Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tagged for a Meme

Thanks, Janine, for tagging me for a meme! First I had to find out what that meant! Then I had to think about the meme and my thoughts about what I believe about all students. I got a good explanation of what a meme and tag is here:
The second task of sharing three things that I believe about all students wasn't as simple. First of all I want to say that Janine Lim took all the best answers. I also feel I would like to relate this to videoconferencing. So, I will try my best at adding to the already great answers and putting on my own videoconferencing spin.
1. Students learn best when they have can have a first hand or hands-on experience. Videoconferencing gives students the opportunity to experience things in a way that traditional classroom learning does not offer. If they can't go on a real field trip a videoconference is the next best thing. Speaking with authors and experts make for lasting experiences.
2. Most students like all people are social animals. They like to interact with each other. They like to work in pairs or groups. Videoconferencing offers an opportunity for this interactivity. When students get to share with students from other places they are very excited and motivated.
3. Students like to be rewarded for their effort. These rewards can be extrinsic or intrinsic. When the presenter or expert during a videoconference says "great question" or "terrific answer" students react with pride and self confidence.

Happy Holidays to All!

Here’s who I’m tagging for this meme. You’re it!

Roxanne, Amy and Paul H.

Your mission is to:

Read Martha’s original post from the Opening Digital Doors blog.

Share three things that you believe about all students.
Reflect on your thoughts in your blog.
Be sure to link to this post and to where you were first tagged.
Tag your response with AllStudentsMeme
Invite others to join the conversation by tagging them to be a part of the meme.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Empire State Conference

Today for the second time I presented our Poetry Slam program to several school districts that are part of BOCES Greater Southern Tier. The Greater Southern Tier (GST) is a large region in New York State. The Empire State Conference was organized by the GST Distance Learning Service. Their mission is to provide their districts with the support and training required to locate appropriate educational video conferencing opportunities, plan implementation strategies, and support integration of distance learning across the curriculum. I truly enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with Poetry Slam. I think it is one of the most exciting and rewarding uses of videoconferencing. In our Queens district this program has impacted hundreds of student and as part of the Globalwrites network the numbers now are well into the thousands. I have blogged about poetry slam many times and hope to continue to blog about it in the future. Today was about sharing with other educators. I invited 5 members of one of last years poetry slam teams. They are part of a three year NYS Learning Technology Grant. As 6th graders they began a poetry residency that they continued last year as 7th graders and again this year as 8th gaders. There are 7 classes in all. The grant will evaluate how these students improved in their ELA scores compared to other similiar classes that did not participate in poetry slam. Today the students shared their poems and then fielded questions from the educators at the different sites. They were asked questions like: Do they think poetry has improved their writing in other areas? Will they continue to write poems after the program is over? Are the poetry slam competitions fierce or friendly? What is makes them more nervous performing a poem in front of their classmates or over a videoconference? They answered these questions and more with honesty and thoughtfulness that the adult audience recognized and complimented them on their maturity. Mostly the answers to these four questions were yes, maybe, friendly and videoconferencing. At the end of the conference I think we might have gained some new competition for future slams.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How High Can You Jump on Jupiter?

This past summer our principal went to Brazil as a guest of the Brazilian Department of Education. She had the opportunity to visit several schools and to observe their educational programs. This week some principals from Brazil came to our middle school in New York City to take a look at an urban American public school. Since one of our 6th grade classes was participating in a videoconference with NASA I invited the principals to join the class for the videoconference. So the group of principals, their translator and the participating class learned about "Planet Hopping Through Mathematics" one of the many NASA programs offered free to our schools through the NASA Digital Learning Network. It was great. The students measured how high they could jump on earth using a meter stick. Then through various mathematics formulas they used their calculators to get the jump height on the other planets. Each mathematical calculation was preceded by some interesting facts about the planet they were determining the jump height. The students learned about rings, moons, hurricanes and volcanos on some of the plants. They also got to sharpen math skills like rounding to the nearest hundreth and changing fractions to decimals. Kudos to Karen Ricks our NASA presenter for a program that totally engaged and informed not only the students but the educators in the room too. I would love to videoconference with one of the schools in Brazil my principal visited but I am not sure how much interest there is for purchasing equipment. I couldn't help but think how lucky we are in America to have an agency like NASA to provide programs with such quality science content.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do Elephants Have Body Odor?

