We’ve created an open course for students to access links, videos, and more on how to use their MacBooks, apps, and make better media products. The course name is called iBulldog and is available within Schoology.
When I started work in Goochland in 1999, I was handed a newsletter as part of my orientation packet, entitled the Technology Times. After leaving the classroom, I kept up that newsletter, to showcase changes in technology, to advertise after-school workshops, and to promote effective uses of technology in the classroom.
In the mid-2000s, we changed the format to this blog, since so many of us were then blogging as part of our district-wide initiative. Then e-mails followed. The challenge is always how to put quality information in front of our staff when we seem overloaded with so much information.
So I wanted to bring back the newsletter in an effort to showcase some of the wonderful things that are happening in our division every week. The task is steep, so we settled on a monthly publication. See our first three editions of the 2018 year, attached below. I hope this encourages a more leisurely time to consider what’s happening across the division and celebrate our innovation with new tools.
Late in this past school year, a conversation developed with our high school tech coach, Bea Leiderman, around how we might visualize where a lesson “falls” or “sits” in terms of its proximity to a “deeper learning experience.” Could it be done? She soon reminded me that the model she’s been helping her husband, Dr. Bill Rankin develop, included some different ways to think about the learning experience. Bill’s “Cubic Learning” idea was something that resonated with me. He in turn came to help us for our Strategic Innovation Symposium as the keynote speaker. And two days later, at our admin retreat, he presented the formal cubic learning model to our team.
So the “cube” presents three faces: content, context, and community. To these, I added three additional pathways: tools, rigor, and skills. As complex as instruction and learning are as concepts, we wanted a way to also be able to talk about different components of the learning process. With the Pathways, we have a model that can break down the complexity of learning, especially as we move away from asking students to simply recall information, and have experiences throughout the year when students can more deeply experience content.
At this point in time, we have a Schoology course devoted towards Pathways for high school teachers and have introduced the model to our iPad cohort this summer. Our next steps are to develop a principal walk-though rubric for teacher consults. In addition, student surveys have been introduced to address student reflection and how they felt they were learning along each of the six pathways.
We hope this model helps everyone see where the teachers have designed students to be and ways to differentiate to meet student needs.
In 2000 I had the opportunity to attend my first VSTE Conference thanks to the support of the tech leaders here in Goochland for allowing a new teacher to immerse himself in other ideas from educators from around the state. It was the start of a tradition for me. Since that time, I’ve attended every VSTE conference since. For two terms I served on its board of directors. Later in 2002, I began representing Goochland at a metro-Richmond meeting of the Greater Richmond Area Educational Technology Consortium (GRAETC). I was an active member of that organization for 14 years.
I was so proud this morning to see us affiliated with both organizations in this morning’s broadcast by VSTE of Digital Learning Day 2017. Three of Mr. Frago’s students appeared on a live broadcast this morning with Dr. Richardson to talk about the Scrum process used in their class to facilitate project-based learning. Ms. Leiderman, our secondary technology coach, helped facilitate the conversation and made the interview of students possible.
Scrum is well-aligned with some of the ideas collected by Canadian educator and author George Couros about learning. In his book The Innovator’s Mindset, he juxtaposes traditional ideas about school with ideas about learning. Here are some examples:
- School promotes starting by looking for answers; learning promotes starting with questions.
- School teaches compliance; learning is about challenging perceived norms.
- School is about giving you information; learning is about giving you information.
- School promotes surface-level thinking; learning is about deep exploration.
I am passionate that there are great examples each and every day where technology is empowering and amplifying learning here in Goochland. On this #DLDay 2017, I’m so proud of our students and our teachers being featured on this webcast for the benefit of others across the Commonwealth and the world.
For more on Scrum, check out our teacher’s Scrum blog
This past summer I had the opportunity to work closely with four teachers in a new project that defined new roles. We wanted four innovative teachers to think about spending extra time with us to help us develop a set of instructional experiences. We called these new positions “Curriculum and Innovation Teachers” or C&I for short. What resulted from this extra month of work over the summer was a series of G21 projects that we populated into Schoology, our learning management system. Before I get to the projects, please permit me to go into a little more detail about our aims.
Several years ago I wrote a plan which helped establish a blueprint for the type of instruction we knew would help benefit students in Goochland when we had a 1:1 program that support it. I called this our “Innovation Plan” and I don’t aim here to re-hash the thirty-eight page document here. However, there were a few important things in that plan that are worth pointing out.
