Tuesday, March 28, 2017

21st century skills

We often come across mentions of 21st century skills, especially in the realm of teaching technology We are sick and tired of hearing the name "21st century skills." What does it really mean? Twenty years from now, will the skills we teach in school still be the same we are teaching today? How about in 80 years, in 2097? Same skills? If so, then great, let's keep on calling them 21st century skills. If you are like us and think that these will change, then we really ought to come up with a better name for what we're doing right now. The 21st century started 17 years ago. Almost 20% of it is already done. It's time to move away from "21st century" anything.

Imagine educators gathering in 1918 at the end of the First World War, and bemoaning our loss of competitiveness against other countries. We ought to teach 20th century skills so that they can do better and boost test scores. Now imagine these educators getting together in 1988. Same skills? Same techniques? Probably not. Same name, 20th century skills? It should be, it's still the 20th century!

Let's retire the name already. Call them skills for success, skills for life, whatever. But stop calling them 21st century skills!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Alan November Comes to Moultonborough

On Monday, February 6, 2017, the Moultonborough School District welcomed Alan November and his team for a full day of improving teaching and learning through better use of technology. A world renowned educator and leader in using educational technology in schools and businesses, November was by Lainie Rowell and Tom Driscoll. Rowell is an independent professional developer and consultant who has worked closely with educators to improve teaching and student learning through innovative ways. Driscoll is the Director of Educational Technology for the Bristol Warren Regional School District in Rhode Island and he is interested in fundamentally transforming teaching by personalizing student learning through the use of innovative applications of emerging technologies.

The day began when November, Rowell and Driscoll met with students from the Academy and from the Central School. November strongly believes that students should actively participate in every professional development event that take place in schools. Ultimately, professional development aims to improve teachers to better help students owning their own learning. Students performed Google searches for him and demonstrated that they did not know how to efficiently use a search engine.

November then presented a keynote to the staff and community of Moultonborough School District where he elaborated on the skills necessary for each student to successfully locate, engage, consume, and create information online.

The remainder of the day was broken up in three sessions: One for grades K-4, led by Rowell; one for grades 5-8, led by Driscoll; and one for grades 9-12, led by November. These sessions featured in-depth looks at apps, web pages, and software that teachers can use right away to enhance the impact of their lessons on students and by switching ownership of the learning towards the students themselves.

At the conclusion of the day, we surveyed staff and students on the presentations. Feedback was overwhelming positive. Staff found many things that were valuable about the day. Some comments include "Real life applications for our age group from a speaker who has taught at the same age level" and "being introduced to new tech tools/sites I did not know about."

One staff member summed it up when she stated that the best part about the day was "finding out how much more I want to know! Being with the whole District and learning together with highly and inspirational qualified presenters."

Where do we go from here

Our next step is determining where we go next. We were planning on working with Kim Marshall on our next professional development day on March 17th, but after witnessing the teachers' inspiration to introduce more technological resources in their classroom, we now we plan on more time exploring the technologies that was presented.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Success with our first blizzard bag

Three years ago a committee of teachers and administrators sat and planned a blizzard bag program to address weather related issues. Instead of making up a snow day at the end of the year, the thinking was that we would create worthwhile and effective online learning that could be completed from home on a day where it wasn't safe to go to school. In New Hampshire the Department of Education allows districts to apply for permission to conduct remote instruction during inclement events. Our plan was that the first snow day would remain a snow day, but then subsequent snow days might become blizzard bag days. We wouldn't have one on a Monday, since we couldn't touch base with our students ahead of time, nor would we have one after a holiday or vacation week.

For grades K-3, teachers created physical bags with folders and activities that went home. For grades 4 through 12, staff created a blizzard bag infrastructure within their courses on Schoology, and when the moment came these assignments, discussions, or other activities would be made visible so students could complete them on the day of if they had power at their home, or on the following day if they didn't have Internet or power. Staff would spend time before the day creating material. On the day of a blizzard bag they would supervise their classes and answer student questions. On the day after they would grade students' products and take attendance. Para-professionals and others in the school would be participating in professional development through discussions on Schoology.

