The video below will give you a window into my two-year journey as coordinator for my district’s EETT grant. In exchange for the funding to purchase laptop carts and cameras and to provide professional development for 4th and 5th grade teachers and students at three elementary sites, I was charged with helping teachers and students use more technology … in ways that would improve student writing.
We (my wonderful evaluator Carl Whithaus + 3 outstanding graduate research assistants + a little input from me) submitted our final EETT report to the Dept. of Ed last week. WE MORE THAN MET ALL GOALS OF THE GRANT!:-)
I facilitated workshops and support on blogging (Edublogs), podcasting (Audacity & VoiceThread), and movie making (Movie Maker 2). But the heart of the grant stemmed from workshops from Area 3 Writing Project (A3WP) teacher consultants, who shared strategies, resources, and best practices for grade-level specific topic and genres. Writing was at the center; the technology simply provided tools to extend writing beyond the walls of the classroom and to promote sharing, collaboration, and inclusion in online learning communities.
Would the grant have had the same results and impact without the A3WP partnership? I don’t think so. Many EETT teachers shared with me that they had attended technology trainings in the past, but somehow, regardless of the specific tool, it seemed more like an add-on or a “Fun Friday” kind of activity, not something that could be seamlessly integrated into the core curriculum.
The A3WP is a local chapter of the National Writing Project (NWP), an organization that is fighting for funding . An organization founded on the concept of “teachers teaching teachers.” An organization nationally recognized for being on the leading edge of blending digital media with writing. Similar to my EETT video, the videos on the NWP site demonstrate the depth, breadth, and commitment of Writing Project teachers to help fellow teachers realize “the tremendous benefits of using digital media tools to teach writing.” In a nutshell, so much depends on continued funding for the NWP.
NWP + Technology + EETT = Student Empowerment
Imagine hearing the peaceful music of the harp drifting across an elementary school campus at the close of a busy school day. This image might bring to mind enrichment programs typical of more affluent school sites. But if 4th grade teacher Teresa Cheung is awarded a Pepsi Grant, students at David Reese Elementary School, a Title 1/Program Improvement site in my district, will have access to an after-school program that could be life changing.
Life changing? One student’s story inspired Teresa to apply for the grant:
Thanks to an EETT grant, over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of spending time in Teresa’s classroom. She is an exceptional teacher, who cares deeply about her students, and continually strives to inspire a love for learning.
Please, please help Teresa fund a set of harps for her after-school program – Harps for Hope. It will take you less than a minute to login to vote – And you can vote every day up to July 31st.
As of today, Harps for Hope is ranked number 125. If we (you, me, and anyone you know who cares about leveling the playing field) can bring her proposal into the top 10, Harps for Hope will be funded!!!!
I certainly understand the pressure teachers and administrators at low-performing schools are under right now to raise test scores. Not surprisingly, not all teachers respond to test-prep mandates in the same way. Many believe in the power of months of drill to improve scores, and will, accordingly, consider allowing students time for a technology-related project only “when testing is over.” A few brave teachers, however, integrate technology throughout the year, across the curriculum, believing that student engagement, collaboration, and creativity will boost standardized test scores.
Considering the above and knowing that the state of California is proposing to redirect EETT/ARRA funding from classrooms and, instead, add the funding to the pot of money that has already gone into over a decade of developing the CALPADS project (state’s student data system), I have a couple of questions on my mind. The questions jumped out at me this morning as I as a clicked on a Tweet from Kent Manning, which led me into his View from Here blog:
Question #1: Are students recipients of information or creators of information? – Thank you, Kent, for uploading and sharing this short gem from Marco Torres!
Question #2: Are we building on students’ strengths or weaknesses? – What if we (teachers, sites, districts, states) acted on middle school teacher Paul Blogush’s suggestion and began teaching to students’ strengths?
While I do not question the value of educators having access to student data, I do wonder if extending CALPADS to the proposed PreK-20 program will actually improve teaching and learning in our state. Will the program address the important distinctions/divides/gaps between students as consumers and students as producers? How about student strengths vs. weaknesses?
I’m headed to the Capitol this morning to fight for our EETT ARRA funding. CUE director Mike Lawrence sums up the issue in a sentence: “California directed schools and districts across the state to spend millions to support Educational Technology, then failed to distribute the over $72M in stimulus funds to pay for it!”
Having seen first-hand the positive ways the meaningful (beyond multiple-choice) integration of technology into the curriculum can impact teaching and learning in my district’s EETT classrooms, I have a few thoughts to share with our Assembly members:
Honorable Members of This Subcommittee:
My name is Gail Desler. I am a technology support teacher for the Elk Grove Unified School District. I am here to today to urge you to honor the primary goal of the EETT ARRA grant:
“to improve student achievement of the state content standards and technology literacy in grades four through eight with expanded access to technology, electronic resources, professional development, and enhanced communications.”
In EETT Rounds 1, 2, and 4, the Elk Grove USD met and exceeded performance goals, with students in grades 7 and 8 at all 5 targeted middle schools showing substantial growth on California Standardized Tests (CSTs) in the academic area of English/Language Arts. As for technology proficiency, students and their teachers also exceeded performance objectives.
We are currently in our second year of EETT Round 7, this time working with grades 4 and 5 at three elementary sites. Two have been classified as Title 1 for a number of years; the third school more than meets the requirement for free and reduced lunch and awaits reclassification.
