Innovate to Educate Entry
Pequannock School District
Jeryl-Ann Charlene and Asaro Valero, Teachers
What innovative technology initiative or project are you most proud of, and how has it improved teaching and learning in your school/district?Using the common core standards for writing, and the specific skill of argument writing, the fifth grade students in one of our elementary schools wrote argumentative essays, which is likely one of the more difficult tasks. Using rubrics and guidelines based on the same common core standards at both grade levels, the grade eight students in the middle school, who write those same types of essays at a more advanced level, reviewed the grade five essays and developed comments, questions, and mini-lessons based on the mistakes they found in the essays, or suggestions they could make to improve the writing. Each eighth grade student concentrated on the essay that was assigned to them, but on their first of two review days, they worked in groups and helped one another to evaluate the work. The older students were told that they were to be encouraging, friendly, and open with the fifth grade students so those younger students would not be intimidated, but rather energized by the review of the work, and excited to come to the middle school in September. Google.docs was used for writing the essays to make it all very easy. I printed the documents so that the eighth grade students could make their questions and comments (and edits) on a hard copy, and prepare their discussion points in advance. We did not want the fifth grade students to be overwhelmed by all the 'marks' on the papers. After a couple of days of review, the eighth grade students connected individually with the fifth grade students via Google.hangout, and they used their Chromebooks. Each student had a clean hard copy of the specific essay in front of them so that the discussion would be easy. The face-to-face contact helped the eighth grade students to stay grounded in their goals, and the fifth grade students felt honored to be working with the 'big kids.' Together, each set of students had about 50-minutes to make conversations and discuss the essays. As teachers, we facilitated the process, watching, helping with technology issues, and being sure students were on task. Both school principals were also in attendance to watch the process, as well as our media specialists. Such meaningful, sophisticated conversations took place from both sides of the screens. So many smiles, and in the end, we know the students in grade five learned some new 'writing rules' while the grade eight students felt empowered. The mentorship relationship provided a challenge and a high level of rigor for the older student. We did a post-reflection, and the student comments were meaningful to us as educators, and helped us to see that we need to continue doing this process next year. We also learned a few changes we need to make. Student comments from both grades: 'It told me what I would be doing during the next few years, and now I feel like I have a head start.' 'We got very good feedback from the eighth grade students.' 'When you write for a different audience, you write differently and put more into it because you don't know who is going to read it.' 'I realized how much I learned since coming to middle school, and how much better I write now than I did before.' 'I now understand that I know the rules, but need to take the time to edit my own work, so I use the rules in my own writing.' 'I have to be careful not to hurt anyone's feelings when I give feedback.' 'Teachers have hard jobs!' At the end of the year, both classes said it was the very best lesson of the year, and that we should do it again for next year's bunch. Charlene and I both felt that it is exactly how teaching should look in the 21st Century!n
What were some of the biggest challenges to your initiative, and how did you meet those challenges?The Google Hang-out (or the computers or the ) did not provide sound well for ALL the discussions, and it took some students longer to get online with their partners. However, everyone was able to get on an participate. There were also not an equal number of eighth grade to fifth grade students, so we had to do some doubling up in areas. Initially, this was a concern, but it worked out fine. The whole process of the eighth grade having proper time to 'edit' and evaluate with fifth grade work took an extra day, but it was well worth it.
What are the three biggest components that need to be in place for tech innovation to succeed are:
High levels of cooperation on many levels, even district-wide! If collaborating with another class or teacher, a relationship between the collaborators that is open, honest, and free of competition.
|Expert planning! Thinking through the whole process from beginning to end to ensure success when the technology is in front of the students.|
|A practice run, although we did that and it was still not foolproof! A plan B needs to be in place!|