Square, Circle and Triangle

As you may or may not have read in my previous post, we went 1:1 here at the middle school a few weeks ago. Very exciting stuff. It’s been just over 30 days since our students got their Chromebooks and I’m celebrating in a couple of ways. First, a survey! I posted links where I knew students would find them and at the other end of the link is my Google Form Survey about the Chromebooks. I received some excellent data and I’m already planning my next few months from it. The second way I celebrated is by sending home an E-Newsletter via Smore.com. I focused on the last days to accept insurance and make a payment, results from the survey and how to tackle Chromebook challenges in the home, such as helping students remember to charge up every night.

However, the third and most important way that I am celebrating is by sending out a refresher E-mail to staff about the Wireless Device Guidelines we put in place this year. I also created a behavior T-chart since we are a PBIS district and put copies of both in everyone’s mailboxes. This way they can review the guidelines with students and post them in their classrooms. I am leaving it up to teachers to provide guidance and discipline on the matters of device readiness and student behavior. I just lend out school-day loaner Chromebooks if students show up with a pass from their teacher.

Two eighth-grade teachers decided to not only review the guidelines, but two days ago, they completed an activity on the topic as well. I was thrilled when one of them brought all of the activity handouts to me that afternoon to read through. What amazing feedback! It was very thrilling for me to get an opportunity to read what our students are thinking about the Chromebooks and the guidelines. The activity was Square, Circle and Triangle or Triangle-Square-Circle as it is outlined on the Teacher Toolkit website.

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I was so excited that I answered every one of the questions that were “going around” in the students’ minds. I kept a document open while I messaged each student in Schoology and I recorded my responses there so that if a similar question came up again I could easily copy and paste. I individualized every message though. Some of the answers I gave were as follows:

You asked why we can’t have iPads instead of Chromebooks. Great question! We wanted to be able to pay for the devices and provide them to our students instead of asking our families to pay. iPads are way more expensive, breakable, and you have to pay more for every app you install on them. At the high school you get iPads, but you have to pay for them yourself. Chromebooks are FREE for you and your family. I hope this information helps you.

Mrs. Scola

 

You asked why so many things are blocked. Great question. The reason things are blocked is because by accessing them you put you, your computer, or our bandwidth at risk. We need to be able to provide school resources to over 700 people, potentially all at one time. If everyone was streaming music, it would shut down our network. Sometimes we want to access fun apps and games but doing so is causing student Chromebooks to crash. We need to be more careful about what we access on the Chromebooks so things are blocked until they are proven useful in many cases. If there is EVER something that you need for school, you can ask for it and we will do our best to come up with a solution for you. I hope this information is helpful to you.

Mrs. Scola

 

You asked how you can be expelled because of the chromebook. You want an example.

An example would be cyberbullying and harassing someone, repeatedly accessing inappropriate content on the Chromebook by doing something to circumvent, or get around the filter. Also,  doing something illegal with it like selling narcotics or underage gambling. Those are just examples. I hope this information is helpful to you.

Mrs. Scola

 

The next morning I got an email from one of the teachers who gave me these handouts.

Kids are buzzing…

About how you messaged them yesterday and answered their questions! They were excited that you actually answered them. Thanks fo rmaking it meaningul for them so they don’t feel like they did something for no reason 🙂

That’s me! Making it meaningful since 2004…

It is my honor to be working with these kids. They deserve it.

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Constitution Day 2016

Our Social Studies teachers are piloting Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook this year and in just the first few days of school I heard about a Virtual Field Trip opportunity. Discovery Education would be hosting a tour of the Library of Congress. I was not sure of what more would be going on, but I thought that even just getting together with the 7th Grade Social Studies classes in the school library that day would be a great opportunity to celebrate the US Constitution and create a memorable event for the students. Plus they were advertising a Twitter Chat and I can’t resist a Twitter Chat!

I contacted the LMC Director right away to see if she would want to collaborate (of course she would) and then we pitched it to the teachers. New Chromebooks, new learning management system, new online curriculum; these guys were up for anything. The excitement kept building as we got closer and our plans for the day started to take shape.

