I really wanted to put my students first. I know that, personally, I’m more comfortable reading and working on my couch at home. I decided to bring that homey feeling to my classroom. Students are comfortable in choosing their seats and they freely move from different areas. They choose the standing table, yoga balls, gamer chairs, tires, couches, etc. based on their needs. According to one student, Tariq, “With being able to move around, you have more responsibility. When you find your spot where you can focus more, you can get your work done.” The overall responsibility of the students has changed. They work harder and they keep their areas clean and organized. They love the power they have to choose. They hold each other to the expectations we set early in the year. They are relaxed and comfortable and more engaged in every aspect of our day. Another student, Myana, believes “You can be comfortable in here for learning. It’s unique.”
In my classroom, it is uncommon for me to be teaching one kind of learner. I work with many different grade levels and students of varying abilities. You see, I am a special education teacher. There are only two of us in my building. Each year I have a different set of kids and am learning a different curriculum. At times when these students are all in a classroom at once, it is difficult to find new ways to keep them engaged in our lessons. With the devices, I can make a whole group lesson for them to follow on their own active inspire lesson. They enjoy having the control in their hands. I also utilize the devices as a way to work with each of my students in a one on one setting.
Much of my role and time is used to work with the students on their individual goals. To do this I use the device as a center in my classroom. I can either use games (relating to our whole group lesson) or individualize some Wixie or ActivInspire for the students to complete on their own (or in a group) while I rotate working with students individually on a reteach or goal work.
In the beginning of the year, the students need time to get used to doing certain technological things independently. At the end of last year I really saw the students’ confidence rise in completing their independent work independently.
Many of the students I serve have OT and/or weaknesses in their writing ability. Having the device at their fingertips in the classroom environment has gained them access to so much more.
When I think about where my students will be in the future, I think that they will be able to use typing and technology to compensate for some of their other weaknesses. If and when they can learn to type, this will be an amazing way for them to contribute to our real world. I do practice with them focusing on staying in their “home base” with their fingers. They slowly exercise those fingers in order to type certain letters in isolation. I know the more the feel more comfortable with it, it will get easier for them. With the typing program and programs such as word Q (word prediction software), it really makes learning accessible to more kinds of learners that we service. I only hope to learn more with this technology as it is changing every day. I know how the kids feel when they have to learn something new. I try and remember that as I learn each day.
I wanted to provide students with a means of individualized instruction where I could be a facilitator to each student, but all at the same time. By making my instruction more accessible through the use of the Office Mix add-on in Power Point, I feel I can meet the needs of all students and by engaging them in the instructional process.
The students began this lesson with an exploration activity about acceleration and velocity. As they completed the assignment, students were asked to combine their conceptual knowledge with mathematical modeling, so they watched and listened to the Office Mix (narrated with screen shots) Power Point to review these concepts. Students who needed more help had access to additional resources, and students who understood the ideas could skip on ahead.
Based on the data provided through questions answered by students using Kahoot, I divided students into small groups. One group worked with me while the other students engaged in resources from a list I provided based on their learning needs (Brain Pop w/ questions, Discovery Ed video w/ questions, or BBC interactive w/ questions). For their assessment, students had to apply and explain these concepts in a real world scenario.
Use of these tech resources, especially the Office Mix Power Point, promoted cognitive engagement as all students were getting what they needed, and I wasn’t holding anyone back as they were working at their own pace.
On November 2nd and 3rd, superintendents from all over the United States and professionals from the world of education and educational technology gathered in Baltimore County schools as part of the League of Innovative Schools 2016 Fall Meeting. BCPS co-hosted the event with Digital Promise. The purpose of the meeting was for school and educational leaders to collaborate on shared priorities in providing access and opportunity for all students. Windsor Mill Middle School was fortunate to be selected as one of two schools to highlight the STAT 1:1 Learner-Centered Environment initiative. Student participation was central to the success of the two-day event, and students at WMMS proudly served as BCPS Ambassadors to their guests. Students launched the event by welcoming visitors as they arrived by bus. Student Guides led small groups on Learning Walk tours of classrooms. Guide Khalil Davis said, “I like to meet new people, and today I had the chance to do that.” Selvin Gonzalez reflected that he was proud to show off Windsor Mill. “I could see on the faces of the visitors that they were amazed at what they saw.” To close the day, a Student Panel eloquently described their journey in a Lighthouse school to the audience of educators. Eighth grader Alesha Pryor said participating on the panel gave her an opportunity to hone her skills in speaking in front of a large audience, and for that she was grateful.
