Grade 7 Student, Pikesville Middle School
Submitted by Sydney Paules
Grade 7 Student, Pikesville Middle School
It has been over a year since I wrote my first reflection. A lot of things have changed with our computers because this is the second year my school has been a light house school, and I am now in the 7th grade. In science we use OneNote. OneNote is a computer program where notes and files can be shared with other users. My science teacher, Mr. Novak, also uses a tool called Office Mix Power Point. This is how he can guide us by recording himself giving instructions on his Power Points that we can download to really walk us through the material. In engineering we are not on our computers a lot. We are more into making and doing. We have built and soldered circuits, and have made skimmers. We do a lot of hands on work in this class. In math we use an online text book to do our homework so that we have instructions and questions right in front of us. We also use Khan Math Academy videos. This tool is used for when someone doesn’t understand a concept, so we have someone on our screens to explain it in more detail. In my social studies class we use the Discovery Education Social Studies Tech Book. It is also an online text book but it gives us resources like pictures, interactive maps, and videos. In general, most of my work documents are on the computer, and my classmates and I do work digitally. We use turn-ins on BCPS One to send the teacher our work. We use test and quizzes to take tests online which sometimes even grades the tests instantly. This year is really flying by-- I can’t wait to see what else we are going to do!
Submitted by Ori Rattner
Grade 12 Student, Pikesville High School
In AP computer science, our teacher, Mr. Taylor, puts our assignments up on BCPS One on a word doc. We can access from anywhere, complete anytime. In this class, we use a program called Eclipse. Eclipse is a text editor program that identifies errors in programs so that they can be de-bugged. All this is done in Java- the computer language. In this course, we learn the different aspects of coding using java. We start off basic and then learn more tools and so we can start doing more complex stuff. We wrote our programs to complete a task which we will revisit later in the year in order to improve upon them. I particularly liked an assignment which had allowed a user to enter mail package dimensions and then the computer program would determine whether it was too big to ship or not. I am excited to take this assignment to the next level by using real dimensions and testing it out. Having the device makes this work so much easier because we can be working on this at own pace since the device is always with us.
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.
As we searched for resources for our upcoming neighborhood/community helpers unit Ms. Cargill went to one of her favorite BCPS One tools: NBC Learn. She stumbled upon a wonderful neighborhood project called “The Wishing Tree”. This tree isn’t just about wishing for toys although you could; it’s about wishing for something more, maybe not even for yourself but knowing you have the right to wish. You need to watch the story on NBC Learn!
In Kindergarten, we strive to teach more than content, we want to teach our children to be caring citizens. We wanted to spread this message of hope and kindness to everyone at Church Lane, so we made a tree! We sent out a flyer to everyone at school encouraging then to first watch the NBC Learn news story and then wish. We are very busy making more tags and branches because everyone is wishing! It feels good to wish but we have found it is even more moving to read the wishes. We don’t have to wish for wonderful students or teacher. The wishes on our tree let us know that that wish has already been granted!
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 Laura Wurzbacher
2nd Grade Teacher, Church Lane Elementary School
In second grade this year, we are focusing on a wide variety of skills to improve our reading fluency. Each week, we provide our students with a checklist for ELA with tasks that we work on throughout the week. One block on the checklist focuses specifically on improving our reading fluency skills. Using Vocaroo (a voice recording tech tool), our students record themselves reading their differentiated leveled texts. They then are able to copy and paste a web link that Vocaroo provides and use a BCPS One turn-in to submit their personal recording link to their teacher. Then, using a recording sheet, students listen to their recording and reflect on how they read in terms of the characteristics of fluent reading. We call this “Glows and Grows”, with glows being what the student feels that they excelled with and grows being what the student feels they can improve upon next time. Students are expected to determine whether each given characteristic was a glow or grow for them and they also explain why they rated themselves this way.
We have found that when given this opportunity to be reflective readers, our students are comfortable with being honest with themselves and work to improve their grows the next time around. Eventually, we plan to have students listen to a partner’s recording and complete a glow/grow for them. Also, having our students’ recorded readings in a turn-in format on BCPS One easily allows us as teachers to check in with our students’ reading fluency abilities in a quick and simple way. This also allows our students to be able to listen to their older recordings to hear how far they’ve come with their skills! Our reflective reading practice was modeled and demonstrated multiple times in order to explicitly provide students with our expectations for this assignment. Students love to volunteer their recordings as whole-group examples and everyone enjoys hearing their friends read by clicking on a simple web link and then providing both compliments and constructive advice for next time. This activity has been very productive and successful so far in helping our students hear and understand what they can work on to improve their reading fluency skills. As a second grade team, we look forward to developing this task further with our students!
Reflections from teachers, administrators, and students at the Lighthouse Schools.