S.T.A.T. Teacher, Fort Garrison Elementary
Fort Garrison staff explore the question, "Why 1:1?"
Submitted by Maralee Clark
Principal, New Northwest Area ES (under construction)
This post originally appeared in TLC with Team Clark
Our Groundbreaking Ceremony is tomorrow! It will be a fabulous opportunity to thank everyone who contributed along the way to make sure our community has a PreKindergarten through Grade 5 elementary school to relieve the overcrowding in the northwest area of Baltimore County. Since our new community school building is designed with student-centered learning environments supporting our 1:1 personalized digital learning initiative, I had the opportunity to visit a school district in North Carolina that successfully navigated their way through digital transformation. Mooresville Graded School District’s Summer Connection was inspiring for me on so many levels. Sheer joy radiated from every MGSD staff member as I walked in the door, participated in learning sessions and chatted with their teachers. The MGSD administrators and teachers are role models for their district’s slogan “Every Child Every Day!” that is emblazoned on staff shirts proudly worn on a regular basis. Their wisdom and willingness to share their digital conversion journey has helped me to focus on what really matters – building relationships with students. Fostering innovation by setting the tone for student choice and student voice will create the cultural shift naturally.
Mooresville’s website is www.mgsd.k12.nc.us. Use your twitter account to check out #mgsd14 and @MGSDschools.
Submitted by Terry Guth
Kindergarten Teacher, Rodgers Forge Elementary
Rodgers Forge faculty members enjoyed the perfect event to celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of a new Lighthouse School year! Our Assistant Principal, Michele Rowland, had created a Lighthouse work of art at one of the local Painting events that have recently become so popular. When our principal, Missy Fanshaw, saw this she immediately came up with a wonderful plan for team building and an evening of fun. Arrangements were made to meet immediately following the Lighthouse Professional Development Day on August 11th. Each teacher followed the step by step directions of the artist in charge in order to create their own Lighthouse masterpiece. A great time was truly had by all. The paintings will be displayed in the school hallways so that students, parents, staff, and visitors can enjoy them. This will surely be a busy and exciting year for our faculty as we "forge" ahead with our Lighthouse School journey. The paintings will remind each of us of the very special evening that we shared as TEAM RFES. We are all in this together!
Submitted by Katie Schmidt
5th Grade Teacher, Rodgers Forge Elementary
With the excitement of being a Lighthouse School continuing to run high, staff members from Rodgers Forge Elementary recently participated in a fun-filled painting event, organized by our new Assistant Principal, Michele Rowland. Each staff member was presented with a blank canvas, and the group was guided step-by-step through the process of painting a lighthouse by an incredibly talented (and very patient) artist. Boy did we have a number of Pablo (and Pablette?) Picassos in this group! Many teachers are choosing to display this prized work of art in their classrooms at school for all to enjoy. RFES is certainly ready to kick this year off and shine their light to guide other schools along on this exciting journey.
Submitted by Mike Cooney
Third Grade Teacher, Mays Chapel Elementary
This post originally appeared in Mr. Cooney's Class
One of the common responses I get when I tell someone that I will be teaching at a school where each student has access to a digital device: “Do you think that is a good thing? I mean, don’t they spend enough time on computers already?” I will be writing a few blog posts that will attempt to explain why I do believe that yes, this is a good thing, despite the reservations that some may have. Most of the concerns I have heard stem from misconceptions about how students will be using the technology.
Some adults are skeptical, and it’s easy to see why. Kids already spend an average of 5-6 hours in front of a screen each day anyway. Do we really want to have them plugged in constantly?
The answer to that question is no, of course not. The students in my classroom will not be plugged in constantly, zoning out of this world and into cyberspace from 9 to 4. They will not be sent off to corners of the classroom to play math games and be taught by some app while I catch up on some of my own favorite sites.
Simply put, 1:1 does not mean that they will even have their devices on all the time. 1:1 means that the students and teachers will have access to technology to use when appropriate.
How do kids know when it is appropriate? That’s where the learning comes in.
To help illustrate my explanation, I’d like you to picture my favorite children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
During the first week of school, I always take the time to read this classic story. Most of the students usually have already heard it or read it before. I always ask them, “What is it about, then?” I then listen to someone’s summary (which always somehow winds up being longer than the book itself): “it’s about a boy named Max who chases his dog and yells at his mom and she calls him Wild Thing and he gets sent to bed…”
…and then we read it, discuss it, and surprise! This book is not just about a boy named Max. Just like The Giving Tree is not about a tree and The Phantom Tollbooth is not about a road trip. I don’t want to give it away to them just yet, but a part of me wants to say: the secret of WTWTA (and every other book you’ll ever read) is that…It’s about you.
Max is every child. He hates sitting still. He wants to explore. He wants to sail the ocean in a private boat and watch as his world transforms into a forest hanging with vines and branches. He wants to meet others like him, knowing that he is not quite like everyone else back home. He’s a wild thing.
Oh, and he still wants to come home every now and then and have his dinner waiting for him, so he can stay safe, sound, and well fed.