Mr. Park, 8th grade ELA teacher at Windsor Mill Middle School, opened the world of inquiry and technology to his students in the form of Genius Hour, a movement that provides students the opportunity to explore their interests and passions. Tech firm, Google, a leader in the movement, allows its employees to spend 20% of their time pursuing an idea that inspires them. More than half of their new products have been generated as a result of the practice. Gmail and Google news are just two examples of the fruits of Google’s Genius Hour. Google’s philosophy is simple: give people time to work on an idea that interests them, and productivity will go up. Mr. Park brought the philosophy into his classroom by providing students the time and structure to pursue a question they had. Students delved into issues about mental and emotional health and race relations. Park videotaped students presenting the ‘first draft’ of their presentations and sent them the link, pairing it with a rubric for self-assessment. Using their personal videos, students critiqued their performances and reworked their projects and presentations as needed. The Genius Hour projects have has taken on a life of their own; Windsor Mill students will use the research discovered by a student on anger as the text for an upcoming school-wide Socratic Seminar.
Teachers and students at Rodgers Forge Elementary have embraced their new MakerSpace in a number of different ways. One way in which this space is being used is by two student book clubs that meet weekly. The fourth and fifth grade student book club is being facilitated by Mrs. Karrie Cook, and the third grade student book club is being facilitated by Mrs. Katie Schmidt. Both groups previously voted on a book of their choice to read, and they use the materials in the MakerSpace each week to work on a meaningful project relating to these texts.
Fifth grader Colin Kenney is reading the award-winning novel The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, with several other students. “I really enjoy reading this book because of the format, how it’s written in really short sections. I also like how it’s connected to sports. In the MakerSpace we’ve been creating our own robots that we will program to do different tasks. This connects to the nonfiction text we read a few weeks ago in book club called Robots.” This activity also gave the students some practice investigating how things work, as they are about to begin a STEM activity connected to The Crossover. Others in the fourth and fifth grade book club are currently reading I Funny by James Patterson.
All third grade students in the club chose to read Patrick Skene Catling’s, The Chocolate Touch. As they read, they are working on creating models of their own version of Hershey Park’s “Chocolate World” ride, relating to a subject of their choice. For example, third grader Liam McAvinue is creating an “Anvil World” ride, where he will inform riders about how anvils are made and used, while Elaina Razon-Fernandez is creating “Cupcake World” to take riders through the process of how cupcakes are made.
Submitted by Stacy Siegel, Reading Specialist
Morgan R. and Chris B., 5th Grade Students
Fort Garrison Elementary School
Our school got 1:1 devices for all students in grades 1-3 two years ago. School was very different before computers. When it came time for tests, we had to use paper and pencil. It was a lot harder because it took longer, when writing a BCR there is no spell check, and it really hurt your hand because you had to write so very much. In addition, prior to computers, we did not have access to math websites to help us in math. Finally, before computers, we did not have BCPS One which allows us to see our grades and know which grades/classes we need to improve.
Now that we have computers, it really makes school so much easier and fun. Morgan has a student in her class who is from another country. Her class uses Google Translate to communicate with this student. This student also uses different websites to help her with her English. Chris really enjoys using DreamBox and ABCya!. DreamBox helps him improve his math skills and lets you play games and have fun while using it. ABCya! is one of his favorites as well because you can play math games. Morgan really loves to write and enjoys using Microsoft word to write her essays. She feels limited when having to use paper. Morgan likes the variety of homework that teachers can assign using the technology rather than worksheets. Chris enjoys when his Science teacher, Ms. Gill, uses Kahoot to review for tests and quizzes. Morgan enjoys using PowerPoint to make presentations to show to the class. Chris uses Destiny to help improve his reading skills as well. Overall, technology has really helped us learn and made school a lot more fun!
Submitted by Mike Cooney
5th Grade Teacher, Mays Chapel Elementary School
One misconception that we often hear about students using computers is that the 1:1 devices take away from the important social and emotional learning usually found in elementary school. The idea is that children who are sitting in front of a computer all day are isolating themselves within a digital world.
At Mays Chapel, I have found that the opposite is true. Collaboration is happening more often than ever. Students can often be found sitting close together, devices open, talking about what they have learned.
The STAT program has never been solely about the devices. It has never been about giving the students a computer and having them work independently for the majority of their school day. STAT is about the transformation of teaching and learning. It’s about making learning more accessible to students. It’s about giving students choices. It’s about preparing them for the future by making them problem solvers and creators. When students have these choices and opportunities, they are actually more likely to want to share their ideas with others.
Samantha Amato, a third grade teacher at Mays Chapel, notices the effect that her devices have on her students’ interest and engagement. “Seeing their work in a digital format gives students and audience and makes the work more authentic, so they are more likely to want to collaborate on a project because of the pride they have in their work.” As a result, human interaction and collaborative connections are not replaced by technology; they are fostered by it.
So how do students at Mays Chapel communicate and share their ideas? Several traditional cooperative learning techniques are used and enhanced by the opportunities the technology provides.