Today, I am slightly embarassed to admit, I participated in my first webcast. It was on of all topics, Tips for Integrating Videoconferencing into Your Classroom, with Doug Meyer from CILC. I went by the name "Integrating". Somehow I missed how to sign-in with my real name. However, I was not the only one, there were a few participants named "Tips for Integrating". Beside that gaffe I did rather well. I was very adept at smiley faces, applause, survey taking, and comments on the whiteboard. I actually enjoyed the webcast experience very much and saw more than a few familiar names participating. The webcast was a very basic introduction to videoconferencing. I think for the novice it was just putting their toes in the pool. But I liked how Doug Meyer covered the topic in just under one hour. I hope there is follow up for these participants in their schools or districts. I always feel that any videoconference PD needs a videoconference to really get the technology across. But I am more and more finding these web 2.0 applications to be exciting and engaging too. Since I personally have been using interactive videoconferencing for ten years now, you'd think "what new things can I learn from a basic intro?" But the truth is that even though I did it for the "webcast" I did pick up a few new ideas for both my students and teachers. That brings me to "Do Elephants Have Body Odor?"

Our first videoconference for the new school year was with
the Hall of Science. It was a wonderful program on the science of sports. Why do balls bounce? How does a surfer stay on the board? The program explores the science of sports through classroom activities and demonstrations from the Hall of Science sports challenge exhibit area and shows how most sports can be related through science. The students learned about gravity, velocity and reaction time. The presenter was a wonderful young man named Anthony who had the qualities of knowledge, enthusiam and patience which are all so important for a successful videoconference.

He engaged the students for the full 45 minutes through interesting demonstrations on the exhibit floor, hands-on materials delivered to the school and a lively exchange with the students. (Although I must note the majority of the verbal exchange were from the boys!). Now what does that have to do with elephants? Well you see the Hall of Science is less then 15 minutes from our school by car. So when Anthony came to our school today to say hi the excitement was palpitable. Not to mention the excitement in the class when I suggested a field trip to the Hall of Science to see the Sports Exhibit. Even though we are so close to the Hall of Science most of the class had never visited there. But the videoconference certainly whetted their appetite and got them thinking about the science behind the sports they love. But as Doug Meyer said, when you have the real thing, you should definitely go there and we will. But for all you out-of-towners I highly recommend the Hall of Science

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dr. Ben Carson to Receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Dr. Ben Carson, it was announced today by the White House, is one of 6 people to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, The medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, recognizes people who have made an especially “meritorious contribution” to the United States. President Bush will honor the recipients at a ceremony on June 19. When I heard the announcement today I realized that because of videoconferencing, and as part of a Polycom Special Event, many of our students have had the opportunity to hear and interact with this great American. Dr. Ben Carson is a pediatric neurosurgeon and author who always finds time to do what he considers his most important work, to talk with students about believing in themselves and pursuing their dreams. This year was my third year of having a class of eighth graders read Dr. Carson's autobiography "Gifted Hands" and then prepare questions to ask the Doctor. He always gives thoughtful and in depth anwers to questions about medicine and his personal experiences. These conferences are always inspirational. How many lives has Dr. Carson touched and or changed through his medical work, books and yes videoconferences. Congratulations to Dr. Ben Carson! This most distinguished honor is most deserved.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What do poetry, veterans and aquaculture have in common?

This week in three days one of my schools partcipated in three very different and interesting videoconferences.

On Monday, a group of teachers and poet mentors videoconferenced with a like group of teachers and poet mentors in another school district as part of a staff development about poetry performance. This year is the fourth year that we are participating in poetry slam using videoconferencing to facilitate the competition. Our five schools and 10 classes will have their poetry slam next week and our teachers have been having workshops in teaching poetry writing and performance. The opportunity to have them join another group of teachers and their workshop was very beneficial for not only our teachers but for our poets as well. Getting new ideas and techniques from other educators and artists without having to leave your own school is, I feel, one of the many great opportunities videoconferencing provides. Our teachers were asked to write a poem that was a recipe for something. Then they were asked to be coached by three of their colleagues on lines, expression and movement. The teachers were modeling what they would go back and ask their students to do in order to prepare for their poetry slam. Very often when a slam team is chosen, the rest of the class is left just watching the team. By giving the students meaningful coaching jobs they stay involved in the process.