The thing is, though, Max doesn’t have a life that really allows for this. He’s crammed inside his house where he has nothing to do but chase his dog and play with a hammer.
So when he gets sent to his room, he imagines his whole place transforming into this new land where he can do what he’s meant to do. When he arrives by boat, he finds them there waiting for him: The Wild Things, with their terrible teeth and their terrible yellow eyes. They are his worst nightmare, ready to eat him up.
But then he learns to tame them and becomes their king. He leads them in doing what wild things are meant to do. This wild place is where he can be himself, if only for a short time.
I want my classroom to be that place. The highly customizable aspects of online and blended learning provide students with the opportunities to learn the way they want to learn — the way they learn best. Certain collaborative web tools will allow them to work with each other in ways they couldn’t before: at their own speed, on their own level, and, when appropriate, tailored to their interests and passions.
The thing is, though, the internet is a wild place. I’m not talking about the dangers of social media or certain websites. I’m talking about how much is out there: how kids have information thrown at them from every direction of the web. How each website will lead to another. How kids can (and sometimes will) get caught up in the recommendations that sites like Youtube will make for them, clicking on link after link until they are on the dark side of the internet where cat videos are everywhere.
So how do they learn to navigate it?
Max needed to step into the uncharted waters to get there. He needed to walk on land guarded by monsters. He needed to step up and take control. Like Max, our students need to learn how to use the resources that are out there, but first, they need to be given the opportunity (and responsibility) to have those tools available.
They need to learn how to tame the internet. They need to know how to select the tools that are appropriate for a task. They need to know where to look for information, where not to look, and how to evaluate the information they are receiving. They need to control and manage the knowledge they find. A huge part of teaching students now is preparing them to become better researchers and more innovative problem solvers because that is what our world demands of them. As teachers, we will serve as their guides every step of the way for any learning experience we provide for them.
And no, they aren’t going to be internet zombies lost in cyberspace. What does Max do in the end of the story? He goes home, that comfortable place where he finds his supper waiting for him. Because they will have such ownership of the information they receive from personalized learning experiences, our students will take their newly constructed knowledge and want to share it with others in their school and homes. It’s up to us as teachers and parents to provide a place to go where they can process and share their meaningful learning. That feeling they will get when they are teachingus and each other is even better than Max’s home cooked meal (and it was still hot.)
Submitted by Tressa Norris
Library Media Specialist, Joppa View Elementary
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy
We realize we cannot always do what has “worked” in the past, the present is what we think is working “now,” but the future holds endless technological possibilities for our students that we must stay connected and up-to-date with. As we continue into the 21st Century, we continue to grasp and grow with the technology changes that come our way. We have the privilege to become a Lighthouse School this year and cannot begin to imagine the instructional possibilities that lie ahead. We had the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the new devices and participate in a worthwhile professional development opportunities with which we learned applications and were able to collaborate with colleagues about the device roll-out process.
As a special area teacher, I envision my students collaborating and connecting with each other through digital applications that they are familiar with and already have become “experts” in. We are learning with our students and connecting on their technological level which will increase engagement and productivity. My curricular expectations and student participation, I foresee, will be met and exceeded exponentially through the use of the devices as our students in grades one through three will have equitable opportunities to access digital information.
Collaborating with classroom teachers will be met with ease as students will be able to continue and complete activities and instructional objectives in the classroom that pertain to what we are learning in the media center. I am excited and eager to begin this journey with students and colleagues!
Submitted by J. Scott Palmer
Principal, Joppa View Elementary
During the 2012 State of the Schools address, Dr. Dance introduced a new and exciting system-wide priority that would change the way students learn and how teachers present daily instruction. This would be accomplished through a multi-year instructional digital conversion and would focus on the integration of technology. With my interest piqued, I realized this new initiative would utilize my professional knowledge, as I have a background in technology and have always stressed the importance of technology during instruction as a way of meeting the various needs and learning styles of the Joppa View Elementary School (JVES) students. It would certainly be the perfect way to move Joppa View from a “good” school to a “great” school.
Early in 2013, I communicated my interest to participate in the Lighthouse Schools program to my faculty and staff to get a pulse on their interest level. Overwhelmingly, the teachers were interested and on-board. I could see the excitement in their eyes and a new-found spark in their step as this potential opportunity was the buzz in the hallways and the focus of discussion in the faculty room. I knew that there may be several staff members who would meet the opportunity with anxiety, fear, and the attitude of the program being “just one more thing to do,” (and I will be sure they have the resources and support they need to meet with success as we move forward); but overwhelmingly, my staff showed a great interest in becoming a Lighthouse School and gave me hope that we actually had a shot at this!
Soon after, my faculty completed the required interest inventory and showed that nearly 100% of my staff was on-board to proceed with the application process. Assistant principal, Kerry Flanigan, and I, moved quickly to highlight the many reasons JVES should be selected as a Lighthouse School and why our community is perfect for this experience.