Jigsaw method: In my classroom, for example, there might be a time when the students are working in a group on something, such as a research project. Each group member might be responsible for a different aspect of the research. Using tools like OneNote for notes, students can then bring their devices to easily share what they have learned to their collaborative group. The devices make this easier because of their compactness; anything they would want to show their partners or classmates is right in front of them. Switching back and forth from notes to resources allows the students to share how they got their information for clarification.
Collaborating in person with devices: Mrs. Amato often has her students working in small groups with each child on his or her own device. “One student might have a text resource open, while another student has the product they are working on open on a separate device.” While students all have their own devices, occasionally it is easier for students to use one centralized computer to gather or record information. This allows the students to become more familiar with tools and resources that they might not be ready to use independently.
Using tech tools to collaborate: If you were to ask any teacher at Mays Chapel which tools he or she uses the most in the classroom, the answers would not consist of computer games. Instead, the most common tech tools we use encourage collaboration and communication: Padlet, Kidblog, OneNote’s collaborative space, just to name a few. The technology makes sharing easier with tools like these that update in real time as students compose and edit responses. After the students share their ideas online, face to face whole group and small group discussions are often used to further share and refine the ideas that were shared online, giving the students more opportunity to communicate with each other.
When the technology is placed in the hands of every student and teacher, we as teachers must give the students even more opportunities to work together. Our students are realizing that tech tools do not replace quality teaching and learning; they enhance it.
Kara Delenick’s 6th grade classroom is one of a kind. In June, Principal Harvey Chambers tweeted a challenge to teachers and a picture of a room with no desks from ISTE: Create this look in your classroom—first teacher to tweet back wins funding. Delenick won the challenge and immediately began scouring Pinterest and kindergarten catalogs for seating arrangements and furniture ideas. By the first day of school, Delenick’s room was a collection of high and low tables, squishy seats and stools, cushions and boogie board, and only 3 desks—two of which were used to charge devices. She repurposed items from her first year as a lighthouse teacher, covering a table with whiteboard contact paper and wrapping it with tie-dyed duct tape. Two months into the school year, Delenick says, “The room works because there is no front, no point of focus, so it doesn’t matter where students congregate. Students take ownership of their space, and they have pride in it. They always return the furniture and materials.” She has also noticed that each of her classes is unique in how they use the furniture. Students gather in a different area and use the furniture in different places. Students rarely sit in the same spot every day. They also like to move the furniture around to see if there is a new and fun arrangement. Her deskless room makes it easy for students to collaborate and determine their own groups. “I am always looking for things to add to our room to spice it up,” Delenick added. “Students gravitate toward new furniture. They figure out how to use it.”
Submitted by Lindsay Montanye
5th Grade Teacher, Fort Garrison Elementary School
As a first year teacher, working in a county that has been so technologically advanced has truly been a blessing. I just recently graduated from Salisbury University, and I was actually required to take a class about how to use technology in the classroom. I also took many classes through Salisbury’s Education Program that enabled me and showed me how to make the most of the technology in my classroom. Going from the college experience to actually being a classroom teacher means that I get to apply everything I learned in college to my classroom, teaching, and students.
I am very happy and thrilled to be teaching 5th grade at Fort Garrison Elementary School, a Lighthouse School. Working in a Lighthouse School gives me endless opportunities and possibilities in the sense of how I teach the material given to me in Baltimore County’s curriculum. Each one of my students has had and used their own device on a daily basis for three years now. This means they are well versed in how to use their device properly and effectively. My students are so great at using their devices that they even run to my side if I am ever having trouble working my technology. Also, in the case that we have a student who is new to our Lighthouse School and new to devices in general my students are so remarkable at teaching the new student how to work a device that it brings me a sense of peace.
My 5th grade students use their devices in a countless number of ways daily. For example, they go on Dreambox to practice their math skills, they use Discovery Education and BrainPop for research projects, and more. Since I teach 5th grade, my students are very independent learners and love to have opportunities to explore their own learning. I make the most of this independence by assigning them lesson tiles with links, files, directions, and more that students will need throughout a lesson. I also make a chart each day with each reading group’s rotations and post it to a lesson tile so students can work at their own pace and be informed as to what they have to get done for the day. Another efficient way that I use my device is by creating turn-ins on BCPS One. Students turn in their work to the turn-in in the form of Microsoft Word documents or PowerPoints to decrease the amount of paper we use.
Overall, being a first year teacher in a Lighthouse School has been an amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to continue to use technology on a daily basis in my classroom! I am happy that I’m able to use the knowledge and skills I gained in my college career in my classroom. I also feel that being a teacher in a Lighthouse School has supplied me with endless opportunities to engage and captivate my students in our everyday lessons. I am especially thankful that our county is so focused on preparing its students for life in a digital age.
Reflections from teachers, administrators, and students at the Lighthouse Schools.