sketches of drawings and comic strips, and heard the beginnings of a story or scene from a play. I cannot wait to see the submissions.
In addition I have attached a presentation video that I ask the Advanced Research II students to upload.
- Dr. McGlade-McCulloh (@ellenmc2)
Chemistry & Physics
Physics and Chemistry teachers collaborated to create a group project for students to complete in lieu of a final exam. Students could choose who they would like to work with as well as what they wanted to do and how they were going to demonstrate their understanding. The groups choose a topic that they learned about this year (see project description below). Then they choose ONE of the following media (see project description below) to express the information and concepts from the assigned unit. There is a grading rubric attached as well.
-Mr. Musumeci (@Mrmusumeci_MHS)
-Mrs. Adamski (@mrsadamski1)
Project examples include a children's story, demonstration videos, comic strips, and a song.
Below is my Choice Week Project and some of the assignments I received from my student's. I wish I could send them all, it was the most responsive project to date and I was so impressed, and entertained while viewing their submissions!
- Ms. Gross (@MsGross_MHS)
The student and teacher work included in this post are a result of good questions, coupled with a lot of creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking... and this is only a sample. It is time to keep the momentum going and continue to seize the opportunity to make learning real. These skills, along with a sense of community, are the ones that students need right now.
Finally, I leave you with a quote from Tom Murray (@thomascmurray) and a tweet from Mrs. Erika Meza (@MrsMezaMHS) to remind you that as we continue to push toward modern learning and the important skills our students need, we must always remember that remote or live, teaching and learning is all about relationships...
A picture is worth a thousand words. During these unprecendented times, I started to crowd source images from around my community that not only depict the difficulties and extreme struggles felt by many, but also the amazing way our region has come together and helped each other. There is still a lot of good to see in the world... help me add to this journal with pictures from your community!
Be Safe & Stay Healthy!
In high schools across New York State there is always talk of the Regents Exam. This exam has been the focus of teachers since 1878 when the first high school exams were given. On April 6, 2020, that changed... at least for the time being.
Now what? I think we now have the unique opportunity to focus on learning, not the test anymore. While we rely soley on remote learning opportunities... our ability to leverage technology will certainly accelarate our ability to focus on student agency. Some cynics will say that without a Regents Exam, the students will not be motivated anymore, they're going to "check out." I don't think so. Instead, I believe we need to seize this opportunity and engage our students. Remember that first and foremost we teach students, then we teach content... and remember, children are naturally curious, want to make connections, and desire learning things that are relevant to them; things that are real.
Now is the time to leverage creation tools. Whether it is a product to create or a problem to solve, allow students to determine how they demonstrate and share their learning.
Now is the the time to shift the paradigm as we are not going to take high stakes, multiple choice tests! Lets do what we've always wanted to do... make learning fun!
Remote learning (also called distance learning) requires increased student agency where students will work on their own and at their own pace. Digital technology gives students the ability to continue learning outside of the classroom as well as opportunities to learn from peers, share thoughts, read, watch videos, and interact virtually. Furthermore, it allows the teacher to take on more of a facilitative role while empowering students through self-paced, self-directed learning.
On Your Own & Guided Learning Time (Asynchronous)
Asynchronous learning will occupy the majority of learning for students. This will occur through Canvas, our Learning Management System. Students will receive lessons, videos, assignments and learning activities through this platform that will be supplemented with the use of Mathspace and Actively Learn. Additionally, teachers may employ the use of the "tools to increase engagement" listed below.
Canvas - our Learning Management System (LMS) will house and distribute announcements, content, assignments, discussions, and videos. Watch the video here to learn how to stay organized with remote learning.
Actively Learn - subject area reading resources with built in supports and progress monitoring tools for teachers
Mathspace - Interactive, standards and topic aligned math work with built in supports
Tools to Increase Engagement
We are well poised to continue to use the tools that we have become accustomed to that increase student engagement and promote collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.