On Tuesday an eighth grade class participated in an ASK program with Viet Nam Veterans. The students read the book "The Wall" by Eve Bunting. This provided the students with a springboard for them to begin a discussion of the Viet Nam War and the soldiers that fought in it. The videoconference was with four veterans who served in Viet Nam. The students asked the veterans questions ranging from their experiences in Viet Nam to their thoughts about the War and even about the war in Iraq. The teacher from our class was himself a Viet Nam Vet and in a touching moment he asked a question of his fellow vets. I think the students came away from this conference experience with an understanding that we study wars to hopefully learn lessons from them. That war should always be a last resort. That our veterans sacrificed a lot for our freedom and deserve our respect and appreciation. Veterans are true heroes. And in the case of our New York class, they learned their teacher is a hero too.

On Wednesday we were off to Hawaii to learn about the fishing industry in Hawaii. This was a very special program.
A group of high school students prepared a wonderful presentation on aquaculture. They made powerpoints about ancient Hawaiian fishing and fishing vocabulary in Hawaiian. They made videos of local fish markets, fishing boats and a fisherman catching fish with a net. They had plenty of interactivity through questions and answers. They had the students stand up and catch fish using an imaginary net. Our students practiced their Hawaiian by repeating fishing terminology. Mahimahi is a dolphin fish. It was a great experience for our students. I just want to say, MAHALO to the wonderful students in Hawaii and their teacher, Lynn Sueoka. To see the students and their website go to:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Cask of Amontillado

When I approached an 8th grade teacher in one of my schools about participating in a Read Around the Planet videoconference she asked me what that entailed. I told her that the students could do some kind of reading activity, like a skit or a book talk. The next time I saw the teacher she was all excited about a play that she was planning for her class RAP videoconference. They couldn't possibly be ready by the first week in March. There were costumes and scenery to be made and lots of rehearsing. This production would be ready by the first week in April. I assured her that her match teacher would understand and that she should communicate her plans by e-mail and see what the partner school was preparing. Although I don't recommend letting these videoconference's planning drag on for too long, I did see in this instance an enthusiatic teacher who needed MORE time. So, March came and went as did Read Around the Planet videoconferences. The two originally paired teachers had lost touch. But the play must go on. So, we found an 8th grade class in Arizona that had originally matched with another class and was still eager to share. There were a few snags along the way like kindergarten registration in AZ and spring break in NY but today April 29th almost two months to the day originally planned the play did go on. And what a play it was.
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe is is a murder story about a person being buried alive. It takes place during carnival time.This play was rich in acting, sound and special effects, costumes and scenery. It took almost as much time to do the scene changes as the scenes themselves. The production gave some challenges to our usual videoconferences. The camera needed to follow the action but also provide some drama. I felt more like a cinematographer! I don't know how much of the fog from the fog making machine was picked up by our Arizona audience or the sound of Amontillado cane tapping the floor but the play was meticulous in every way. Again the endless possibilities provided by videoconferencing is what is most apparent.
The class in Arizona had never read anything by Poe so for them this was an introduction to a new writer. The students in Arizona had their own bit of theatrics for our students as well. They wrote their own "Fairy Tales News Show" complete with re-enactments. There was Cinderella suing the prince in court for her lost Prada slipper. A search for the Muffin Man. A weather report about a tornado at the home of the three little pigs and on and on. They were amazingly creative. Even though their production was like Shakespeare's stage without scenery it "was by no means lacking in spectacle". Our NY student were inspired to write their own play.
It was a wonderful conference and well worth the wait. Although I think the first week in March works out just fine for most of us more simple folk.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"That's a "RAP"...almost

I wish I could say that with finality but the truth is there are two classes that still need to videoconference with their match schools in April. However, 6 of the 8 classes I registered for Read Around the Planet did get to meet and share with their partner schools so I think I can call it a "rap"... almost. The connections so far have been amazing. Our NYC students have met classes from Michigan, Texas, Arizona, Upstate New York and Western Canada. They have videoconferenced with rural communities whose town populations were less than our school's student population. They have met students whose afternoon chores were rounding up cattle. They have seen just how different their lifestyles can be but they have also learned how much they have in common. They have been introduced to new books and reading activities. They have also shared their stories and projects. All in all it has been as it always is, incredible. A glimpse into the lives of other kids whose geographic locations they have only seen on maps. Those moments when you realize how important these connections are for learning a little bit more about our world. Students have had penpals for generations but seeing and talking to your videopal in real time is really special. The challenge is can this wonderful connection continue beyond this videoconference. Usually the videoconference ends with the classes vowing to keep in touch but the truth is these "Read Around" conferences are usually a beginning and end unto themselves.

