Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grassroots Convergences @ Berliner School with TechKnow Associates Partnering

Grassroots convergence, as defined by Jenkins is "the increasingly central roles that digitally empowered consumers play in shaping the production, distribution, and reception of media content." I have witnessed this bottom -up pull approach used in an elementary special education school as a consultant worked with classroom teachers to integrate language arts literacy and science standards that needed to be taught through a channel and manner that the students desired to learn. How did this happen? The students were simply asked about their personal interests. Many of these children were fascinated with wild (predatory) animals and natural (destructive) phenomena. With this in mind, teachers worked collaboratively with the consultant to produce digital graphic organizers via Kidspiration, for scaffolding purposes within the writing process, review and archive media-rich video audio, media, and reading level-appropriate articles via Safari Montage to support research and created class topic-themed wikis via WikiSpaces as a platform where students could publish their final pieces (written articles, podcasts, artwork, etc.) and peers and teachers within the school and throughout the district could provide feedback and ask the newly expert authors questions about the subject of the expertise. It was powerful to witness the level of ownership each student possessed as a result of this process. The students were enthusiastic about this endeavor because they created the platform for learning based on their interests. The teachers listened and delivered what students needed to learn via facilitation by removing the "odor" of flat textbook teaching and providing the "fragrance" that drew the students into the arena of engagement.

Monday, November 22, 2010

EDIM502 Meeting the NETS-S via Web 2.0 Tools for Communication, Collaboration and Publishing

According to the International Society for Technology in Education's National Education Standards for Students, there is an expectation that "students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. " Web 2.0, the vehicle that has empowered pur society to become contributors to the web and not just consumers, has given the educator the ability to use this ever evolving technological tool to shape and craft learning experiences in a new, unique and compelling matter.

In Newark, specifically, I can recall how one class and  a school-based technology coordinator took an international penpal project and gave it a virtual upgrade.  PenPals 2.0  started with using ePals, a safe email solution for students. Using the teacher forum, the technology coordinator reached out, searching to find a school that was willing to exchange cookie recipes in search of the best recipes.  A school, located in France, made the connection.  Students started out by exchanging cookie recipes, baking the cookies as prescribed and authoring written reviews about the cookies.  This simple exchange, entitled "Thats the Way the Cookie Crumbles", evolved into extended experiences.  These students and educators remained in  constant communication with one another and participated in a plethora of collaborative projects and exchanges that truly fostered and encouraged communication and collaboration.  Students worked together and surveyed each other (via Survey Monkey)  on authentic topics  like becoming green citizens, genetic traits, and understanding and celebrating cultural and gender differences.  For four years these students shared poetry, podcasts, videos, art work, prose, cards, and other creative products through both electronic and snail mail exchanges.  Prior to the technology coordinator's retirement, she developped a Ning, entittled, "What Genes are You Wearing?" centered around Genetics where the students participated in discussion threads about dominant and recessive traits, posted pictures of themselves displaying the traits discussed,  shared student-created quizzes, took surveys and analyzed results, and posted messages and valuable feedback in a one-stop shop environment.  These students and teachers continue to share a relationship that crossed the shores via the power of technology and Web 2.0.  These experiences overall managed to breathe life and dimension into teaching and learning for all who were involved.  Meeting the NETS-S was definitely achieved as students used "creativity and innovation", via "communication and collaboration", proving themselves as "critical thinkers and problem solvers"  with their actions as "digital citizens" who managed to learn and incorporate "new technologies" to diversify and deepen their knowledge base about content knowledge through exchanges with another culture.

International Society for Technology in Education (2007) "NETS Student Standards 2007." ISTE NETS. Retrieved November 22, 2010, from:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Problem Based Learning Exemplars (EDIM502INB_201030B u01a1)

Upon reading three Edutopia articles and viewing videos that address best practices in Problem Based Learning, I had the pleasure of catching a birdseye glimpse of multiple experiences that involved three different educational institutions.   All three urban academic institutions had some commonalities that made teaching exciting and learning systemic and engaging.  From exploring the underground world or worms, to designing a school of tomorrow, to following the flight of the butterfly, one could definitely see that all educators involved  "worked hard to create a program that meets students' academic, emotional, and creative needs".  Teachers worked arduously behind the scenes preplanning and crafting the PBL to ensure that students truly constructed their own learning.