I will never forget the day I was sitting in my office, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a gray SUV pull up to the front of the school. Out of the car bubbled a bouquet of balloons and the energy of Ryan Imbriale and several other BCPS representatives. I quickly jumped out of my chair and yelled “We’re a Lighthouse School!” The journey was just beginning.
Fast forward several months…Selecting a Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (S.T.A.T.) teacher and Teacher Leader Corps (TLC), working with Discovery Education coaches, creating and sharing a new JVES vision, experiencing the Lighthouse Summer Institute, and taking two trips to Mooresville, N.C…it has all been exciting and invigorating; the professional experience of a lifetime. It has also been very exciting to observe the delivery of all Lighthouse hardware and the installation of new short throw interactive LCD projectors, presentation boards, laptop carts, HP student devices, docking stations, and new monitors.
As of July 28, 2014, I have had some time to reflect on the implementation and professional development process and willingly share these thoughts: What an amazing time to be an educator. What an amazing time to be a part of Team BCPS. The students at JVES have the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of educational pedagogy. As we embark on this instructional digital conversion they will have the amazing chance to shape their own learning. What does this really mean for JVES students? Our students will have the opportunity to learn in a blended instructional environment and take ownership of how they learn best and how they meet grade level standards. In a nutshell, it will be a true learner-centered environment that will meet their instructional needs and empower them as learners.
We are laser-focused on student and teacher learning. The learning communities that we are developing for students, parents, and faculty of JVES will change the culture of our school and our community. Teachers will not be the sole disseminator of knowledge; the lines of who is the learner and who is the teacher will be blurred…for the better. We all have ideas to share and knowledge to demonstrate.
I am grateful for the opportunity, not only for myself, but more importantly for the students of JVES. Change can be scary, but it is very important and inevitable. The quote, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” by George Bernard Shaw, sums it up well. We will work extremely hard at JVES to change the minds or our students, staff, and parents; and in doing so, demonstrate the important work of Team BCPS and the Lighthouse Schools Initiative on a daily basis.
Submitted by Doug Elmendorf
Principal, Chase Elementary
This post originally appeared in EdTechReview
“If you never did, you should. Things are fun and fun is good.” – Dr. Seuss
At Chase Elementary School, we are about to embark on a transformational journey that will inevitably challenge some of our thoughts about the way we are used to doing business. Earlier this school year, our school was one of ten selected to “pilot interactive and blended instruction as a model demonstration site” (www.bcps.org) in the 2014-2015 school year. Part of the school selection process for these “Lighthouse Schools” included an anonymous survey of teachers to determine their level of buy-in for making the shifts associated with this initiative. An overwhelmingly positive response to this survey indicated that our collective mindset was poised to meet this challenge head on.
Although some preliminary PD has been done since the announcement of selected schools in January, the most significant changes will start in the fall, including a 1:1 device environment for students in grades 1-3 and visits from other schools and organizations. Rather than sit on our hands and wait for this change to happen to us in September, we have used this time of transition to challenge our staff to consider what our school culture should look like in order to navigate the impending changes in the most effective and, as the quote above implies, FUN ways possible. I know some of us have trouble thinking of the words “change” and “fun” in the same sentence, but we are committed to making these two ideas co-exist throughout our Lighthouse experience so that change isn’t something that happens to us, but is a wave that we ENJOY riding toward a brighter future.
We know that the concepts of change and fun go together like oil and water for many people, so we asked our staff to consider looking at change from a different perspective – a child’s! For children, change can be pleasing (nothing better than a changed diaper!) and even downright exhilarating. Few things are more exciting for a teenager than when he changes his status from passenger to that of a driver. We are challenging our teachers to deliberately develop a culture of FUN and excitement as we journey, with our students, through a significant transformation in the coming school year.
In order to “lead purposeful change in order to maximize learning goals” (ISTE, 2014) and cultivate an environment that will allow us to truly enjoy the newness of this experience, we knew it was critical to determine what our current culture looked like to us and what it communicated to others. Sure, this could have been done through a series of surveys, but we didn’t want to be boring in an effort to develop a culture that is exciting. Instead, we asked teachers to walk around their classrooms and the school with digital cameras and take pictures of the signage, student work, and other things on the walls. Realizing that school culture is, in some ways, shaped by the things we don’t normally notice, we “walked” through school-related Tweets, our Facebook page, newsletters, and our website. We asked ourselves, “what non- verbal messages are we sending to our stakeholders (parents, students, OURSELVES, etc.)?”
This coming fall, we hope to extend this activity by printing the pictures we took (or using apps like PicCollage or PhotoGrid to make a collage). Then, we’ll write down our impressions of these photos on sticky notes (or annotate the collages digitally). We want to know - Do our messages convey unity or division? Equity or partiality? Do they communicate a desire to meet the needs of all of our learners or just the majority? Is there any FUN embedded in our messaging? Does what we hang on our walls indicate that we are teacher-centered or learner-centered?
The changes ahead will be exciting, for sure, but they will also be frustrating or anxiety provoking, at times. We’ll need to commit, together, to find joy in all of the ups and downs, because things are fun and fun is good.
Reflections from teachers, administrators, and students at the Lighthouse Schools.