Except in the case of the Mary McGuire Elementary School in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Their 5th/6th grade class videoconferenced with a 6th grade class at our BELL Academy. The students had a wonderful time. The students at BELL put on a skit about Harriet Tubman. The Michigan students shared a story. They learned a little about each other's respective school and community. Shared their goodbyes and it was over or so we thought. A few weeks later two big boxes arrived from the school. Accompanied by a letter from the teacher Buck Buchanan telling the students at BELL how excited his students were for being a part of their school year. The boxes were full of things donated by the Saginaw Chippewa Nation and a beautiful scrapbook of the Mt. Pleasant Community which Mr. Buchanan called "small rural but friendly". The class at BELL is already working on their scrapbook for their friends at Mary McGuire. I think this Read Around the Planet VC has some "legs". Making a connection is one thing ... keeping connected is another.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Do You Know Someone Famous?

Do you know someone famous? This was the first question asked two days in a row as our NYC classes participated in this year's Read Around the Planet. It just intrigues me how students from other states view our students lives. The truth is our brush with greatness is far and few between but we won't let the out of towners know that. So, our students rattle off the names of famous graduates from our school. The likes of Lucy Liu, John Legugamos, Adrian Brody and so on. This year 8 classes from two of the schools where I work are videoconferencing in Read Around the Planet programs with classes in Texas, Michigan, Arizona, Upstate New York and Canada. So far five videoconferences have taken place and each one has been an amazing and rewarding experience for our students.

Each videoconference begins with some kind of literacy exchange. Two of our 6th grade classes are reading The House on Mango Street which is a collection of vignettes. Our students wrote some vignettes of their own. Some poignant snapshots of their own homes and lives. Others more humorous as they capture hot school topics like school lunch, detention and what to do during recess. Another class perfomed a skit bases on a chapter out of a book about Harriet Tubman. The skit was complete with costumes and scenery. Our partner schools also share their literary experiences. But the literacy exchange is just a warm up for what is to come...questions and answers. This is when the real fun begins. The students learn about what's different about their lives and how much they have in common. There are always the moans and groans when one class learns there day is longer, their weather is colder and their recess is shorter. The NYC teachers groan when they learn the class size of the schools in Texas. But for the most part there is just a real comradery amongst the classes.
Our videoconference with Paris, Texas was just great. Some of the boys in the Texas class were wearing cowboy hats which definitely made an impression on our city slickers. The conference with Coloma, Michigan unveiled that the population of their town of around 1500 was less than our student population of 2000. The contrasts are striking but so are the similarities. They like the same kinds of music, dances and sports. These videoconferences always end in the same way. The students always want to become penpals or in our case videoconferencingpals. A connection has been made.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

NASA Family Night

It all started when one of my school's Parent's Association wanted to have a videoconference at their monthly meeting. It sounded like a good idea but with no budget and the challenge of a videoconference at night I wasn't sure I would be able to find an interesting program. Around that same time some of our teachers were participating in a NASA Distance Learning Network Overview & Program Showcase and the presenter while discussing some of the different kinds of programs NASA does mentioned "Family Night". It turned out that the NASA Ames Research Center is located in California (a difference of three hours from our EST time zone ).

I was put in touch with Greg Pitzer, who was very helpful and accomodating in putting together a program for our parents and their children. He made it very interactive and informative. Greg even had a hands-on activity for the students and parents to do together. They made paper airplanes and flew them. He answered lots of questions from the kids and adults alike. He showed a slideshow of the shuttle mission that was launched to the Intenational Space Station just that morning. We even got to see his blue screen which allowed Greg to be on Mars or on a beach on the Pacific Ocean in one mouse click.

NASA Family Night was a great success. Our parents got to experience the kind of programs their children are participating in during their school day. Parents and students learned new things about NASA, the International Space Station and aeronautics. And most important of all families got to spend some quality time together at NASA Family Night!