I recognize that, when looking at student achievement, the State restricts its definition to standardized test scores. Last year, all three EETT 4th grades improved their CST scores in English/Language Arts – and showed huge gains in technology proficiency. At David Reese Elementary School, for example, 4th graders showed a 6-point gain in English/Language Arts (which included the 4th grade writing sample) over the previous school year and substantial gains in their abilities to use information technology.
Regardless of the EETT Round, thanks to the on-going assessments of our external evaluators, the explanation is clear and simple: the gains in student test scores can be attributed to the fact that EETT funding is being used as intended – providing students with access to digital literacy tools and providing teachers with the training to effectively integrate those tools into the English Language Arts curriculum.
Through a partnership with the Area 3 Writing Project (local affiliate of the National Writing Project), teachers receive professional development on best practices for improving literacy, with the recognition that new definitions for literacy no longer distinguish between literacy in general and technology literacy in particular.
At a time when low test scores have locked many Title 1 schools into a daily grind of students working in isolation on multiple-choice/fill-in-the-blanks test prep, I have watched our EETT sites use the training, support, and tools to unlock higher order thinking skills, allowing students to engage in complex tasks that foster collaboration and creativity, much like their counterparts at more affluent school sites. I have witnessed what can happen when EETT funding gets feet walks into classrooms.
I invite you to visit Elk Grove’s EETT sites so that you too can see first-hand how the technology and training are providing an at-risk student population with opportunities to expand and learn beyond the confines of ‘basic’ or ‘proficient,’ beyond the walls of the classroom, and beyond the margins of their surrounding communities.
California should seek alternative funding for the CALPADS program and not take away from this already established and effective program. On behalf of the Elk Grove USD and all the districts that have applied, I implore you to stop holding EETT ARRA dollars hostage and to immediately release the funding – while there is still time to ensure that teachers will receive the professional development needed to bridge unacceptable achievement gaps and digital divides. Using the EETT ARRA money to provide students with better access to information technologies and teachers with the training on how to use those information technologies makes a key difference in our schools—not just in improving CST scores but also in increasing students’ and teachers’ abilities to use 21st-century literacy tools.
I’m told it’s basically a done deal: the Assembly will take the EETT money from the classroom and use it to fund the P-20 data-gathering program Calpads. Already knowing that yet one more program for measuring academic acheivement is not likely to directly benefit students, I think it’s worth our time and effort to fight for a program that is making a difference, especially in our Title 1 schools.
One of the best things about heading into 2010 is the opportunity to follow Rudy Alfonso and his 5th graders as they continue their journey into the art and process of filmmaking.
If you haven’t visited his EETT & Making Movies blog, I recommend starting with the First Entry (from October) and working your way forward to December. What an amazing window into the all stages of the guiding students through the filmmaking process!
Not surprisingly, before Mr. Alfonso and his students headed off for winter break, he shared one of his own recent productions: Sleigh Ride
“Since this is a blog about students learning how to make videos from a teacher, a teacher has to model making videos right? Here’s one I made that I showed my students about using music and being creative.”
Lucky me! As the coordinator of the EETT grant, I’ll get to visit with Rudy and his students throughout the remainder of the school year. Lucky you! I’ll continue to share gems from Mr. Alfonso’s classroom, including some soon-to-be-posted interview clips.
Skype is great tool…but movie making with Skype? Meet Mr. Alfonso, one of my EETT teachers, who I’m guessing can take any technology tool to a new level. His Meet the David Reese Bunch video is but one of a growing bank of samples of how movie making can promote shared learning communities.
A visit to Rudy Alfonso’s classroom blog will provide you with a window into what the act/art of digital composing looks like in his 5th grade classroom. Forget any stereotypes of Title I teaching (sometimes limited to multiple-choice, lower-level thinking activities); they don’t apply to this classroom. Based on a recent visit to Mr. Alfonso’s classroom, one of my resolutions for the New Year is to document his students’ year-long learning journeys, including video interviews. I’m pretty sure the end product will be an invaluable resource for other educators who want to provide a 21st century curriculum to their elementary students, but just need some tips and models.
Wouldn’t you love to hear first-hand why Serena, for instance, who has completed her storyboard for her second movie and is now ready to move into production, has decided her first scene will open with the particular ‘Establishing shot” shown in her storyboard?!
At the very minimum, I’m planning to add a monthly update on my digital travels with Mr. Alfonso and his class. I hope you’ll join me – and contribute to the conversation with links to what new technologies look like when they get legs and walk beyond workshops and into your classrooms.
For the last two weeks, I’ve been immersed in writing the application for my district’s EETT Round 7 grant (federally funded grant, administered through the state). The form and requirements are enough to put off a grant-writing newbie such as myself from jumping through all the hoops required in time to meet the April 23rd deadline. Why would I volunteer for such a task? In a nutshell, I want to provide three of our low-income elementary sites with the equipment, research base, and professional development needed to transform the current language arts program into multimedia/multimodal opportunities to take a publisher’s scripted program beyond the walls of the classroom and into the 21st century. In large part, the inspiration for writing the RFA comes from:
As part of the proposal, I am therefore very enthusiastically including Mathew Needleman, who will connect from Los Angeles Unified SD via interactive videoconferencing to work with teachers and students on the skills needed to take an Open Court (district-adopted language arts textbook) theme through the steps required to create an language arts rich production.
On this beautiful California Saturday morning, I wish all of you across the nation applying for the EETT grant (and working on the RFA over the weekend) the best of luck:-)