Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Schools That Learn

In Schools That Learn,, Peter Senge offers the five disciplines designed to “involve everyone in the system in expressing their aspirations, building awareness, and developing their capabilities together.” The book focuses on the five skills or disciplines that he says shape learning orientation: developing personal mastery, creating shared mental models, establishing a shared vision, engaging in team learning, and thinking systemically. If those involved in educating students use these disciplines effectively, then Senge believes learning will happen by all involved on many levels.

Senge says schools can be recreated and revitalized when everyone works together to meet a particular schools needs. One of the problems I feel in my school is that teachers, parents and community members complain about what is wrong with the school system but never offer ideas. Also I find teachers complain about the system to each other but never to an ear which could implement change because of the fear of repercussions. One thing Senge suggests is a Graffiti wall. This is a wall which anyone could write ideas down anonymously. The purpose of this is good ideas could come from anyone not just leaders. I feel implementing a Graffiti wall in my school could be a positive thing. This would encourage people to get involved anonymously and help with relationship building and empowerment since everyone has a voice.

I feel engaging in team learning is extremely productive and prepares students for the real world. Student center project provoke more motivated student and higher quality products. Schools That Learn gives many examples of this and motivated me to try it in my own classroom. I just completed a project where students work together to pick a topic, pick roles, write a script and storyboard, film and edit a Health project. I was amazed to see how the student’s level of motivated and quality of their projects exceeded all of my expectations. Even though, just like in the real world they came across challenges and disagreements it was good life practice in communicating effectively. At one point another teacher came into the classroom and commented on how well the students were working together and how much fun they were having. When this teacher actually took a look at the work the students were doing they were pleasantly surprised at how on task they were. Imagine if all learning was like this.
Videos will be posted soon as students are still in the editing process.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Digital Storytelling as a Deep Learning Tool

The document titled “Researching and Evaluating Digital Storytelling as a Deep Learning Tool” shows a figure that graphically demonstrates how Digital Storytelling facilitates the convergence of four student-centered learning strategies: student engagement, reflection for deep learning, project- based learning, and the effective integration of technology into instruction. I believe, based on my own experiences, that digital storytelling can lead to the achievement of great things in any classroom.

I have had several experiences with digital storytelling where students have created public service announcements, skits and commercials related to health topics. The students were so motivated once they knew that they were going to be on video. They were excited to do the related research, writing (storyboarding and script), recording,editing and sharing their work. Engaging in such projects really helped these students gain proficiency in writing, research, visual literacy critical thinking and collaboration. I felt like it gave students with varying learning styles an opportunity to shine in their own way. For instance, the commercials for a nutritious product completed by my self-contained 7th grade special ed class were some of the best out of all my classes.

When we watched the Komagata Maru video, I was blown away by this great example of how digital storytelling can move people and engage others who are watching in a manner that written or oral projects may not be able to. The music, visuals and narration sent a strong message that both created interest and elicited emotion.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Are Free Tools Worth The Price?

I absolutely believe that Web 2.0 tools can be a valuable addition to any lesson. Students become motivated when they are using technology because it's part of their everyday lives. Incorporating these tools into the classroom not only makes sense but it is essential in keeping students engaged and class material relevant.

I frequently use web 2.0 tools to enhance my health lessons. For instance, students use to research related topics, play games, take quizzes and watch movies related to systems of the body and nutrition, etc. There are many sites that I use to help support learning of nutrition such as,, I also use google docs, quicktopic to name a few.

David Warlick describes how "an authentic audience provides a sense of purpose for the students. Knowing that someone other than just one teacher is reviewing and appreciating their educational products motivates students to provide best quality products." I believe this to be a great point as I have noticed when we do projects that will be seen by others the students really get into it. For instance, we are working on Anti-Tobacco and alcohol advertisements that will be digitally recorded and edited in IMovie. Then the students can post their videos on TeacherTube. My students are really excited about the idea of others being able to access and view their commercials online.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Schools That Learn: Community

On November 20th, I had a great conversation with Diana, Keri and Bette regarding the community section of Schools That Learn. The discipline described in the book was very meaningful to me as I believe increased community involvement would really benefit my school in particular. After having our conversation, I realized that every school can be empowered and and do better work when there is a strong link between community members, parents, administrators, teachers and schools within a district. When void of a relationship or sense of community, a school will and the people within the school (both employees and students) will be void an important element.

I do believe, especially after our conversation, that it is important to make an effort to focus on the positive elements of a school environment and that will enable individuals to take action and steps in the right direction; as well as motivate others to make change. Schools That Learn offers many rich examples of how schools and and groups of people have accomplished such change and community linking. One section describes how the school determined what goals they wanted to achieve and they would then periodically come together to report and describe how they were doing (even if the goals proved challenging) with out judgment from administrator or anyone for that matter. This would allow all to brainstorm and offer support as the book also points out that good ideas can come fro anyone and anywhere; not just leaders.

Reading this section of the book and my conversation with classmates made me clealy realize more than I had before the relevance of community as it pertains to the success of any school.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Just playing around with

Monday, February 25, 2008

WMS Volleyball Team

Honestly, part of me does not look forward to the Westbury Middle School Volleyball Season. Our school facilities are sometimes an issue (as they were this year with mold and water damage in our usual practice area)...among other things. Having said that, I'm always amazed how our girls at the Middle School rise to the challenge in learning the game (often from scratch) and persevere through it all. These girls really inspired me this year. It didn't matter whether we won or lost. They played with the highest amount of effort, sportsmanship and enthusiasm. As a coach, you couldn't ask for more!

Cognitive View of Learning

Bruners ideas of guided discovery learning states that students must be active and must identify the key principles working on their own. As the teacher in such a lesson about problem solving/decision making, I might begin the lesson by asking students to take an index card and describe one hurtful incident that has happened to them without putting their names on the cards. To make sure students in the class don’t recognize themselves in the descriptions, tell students to try to keep the descriptions as general as possible. For example, instead of writing, “I was very hurt when I wasn’t invited to the Valentine’s Day party,” have them write, “I felt very hurt when I was not invited to a party with many of my friends.” After the cards are collected a few examples will be shared. Students will be asked to form four groups and will be asked to come up with a list of common problem or conflicts middle schoolers face. Then the groups will be given one of the index cards with a specific conflict or problem and will be asked to come up with some specific steps to help handle the situation. (example: identify the problem, possible solutions and consequences, etc). Students will write up their steps, analyze the sit uation and come up with a solution for how to best resolve the situation. Each group will share what they came up with, so that students can weigh in on whether their steps and plan will work and to decide on a consensus of what the needed steps are. I can show videos offering additional examples of Conflict Resolution including "Check It Out" from the Second Step Program and also give each group role plays to brainstorm and act out for the class. . Students can also take an online Personal Inventory that rates their decision making skills and then create a Personal Wellness Contract

Ausubel's theory on learning through exposition states that the teacher should present the concepts, principles and ideas in complete and organized form; and also relates new knowledge to prior learning. In this case, I would present the same concepts by having students think of a conflict/problem and then introduce a six-step process that will guide them in making a good decision.(1. State the Situation 2. List the Options 3. Weigh the Possible Outcomes 4. Consider your Values, etc). Students would have to call upon what they already know about consequences and values and conflict in general. The organization of the information will be text based, using diagrams or posters outlining the steps, etc. Students would then practice applying the steps through text activities or activities presented through video.