The Google suite of apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides) that are part of our workspace accounts in addition to the apps below are just some of the ways our students will continue to stay connected and engaged in the learning process. All of our students have access to our KidOYO platform as well. Computer science students will have assignments and all others are welcome to contiue working on their digital portfolios and additional learning pathways. Of course, this is not an inclusive list, rather just some of the ways that learning will continue to be meaningful for students.
Visit over 500 art museums & galleries around the world
Curb Your Sports Hunger: Top Sports Movies on Netflix Right Now
20 Screen Free Things to do with Your Kids [or yourself] Indoors When School is Closed
Art BINGO (created by Bethany Nugent)
Visit 12 Famous Museums offering Virtual Tours
Yoga with Adriene
3/17/20 - Remote Learning Letter to Families
3/20/20 - Update
3/27/20 - Update
4/4/20 - Update
4/7/20 - Update
4/9/20 - AP Testing Updates
4/10/20 - Update
4/17/20 - AP Update #2
4/17/20 - Update
4/24/20 - Update
4/30/20 - AP Update #3 (AP Testing Guide / Exam Day Checklist for Students)
5/2/20 - Update
5/9/20 - Update
5/16/20 - Update
5/18/20 - AP Update #4
5/22/20 - Update
To sum up my time at Ted-Ed, I am always inspired by our students when we give them the opportunity to explore their passions. We must continue to amplify student voice and provide increased opportunities to provide choice in terms of learning. Congratulations to Jennifer Moglia and thank you to Lindsay Audiino, Bette Sloane, and the entire Ted-Ed team for cultivating a rich student centered program that celebrates the power of our youth. As our hosts from Ted-Ed reminded us, “The youth are changing the world... now.”
Below are my notes and takeaways from my learning at EDspaces2019. The conference, held in Milwaukee, WI this year, "the place where technology, space, and pedagogy converge." It was a great opportunity to see learning environments and hear from expert designers, architects, and educators.
Outdoor Learning in an Early Childhood setting
Nate Bosch - Landscape architect with GMB
European Forest schools - in Chicago Illinois as well
Richard Louv - Pioneer of connecting back to nature
academic environments becoming treatment spaces
Little Hawks school - Holland, MI
21st Century Workplace Competencies: How can design shape student success?
mentoring influences) brought him to several conclusions, among them were that the skills you need to succeed in a competitive academic environment are not related to innovation era.
What must we do differently to prepare students for the innovation era?
Next, Wagner identified 5 contradictions in education:
When I recently drove across the Throgs Neck Bridge and noticed that the toll booths had been replaced by fancy overhead structures with cameras and flashing lights, I couldn’t help but wonder… what happened to the toll takers?
If you do a Google image search, you will have difficulty finding any pictures that document the removal of the booths… they just disappeared; well, not exactly (as you can see I don't get out much). If you do travel that road every day and see the change happening, then it is not such a surprise. However, as someone who does not regularly travel over the bridge, and many don't, I woke up one morning, drove over the bridge from Long Island, and realized the landscape has changed; and with it, many jobs that used to exist.
I think of this as a metaphor for education. If we don’t look at the changes that are happening around us and do something to prepare our students while educating our communities, then change will always come as a surprise.
As a high school principal, it is important to me that we seek change and offer opportunities for our students that prepare them for the world outside of our schools. We must continue to innovate and prepare students for a “modern world,” a world where our students will face opportunities and challenges that are developing at a rapid pace. If you notice, I chose the term “modern world’ purposefully as we are nearly 20 years into the 21st century. The skill sets that students need today and the jobs that will be available for them are drastically different than the world I grew up in.
2022 Skill Outlook
Source: Innovate Inside the Box (information taken from the World Economic Forum)
This should lead us to think differently about the purpose of school and the goals we have for ourselves and for our students. How are we preparing our students?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us and we cannot simply focus on the basics or rote learning. Simply knowing the facts isn’t enough. We must remain, as my drive over the Throgs Neck Bridge demonstrated, ready for change or we risk becoming irrelevant, or worse... obsolete.
