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."
The Power of Words
1. Scenario 1: Race
2. Scenario 2: Sexuality
3. Scenario 3: Religion
4. Scenario 4: Disability
Our Adelphi partnership flourished over the spring semester and with the support and partnership of Diana Feige, Ed.D., Clinical Associate Professor and Melanie Bush, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology we created an amazing day of dialogue where over sixty Mineola High School students met with Adelphi students to discuss issues of race in society.
The dialogue was rich and honest. It was all we hoped it would be and more. It was empowering for the high school as well as college students and what we hope is the beginning of a powerful partnership in this area of our students' education.
The theme for the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) 80th Annual Conference focused on building bridges within the STEM community and beyond. Building bridges helps everyone to understand the important role technology and engineering contributes to STEM education.
We began with a Padlet as a needs assessment so that we could make sure that we met the learning targets of our attendees. We then transitioned to a look at Mineola's PK-12 use of Engineering Design Thinking which includes a comprehensive and vertically articulated embedding of coding, computer science, robotics, and makerspaces. The themes of each grade were articulated and the thoughtfulness of the scaffolded skills that build on each other as students advance through the school system were demonstrated with examples of the programs that all of our students are afforded.
K-2: Choice and Exploration
3-4: Invention and Design
5-7: Iteration and Innovation
8-12: Collaboration and Production
"Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating."
The tour that day ended in the office of Kaleb Rashad, Director of High Tech High. Dr. Rashad shared his experiences of working with a committed group of educators who are engaging in Project Based Learning aimed at engaging students in real-world problems. We talked about budgets, time management, leadership, and commitment to the work of school. It is always rewarding to be able to converse with passionate educators and Kaleb's energy was incredible. His book collection was impressive as well!
The Keynote speakers kicked off the conference with a presentation on Adaptive Implementation, the focus on education practice improvements in an existing setting. AI applies design engineering principles to the work of improving education. Design engineering is a decision-making process, often iterative, that applies knowledge and experience to achieve a stated objective. They shared their book as well as the five steps of the process and key questions:
I began class with a traditional presentation to illustrate several points that I think we often miss the mark with. They include the seven survival skills for careers, college, and citizenship (figure 1). I wanted students to know that they cannot be passive learners any more and that skills that they need are often not taught in traditional high school classes.
They need to answer many difficult questions and go through some time consuming processes but, the end goal will be a functioning pop-up store with an online presence.
On the second day of school, each subject area will spend time with a specific App (Figure 2) that we use as an integral part of our structure. While students are accustomed to using the iPad from middle school, learning the new structure will help set everyone up for success.
iTunesU houses our digital curriculum. Our students will be downloading their courses that have materials including videos that will help if they don't understand something from class. They are organized by unit.
Edmodo is our communication tool. Our students and parents will be able to join their teachers' classes and receive information about upcoming assignments, tests, quizzes, etc. parents will hear more about this at Open House
eBackpack is a workflow solution. Students can access their course materials in iTunes U and bring them into eBackpack to mark up. Students can save them in their own files or return them to a teacher when an “assignment” turn in is created.
Mathspace provides students with adaptive work aligned to the courses they are taking in high school. Teachers are able to see every step their students complete as well as access a class dashboard of performance data. This will help to personalize learning and intervene where students are struggling.
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.