Our plan called for students and staff to complete everything within 24 hours. We needed 80% participation from students throughout the district, and 80% participation from staff as well. It was approved by the Department of Education in 2014, and the 2014-2015 school year we had several snow days. Unfortunately, all of which were on Mondays or after a vacation. When we met that spring we decided to tweak our blizzard bag program. We kept the first snow day as a day off for staff and students, but we removed the restriction on Mondays and days after a vacation. Now we would experience a blizzard bag as soon as the second snow day struck.

But as everyone who lives in Northern New England knows, in 2015-2016 the snow did not come. We had a few delays and early releases, but spent the whole year looking at a plan that was gathering dust. For a second year in a row, we did not have a blizzard bag day.

In 2016-2017, we hoped we would finally get there. We had several close calls in December and early January, and we notified students and staff that a blizzard bag day was a possibility. But all of these ended up being 2 hour delays instead of snow days. So when the weather changed over last weekend with snow, freezing rain and rain all in the forecast from Monday night to Tuesday afternoon, we knew a blizzard bag day had arrived. We notified students on Monday, and the call was made Tuesday morning. Students and staff completed activities throughout the day.

By the time the day was done and we had tallied attendance, we achieved the following results:

  • Elementary School 92% 
  • High School: 84% 
  • Middle Level: 87%
  • Staff Attendance: 99%
So our first blizzard bag in three years was a success. We're looking forward to doing it again.

We learned many things from our first blizzard bag. When we created our plan three years ago we did not have an enrichment / recovery period. We also did not have double blocks on a rotating basis, which created some problems with taking timely attendance. Finally, our number of directed studies has increased significantly over the years, so we had to discount those numbers in our attendance calculations.. Another element we had not considered was requiring electronic submissions for students at the high school, even if that meant taking a picture of their work to upload and then submitting their actual work the following day. Overall, staff reported a great experience with their blizzard bags. We are surveying parents and students and will report our findings.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Who Owns the Learning? Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age

On February 6, 2017, the Moultonborough School District is thrilled to welcome Alan November, an educational leader who advocates specific steps in how to transform teaching and learning by using technology. Schools have put the emphasis on adding technology in the classroom, but in the end if teachers and students have not adapted to the new realities of an environment pervasive with devices and connectivity, then they are not accomplishing their mission of delivering a quality education. November argues that it's not about technology, it's about student engagement and ownership in their learning.

In this thought-provoking book, Who Owns the Learning? Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age, November argues that school has short-changed students under the current model. The learning belongs to students, and not to teachers, and November presents the Digital Learning Farm, a model that shifts educational control towards students, empowering them to make decisions and to guide their own learning. The Digital Learning Farm model allows students to develop and own their learning through the use of four different roles: the tutorial designer, the scribe, the researcher, and the global communicator.

In essence, the tutorial designer creates movies that explain a problem to others, be that a math question, or a how to video. These are then posted to the web so that everyone can benefit from what is being taught. The scribe records the notes and events that happen in the classroom. Every day, a different student takes notes. These notes are reviewed by the teacher and the class and are posted on a blog or wiki so they can be accessed by everyone in the class. The researcher investigates questions that arise during class by finding answers and resources online. Finally, the global communicator reaches out to other people online who can help with the topics or subjects at hand.

These four roles really tie together the transformational 6 that Alan November mentions in a recent article entitled Walk Through for Innovation: Six Questions for Transformed Learning. In this article, he states that if your lesson or assessment answers no to all of these questions, then technology has not been successfully integrated in your classroom and you are doing a disservice to your students. This book, while preceding these questions, does a great job of demonstrating how all of them can be addressed by adopting the Digital Learning Farm model. Ultimately, students must own their learning to be really successful, and educators and even students should demand access to an education model similar to what November proposes to enhance both their interest in school and their desire to better perform as students.

Thus, on February 6th, the entire staff of Moultonborough School District, as well as students will be working together to examine these six questions and take steps to begin the transformation that is necessary for our students to succeed in today's world and own their learning. In the same article, November talks about being technology rich and innovation poor. We believe ourselves to be technology rich, and innovation middle class. We do many things right, but we can always improve. This professional development day will help us get better at connecting our students to the world and making their learning even more relevant. We will start the day with a keynote by Alan November at 8:15 am. We invite members of the public to join us for this exciting keynote.