“Our job is not to prepare students for something. Our job is to help students prepare themselves for anything.” - AJ Juliani (Empower)
So... back to Sunday evening. The Special Olympics opened the evening with a reception that featured a series of writable glass walls in aa large conference room space where participants could add their response to the question, "What does inclusion mean to you?" We also had the opportunity to talk to representatives and teachers who explained the Unified Chamption Schools program. After the reception, it was time to start planning the week. Just to put this conference into perspective, the schedule is a 164 page with a table of contents. There are so many choices, it is overwhelming. There is even an app to help you organize your day.
I started the day with a walking tour of Austin. It began early and we saw several sites such as William Sydney Porter's home. For those of you who don't know him, he has written many stories including The Gift of the Magi and The Ransom of Red Chief to name two under the name O. Henry. It was cold and I cut the tour short... but not before learning that the guide works for a company called Tipster Tours. This company takes people on free, no reservation, walking tours in cities around the country. From their website, "You pay what you like after the walk. You decide. We truly believe that if we do our best to create a great experience for people…without demanding anything in return…good things happen. Positive energy is created, which is beneficial to all!" So Cool!
Back at the conference, I decided that a good place to start was at the "First Time to SXSW EDU Meet Up." This session was packed and led by Dan Ryder (@WickedDecent) and Lakita Edwards (@ArtsHumana). The session was packed with newcomers like me and the facilitators provided opportunities for us to meet and talk.
Additionally, they shared tips like:
" Connect, Reflect, and Have Fun! "
Well, after a crazy day one, I did some reflection. I perused the catalog and scaled down my expectations... not my expectattions for learning, but rather than breadth, I wanted depth.
My Day Two Schedule:
This attitude led him to become an at NASA, an organization he said, works really well together. From there, he experienced tremendous challenges, including losing his hearing in a pool training exercise, that he overcame to be able to make several space flights. He encouraged the audience to use what kids love in order to teach them more effectively. His website, lelandmelvin.com has more about his current work as well as many inspiring videos. Don't forget to check out the "stupid astronaut tricks." And finally, don't forget the "man in the yellow hat" from Curious George who symbolically represents the people in your life you constant lift you up and are there for you.
Day 3 was going to be a day of networking with educators, visiting the vast exhibit hall, seeing several speakers , and then engaging in two hands-on workshops.
"Limits force us to rethink how we are working and push us to new heights of creativity."
Finally... The exhibit hall was vast and featured everything from start-ups to colleges and universities, new technology products, furniture, and a mobile fab lab. Several of my stops included:
Jennifer's full presentation can be seen here: https://youtu.be/3s_NkSEWJZg
The Restaurants & Culture
Some new books for the reading list:
I have been a firm believer in the power of social media for quite some time now. I am an avid Twitter and Instagram user in both my personal and professional lives and have encouraged my colleagues to "tell their story" via Twitter at our high school.
We have been very successful at telling our story and "virtually" opening up our school to our community... and world. We have also made connections... the purpose of this post.
I love hearing from our teachers about the professional learning networks (PLNs) they have become a part of. I love my own PLN and have grown so much from the connections I have made. It is easy to stay isolated, but we are better together.
In our school, we are connected! We are able to share our own work, values, interests, celebrations, and the amazing accomplishments of our students both inside and outside of the classroom. We are able to connect our community to our school in ways that were previously inconvceivable... that is redefining learning.
We can also grow professionally in real time. By following each other as well as other practitioners and researchers we no longer have to wait for professional development to come to us. We can create our own, anytime, anywhere. And... when you meet new people, because face to face connections are equally if not more important, you are able to keep that connection active through social media... all the time.
So... if you are not on Twitter (or Instagram for that matter), it’s time to connect. Social media is powerful!
follow me @whittneysmith_ and our high school @mineolahs
Whittney Smith, Ed.D.
Dr. Smith is the Principal of Mineola High School in Garden City Park, NY. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Ruth Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University.