- What might we expect with the expenditure of money for a 1:1 program? A benefit of some sort, we’d hope, right? The thing is, there will be no academic benefit to students in a 1:1 program if the pedagogy used in the classroom hasn’t changed alongside the introduction of the tools. Meaning, if we’re still teaching the way we did before the 1:1 came, then something is wrong.
- We see motivation and excitement about learning wane as students get older. We label this “engagement with school.” And so we have to address learning head-on. Who is responsible for learning? Let’s let students own their learning. By designing instruction around learner-centered approaches, we hand-over control to students. When students feel they have control, they take ownership. The best example I’ve seen of this thus far has been our approach with Scrum.
- Projects offer us an alternative to traditional assessment. Projects many times include skill development and opportunities to apply knowledge. Using a student’s performance at tasks designed by the teacher allow us to capture evidence of understanding and application in a more real-world way.
- We need, as educators, to engage with quality exemplars of good instructional design. Our work started with looking at a “gold star” project aligned to the best practices established by the Buck Institute, a leading source for project-based learning resources. We spent time together dissecting the project, looking at how it aimed to engage learners, support the standards, and above all else, gave students choices in the learning activities. Our first project was a re-write of one of their example projects, to more closely align it to the Virginia SOL and adapt it to our technology.
- Finally, deeper learning. We had to make sure everyone was on the same page about what deeper learning is, and what it’s not. Our aim in every single experience was to approach deeper learning. So much of the design of a quality PBL is the same as the aims for deeper learning: tight integration with standards, student voice and choice, problem-solving, developing an academic mindset, developing communication…
As August approached, we took stock of what we’d come up with. So much of the work was done in my absence, so it was amazing, from my perspective, to stand back and take a look at what these four ladies–Krystle Demas, Sarah Smith, Beth Ferguson, and Jennifer Gates–were able to produce. We introduced these projects to teachers in grades 3-8 with a series of “Launch Parties” at different schools.
Today, our C&I projects are located in the Resources section of Schoology for elementary and middle school teachers. Projects cover all content areas, with many overlapping. We created a chart to capture which content areas were covered with each project. Finally, we produced a document for distribution to our friends (PDF with hyperlinks) in other parts of Virginia so they could get a peek at our work.
This January-February we will be making a recommendation to our school board to expand these roles to a total of eight C&I teachers for the upcoming summer to continue this work. In addition to writing these curricular documents, these teachers are honing their skills, becoming coaches and trainers, and are able to creatively re-think our approach to instruction. As a result of their work, everyone now has access to high-quality exemplars of what’s possible when we change some of our ideas about pedagogy and provide world-class tools in the hands of each one of our students.
Congratulations go to our three sets of G21 Award Winners, recognized this year at our annual 2016 Convocation.
G21 is our project-based learning program that is focused in how we use technology to foster twenty-first century skills, deeper learning, and student-centered instruction.
Each August we recognize three superlative projects from the past year.
- Elementary Award – Jennifer Gates and the 4th Grade Team at RES
- Secondary Award – James Frago
- Divisionwide Award – Ariel Perry (GES Kindergarten) and Jennifer Abbott (9th grade English)
I’m proud to announce that our 1:1 program with iPads has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished Program for 2015-2017. Roughly 300 schools and districts have been recognized around the world; beyond the U.S. in places as diverse as Singapore, Mexico, Canada, Great Britain, Malaysia, Thailand, and Brazil.
Goochland’s program began in 2013-14 as a pilot program in grades 3-5 at Goochland Elementary School before expanding to additional schools. This school year the program provides iPads for students to take home across the division in grades 4-7, in addition to the third grade at GES. Next year, the division plans on expanding the iPad program to grades 3-8. Creativity, personalization, individualization, and student passion are at the heart of Goochland’s approach to learning with individual technology. With iPad, teachers and students are working together to redefine learning, as it supports achieving the division’s mission of maximizing the potential of every learner.
The Apple Distinguished Program designation is reserved for programs that meet criteria for innovation, leadership, and educational excellence, and demonstrate a clear vision of exemplary learning environments.
This designation will place us in contact with other schools implementing 1:1 programs so that we may continue to grow and learn in this evolving process. It also opens up the opportunity to host other educators from across the region to visit Goochland and see our environment and work towards deeper learning.
At the start of November, we will publishing an interactive ebook in iBooks format that communicates our vision for the program and highlights the components that we believe make a strong 1:1 program. Stay tuned to our homepage for the publication of this book.
Thanks go to our teachers, school board, and technology staff for making the dream of a 1:1 possible!
For examples of other superlative programs, visit Apple’s iTunes portal for other iBooks-compatible resources that share stories from other schools and programs.