A few days before our event we actually took some time to get together to plan instead of just shouting our excitement through the hallways. Discovery Education had posted some resources for teachers so we looked at those first. We knew we would not have a lot of time for extra activities once we knew how long the “Live” Virtual Field trip would be. We came up with a couple of questions we wanted the students to answer and we decided on the right Kagan activities to accompany the activity.

We created Padlets for each question and put all of our resources into Schoology as a lesson and shared it with the teachers. Finally, we created a visual presentation to go along with the lesson. The teachers then shared our lessons in their Schoology courses. We were all ready to go.

On Friday, September 16th, students came straight to the LMC instead of going to their classroom. They brought their Chromebooks and something to write with. Our Constitution enthusiast even dressed up in a colonial style wig and outfit. This was definitely about to be an event our students will remember.

Students sat four to a table and began by discussing the purpose of the Federal Government, the US Constitution, and Libraries. Discovery Education had provided a handout that we asked students to complete as they watched the Virtual Field Trip to the Library of Congress. We quickly decided to ditch that in favor of pausing the video and discussing the content with our students to make the lesson more engaging and easier to follow. After the video, we used mini-Constitution pages our LMC Director had made for each student as talking chips for another Kagan activity.

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We were thrilled to see all the learning happening and we were even getting requests from other grade levels to host classes during our off periods. The more the merrier. We are looking forward to more exciting opportunities like this.

Photo Credits

CONSTITUTION. – Page one of the Constitution of the United States of America, 1787.. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016.
http://quest.eb.com/search/140_1642480/1/140_1642480/cite. Accessed 4 Oct 2016.

All other images are my own.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The Day I Made History

I’m a wife and a mom to two fabulous little girls. So anyone could probably guess that I have had at least three life-changing days in my life. Graduating middle school, high school, and college were all big days too. Becoming a big sister was pretty epic as well, and even though I was only a month away from turning four, I do have my own memories from that day.

I had another day worth remembering this week. It was the day all my hard work was realized. Hard work that started with a vision and continued with research. I visited schools that were early adopters, noting their successes but also their missteps. I pitched and waited. I waited patiently and when my bosses picked up the bat, it was a home run. I shared my findings to stakeholders and created presentations full of plans. I collaborated with experts, developing a system for success. Then there was paperwork. Writing and revising packets of information, narrowing all of it down to something our families could (and would) digest. I recruited amazingly hard workers who took the reigns on translating every word for our Spanish speaking community. I was lucky to have a colleague who bent over backwards to produce instructional videos that our students could view to learn about our new initiative. I am blessed to be teamed up with a driven crew of teachers and staff who have delivered this content to our students. The whole process took over five years. Now, every student in our middle school is showing up to class with a personal, school-issued Chromebook.

Thursday, August 25, 2016 is the day that Glenside Middle School began its 1:1 Technology Initiative. I am honored to say that they believed in me and my dreams for our students.

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Brave

Black and white illustration of Roman goddess Diana holding a bow and arrow

Black and white illustration of Roman goddess Diana holding a bow and arrow

What does it mean to be brave? Is it going for what you want? Is it going beyond that? In our house, we love the movie Brave. Having daughters I worry sometimes that they are going to miss the message of bravery in the movie and instead just learn to defy their mother every chance they get. For now, though, they just love Merida’s bouncy red hair and the look she gets on her face when she’s focusing in on a target. They’re still very young.

I came across this video today. It spoke to me. I was shocked to hear the statistics about women, bravery, and believing in oneself. I want to leave this link here so that I can return to it now and then as a reminder to be brave and to raise my daughters to be truly brave.

Watch now: Reshma’s TED Talk

Girls Who Code Founder & CEO Reshma Saujani took to the TED 2016 stage to outline her vision for why we need to socialize girls to be comfortable with imperfection.
“For the American economy, for any economy to grow, to TRULY innovate, we cannot leave behind half our population! We have to socialize our girls to be comfortable with imperfection and we need to do it now.” Reshma Saujani