Under the circumstances of each PBL scenario, inquiry led to exploration.  Students, who are naturally inquisitive, were given opportunities to construct and frame what they wanted to learn.  In Newport News, Virginia. circumstances that were a part of their lives (i.e., World Wrestling Federation, pets, and a classmate with Cystic Fibrosis), gave the students a plethora of subjects to immerse themselves in  a sojourn of study and exploration. In Seattle, creating an ideal environment conducive to learning in an aesthetic environment, led the students on a journey where they applied their knowledge of geometry to architecture and design.

"Real World Application" was also a common thread prevelent in all three articles.  In Bowie, Maryland, students were exploring the migration of monarch butterflies in real time, communicating and exchanging thoughts with others beyond the confines of the classroom and sharing data internationally.  Students created tulip gardens to attract the butterflies for authentic observation.  In both Seattle, Washington and Newport News, Virginia, students had the opportunity to work with "real world" experts (i.e., architects, nurses) and were the recipients of real expert support and feedback.

At the culmination of each project throughout all of the exemplary PBL examples, students had to present and communicate their findings to an audience beyond their classmates (i.e., parents, community stakeholders, experts).  Technology integration was seamlessly and appropriately applied to all of the projects (i.e., PowerPoint, AutoCAD, digital graphic organizers).  Schools were able to document exponential growth in meeting the proficiencies addressed in their high stakes testing and rigorous state standards. One teacher expressed that in order to effectively implement PBL, one must "...know our curriculum. We've got to know the standards inside and out,".  All of these projects utilized a detailed rubric that emphasized, technology use, teamwork dynamics, creativity, collaboration, and content.

Most importantly, student enthusiasm for learning, was clearly articulated by the students in all three exemplary schools.  "If you find it yourself, it stays in your brain," one student expressed.  The students retained what they learned and found that learning beyond the textbook was far more exciting. "This project has been my salvation," as stated by one student is evidence that students who experience quality, authentic PBL are involved in dynamic, flexible, multi-faceted learning they will never forget.


Armstrong, S. (2002) "Geometry students angle into architecture through project learning." Retrieved October 21, 2010, from

Curtis, D. (2001) "More fun than a barrel of . . . worms?!" Retrieved October 21, 2010, from

Curtis, D. (2002) "March of the monarchs: students follow the butterflies' migration." Retrieved October 21, 2010, from

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Make a Digital Wish!

Digital Wish is a non-profit website that places technology tools and opportunities into the hands of innovative teachers who  propel equipped 21st century  scholars into the future.  Similiar to Donors Choose, teachers can register for the website, submit grant applications, find lesson plans and tools for instruction on this website.  Flip Video, Olympus, School Tube and the NEA are proud partners of this website. Once you log in for yourself, you will see why.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Artsonia- The World's Largest Kids' Art Museum

Are you or your art teachers looking for a place to publish and share your students' artistic creations?  Look no further.  Artsonia, a partner with the National Art Education Association,  is a great place to showcase student work, find art lesson plan starters, and purchase memorabilia like mugs, t-shirts, or tote bags featuring student work.  Parents can take a virtual tour of their child's artwork and purchase items.  15% of the sales proceeds  will go to the school.  Isn't that great!  Creating an account with Artsonia is free.  Thank you Ronda Wright for sharing this resource.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cybersafety... Tools you can use with your students to promote awareness

The Newark Public Schools created a Cybersafety eBoard to promote the safe and responsible use of technology. This site provides a myriad of resources that will help parents, students, and teachers understand the importance of using the internet with wisdom and caution.  Using this tool will provide  the user with videos, interactives, and websites that will show the end user how to be cyber safe.