Monday, December 5, 2016

McAuliffe Presentations

A team of Moultonborough Academy instructors participated in the recent Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference and presented several workshops featuring technology and its uses in the curriculum.

On Monday Etienne Vallée, the library media specialist, presented a six hours workshop on Digital Photography and Video across the Curriculum to a small group of dedicated teachers. The goal of this presentation was to get teachers and students to use the tools they currently have, such as smartphones and tablets, to create their own content, use them in class, and publish them to the web to reach an authentic audience. We use several tools at the Academy, none of which cost more than $20, to enhance the capabilities of these devices. We have tablet and smartphone tripod mount adapters for better stability. We use microphones and extension cords to provide excellent sound quality up to 15 feet away from the device. We have a light that helps provide constant lighting. We have various lenses that can clip on the device and zoom in an out or provide wide or fish-eye views. These accessories, along with the devices, allow teachers and students the ability to document classroom activities and visually demonstrate learning by using footage and sound in apps such as iMovie, Shadow Puppet EDU, or FilmoraGo (both iOS and Android). This presentation was well received by the attendees and some of them have already begun implementing ideas from that workshop.

On Wednesday Claudia Provencher, MA's French teacher, Etienne Vallée, and Vincent Kane, formally of MA's Social Studies department but now teaching in Gambell, Alaska, presented an hour-long on 20% time, a semester-long project where participants explored the concept of using one day a week in class to personalize education. We focused on social studies and on foreign languages, but this idea can easily be implemented in any subject. Students create a proposal, research information, annotate a bibliography, create a product, and present their product in a museum-style showcase. Projects are aligned with content and Common Core standards and careful scaffolding and timelines are followed. The presentation of student-created products provide other students with the the opportunity to learn about topics that would not otherwise be covered in class. The wealth of products and projects ensures that even students who are generally not interested in the subject will find a topic they are interested in. Finally, the teacher and the school librarian work closely with each other throughout the semester and co-teach several pieces of the 20% project, as well as co-evaluate the results. Once again this presentation was well received by the attendees and one of them has already started the process of implementing this workshop.

Finally, on Thursday Laura Maroon, technology director for Moultonborough School District, and Etienne Vallée presented a workshop titled Our 1:1 Journey - What Four Years Taught Us. We discussed how our 1:1 iPad Pilot in 2012-2013 morphed into a full-fledged 1:1 initiative district-wide by 2015-2016. Starting with the pilot allowed us to focus on small groups of faculty members at first, then used this knowledge with larger groups of teachers until everyone in the school was familiar with the device. Our purchase of a learning management system facilitated the distribution and centralization of information, while our adoption of notability as our note-taking app provided a unified platform for homework and class activities. We encountered several other issues along the way and elaborated effective policies to address them. Finally, we shared tips on the management and deployment of these devices. This workshop was the most well-attended and the ideas and discussions that were generated sparked an interest in several schools and districts considering such a move. This workshop and the feedback we received demonstrated once again that Moultonborough School District is ahead of the technological curve, but we must continue to integrate technology so it becomes a seamless part of the curriculum, and not simply a focal point.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The start of a new school year

The technology department is busy during the summer months dealing with the various computers and iPads around the schools. This year at the Academy, we migrated two grades from older iPads 3rd and 4th generations to iPad Air and iPad Air 2. Our devices are now an average of two years old. Computers in the CAD lab and in the library were updated and cleaned up, and are now ready for students to return to class.

Today and tomorrow are our iPads pickup days. Students and/or parents are coming in to collect their device so that we do not have to roll them out on the first day of school, which is already so busy with activities and new classes. Here are a few pictures of our set-up:

We also created a Schoology class for new students so that they can set up their device at their own pace by watching several videos and completing short modules. We hope to use this class throughout the school year also, as new students move in the district.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mastery Learning in Schoology

Over the last six months our elementary school teachers started using the Mastery Learning feature in Schoology to track writing. Teachers assigned pre- and post- assignments in narrative writing, informational writing, and persuasive writing. They graded the writing on the rubric, and, using mastery learning, were able to visually see the impact their teaching had and the growth it fostered for students.

We created this short 10 minutes movie to explain to teachers how to interpret the graphs and information in mastery learning.