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
Have you ever wondered what an English Language Learner feels like... how much work it is to learn a new language in school? Well, I got a small taste of it when Ms. Gutierrez handed me a letter in Spanish.
I certainly know that it does not compare to coming to a new country and entering a school where the majority of people speak English, but nonetheless, it made me nervous. She told me she wrote it in Spanish because her best thinking and expression is done that way. Should I ask someone to translate it for me? I though about that... it would be easy. Someone else would do the work for me. But, that is not what our students do when I walk into their classes. That is not how you learn. Our students use their resources such as changing the language in settings on their iPad, finding Spanish resources online, using the camera and the translate app to decipher the language, and just plain struggling until they get it. They have determinition, they have passion, and they have grit. They also have wonderful teachers who support them and understand that struggling is where the learning occurs.
So, for me... how could I take the easy way out? I started by trying to read the letter. After all, I did take Spanish in high school and did fairly well. That did not work. While I could read many of the words on the page, I could not read enough of them to make meaning. So, I opened up the translate app and held my iPad above the page to capture the words on the page. That didn't work. Translate does not read handwriting.
I had to understand the letter... I had to make meaning of the words; so I decided to type the letter, as written in Spanish, into Google Docs. I knew then that I could use the "translate document" feature. So I did it... word after word I retyped the letter. What a reward when I had the computer translate my Spanish typing into English. It wasn't perfect, as we all know, but it enabled me to make meaning of a document that I otherwise would not have been able to read.
In the end, I learned so much about my own learning. Educators call this metacognition... I call it knowing what to do when you don't know what to do. I also learned so much about our students and how having a growth mindset is so important in learning, especially when the learning is difficult.
Thank you Ms. Gutierrez, not only for your kind and inspirational words, but for being their for our students and always inviting me into your classroom so see the great learning taking place.
Thank you students for inspiring me through your hard work and determination for it is those traits that are more important that natural ability!
"Believing in yourself and fighting for your dreams is what enables you to live each day and face every obstacle."
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.