Sunday, August 28, 2011

Subject Matter Experts

Our students have a good many technological tools: iPod Touch or iPhone and Macbook in class every day. They have a reliable network and online tools like Studywiz. The tools are great but what we do with the tools is more important.

This past Friday, we had a special visitor on our campus. Ed Leonard, Chief Technology Officer at Dreamworks, visited and spoke to our Senior High kids. I was fortunate to hear him speak to two groups: the entire SH student body at chapel and the kids in the video broadcasting class. I'm not sure what I expected but as a person who works on billion dollar projects I felt like he should be somewhat "unusual" or at least out of the ordinary. What struck me was that he came across as a real person who might be considered ordinary in many ways that has done extraordinary things with his life. Many of the things he mentioned to the kids - how important a script is to a feature length film, for example - sounds like something I've said to my students many times. The difference is that the kids will remember what he says much more than what I say. He is the subject matter expert out there doing extraordinary things in the field.

This just confirmed for me what I've known for some time. We need to really work and leverage the technology we have to provide more opportunities for our kids to be in contact with Subject Matter Experts. The walls of the classroom can no longer be used as an excuse to not bring the "real world" into contact with our students in meaningful ways.

So . . . I'm looking for subject matter experts to connect with my students: authors, editors, playwrights, etc. Any ideas for me???

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Friday, August 12, 2011

What Did You Learn Today?

"What did you learn today?" seems like an age-old question; however, it is a question that has not lost its luster. I recently came across a project among Atlanta Area educators called edu180Atl. The purpose of this project is best said with the words from their website: The mission of the edu180atl project is to nurture and encourage the spirits of those who love to learn, to connect learners across disciplines and settings, and to deepen the national conversation about education by enabling parents, students, and educators to share stories of what they are learning every day. 180 stories, 180 voices, 180 days(a school year). This simple project intrigued me so I decided to send out a message to my new students for this year before school even started. I simply shared about the project and then asked them to think about participating. I decided to apply to be a writer for the project and wanted to know if my students would join me.

The first student to respond did her writing for the project this week. Keep in mind that I teach 6th graders. This young lady decided to take me up on the offer and she applied to write. This in and of itself was enough to make a Language Arts teacher proud; however, what she wrote went beyond all expectations for an incoming 6th grader. I invite you to read her article and comment on it.

So in the spirit of things, I wanted to share what I learned today. I learned that the more things change, the more things stay the same. The Elementary at our school has a lot new this year. They are using for the first time a virtual learning environment software called Studywiz. In addition, all of the teachers have their own MacBook and iPad to use for class. There are new MacBook labs and the students are utilizing Rosetta Stone for foreign language learning. All of this is phase one of what we are calling Project 21.

With all of this new, there are some real constants. Elementary kids still need caring teachers to provide reassurance and guidance. Kids still rise to high expectations. It's amazing what the kids do when given the opportunity to stretch! Kids still bring their own special kind of energy into the classroom.

I am so excited to see what this school year brings! So . . . what did you learn today?

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