BlogWalker

Muddling through the blogosphere

January 21, 2012
by blogwalker
0 comments

Gearing Up for Digital Learning Day

I’m starting the countdown to California’s February 1 Digital Learning Day celebration and feeling very fortunate to be attending the event with three outstanding teachers from my district.

Lesley McKillop, 4th gSplash-Channel3rade teacher at Prairie Elementary and Area 3 Writing Project colleague, will share how her students use filmmaking as tool for transforming their writing into social action, such as taking on the Sacramento Board of Directors to save Splash, an environmental education program. Checkout the video for an idea of the many ways Lesley takes student voices beyond the walls of the classroom.

Teresa Cheung, 4th grade teacher at David Reese Elementary, will share how her students use voice recorders, as part of the Stories from the Heart project, to interview family and community members to compare and contrast childhood experiences across generations, geographic areas, and cultures.

Terri Mills, 5th grade teacher at David Reese Elementary, will share See the Wind, a science and writing lesson in which she teams her 5th graders with 1st graders. With a little help from their big buddies, the first graders then take their writing and their voices out to the world via VoiceThread.

I’ll be sharing Digital ID, a collaborate project I’ve been working on this year with Writing Project and Merit 2011 colleague Natalie Bernasconi. But more about this project later in the week:-)

In the Sacramento region, thanks to the efforts of Digital Learning Day coordinator Jayne Marlink, the excitement is growing, along with DLDay resources.

Hope to see you there!

October 2, 2010
by blogwalker
0 comments

NWP + Technology = Successful EETT Model

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

May 4, 2010
by blogwalker
0 comments

California’s Great ‘Bait and Switch’ Trick

saveedtechI’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.

January 4, 2009
by blogwalker
5 Comments

Blogging with 4th Graders

Before the Winter Break, I introduced the 4th grade teachers in my EETT grant to blogs and blogging during a 3-hour whirlwind workshop. With only a week left before vacation, already several went “live” with their blogs and invited their students to post comments, noting that their students immediately took to blogging. One of the great things about introducing Web 2.0 tools is that kids like technology.

I am pretty sure that students who read and respond to blogs regularly – especially beyond the school day – are building their reading skills. But my EETT grant was funded based on my argument that students at three of my district’s lowest-performing elementary schools would improve their writing skills by integrating multi-modal, multimedia tools and strategies into the English/Language Arts program. The tools (blogs, podcasts, wikis, VoiceThread, and video editing) are only half of the program. Area 3 Writing Project Teacher Consultants are providing the other half: teacher-tested writing activities and strategies that have transformed writing in their own classrooms – and have helped raise scores on the 4th grade paper-and-pencil state writing assessment.

Technology is not a silver bullet. But if you combine powerful writing strategies – such as introducing emerging writers to the concept of strong verbs and prompting them, for example, to locate strong verbs in other bloggers’ posts and to respond with at least one strong verb – with Web 2.0 tools, then I predict this group of 4th graders will become better writers.

Over the break, I’ve been reading some outstanding posts by Silvia Tolisano, Kim Cofino, and Kevin Jarrett.

Drawing from many of the ideas and resources they’ve shared, here is my agenda for Tuesday’s EETT workshop:

Opening Session: Revisiting Blogs and Blogging

  • The Big Question: How can blogging help YOUR students?
  • End with my Sacto neighbor and thinking partner Alice Mercer’s video on Blogging with Students

Morning Workshop: Summary Writing – Facilitated by A3WP 4th grade teachers Angela Luna and Heather Koczian.

Afternoon Session = Podcasting for Absolute Beginners*

  • Start with a brief PowerPoint. I’m providing handouts for teachers to note how they will integrate podcasting – and summary writing – into their classrooms.
  • Introduce Audacity
  • Hands-on time for teachers to experiment with their first podcasts
  • End session with demo on podcasting from a cell phone via Gcast
  • Wrap Up – Sharing of ideas for incorporating podcasting – as a writing strategy – into the 4th grade curriculum.

*Note: I’ve posted links to podcasting tutorials and resources on ToolKit4BlogWalker.

As we move through this grant year, it is my hope that through access to powerful writing strategies and access to technology tools that provide authentic audience and authentic purpose, this group of 4th graders will experience academic growth – and excitement – and will add writing (most likely online writing) to their list of favorites.

Image copied from http://langwitches.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/blog-stickies.jpg

December 25, 2008
by blogwalker
0 comments

From Del Paso Heights to City Hall – A victory on many levels

I love it when a city unites to celebrate the accomplishments of a group of students – especially when those students have overcome the odds to reach a goal. And so it was on Tuesday when the City of Sacramento cheered on Grant High School’s Pacers, the underdogs who had just defeated Long Beach Poly High at the state football championships, as they set out on their victory parade from Del Paso Heights to City Hall where our newly elected Mayor Kevin Johnson presented the team with the keys to the city.

While probably less than 20 miles from Grant High School to downtown Sacramento, the distance traveled is more than just miles when you consider the high dropout rates, the gang-related violence, and extreme poverty levels this group of student atheletes has clearly not allowed to stand in their way.

Now that Grant High School is in the limelight for its sports accomplishments, I would also like the public – especially Mayor Johnson and his frequent advisor Michelle Rhee – to know about a group of English/Language Arts teachers, whose passion for teaching and dedication to providing Grant students with an achievable and academically rigorous program may have a subtle but more important impact. While I am sure Grant has similar groups of remarkable teachers across the disciplines, I know this particular group first-hand through their inspiring leadership at the Area 3 Writing Project (part of the National Writing Project). Year after year, they share at a regional, statewide, and national level, lessons and strategies that have made the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) attainable for “at risk” students.

But this group has also vowed to provide all students with the background, scaffolding, and requirements that will move them considerably past the CAHSEE and prepare them for the level of academic writing required to succeed at the university level. Each year, through the A3WP and California Writing Project, this team of teachers guides participating teachers through the highly successful ISAW program.

With Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and others in top educational positions promising “to shake up education” and advocating merit pay for teachers , I suspect – and I certainly can understand why – a number of effective teachers, for monetary reasons, will transfer to wealthier school districts. But the Writing Project teachers at the heart and soul of Grant High School’s English Department, well…I hope not.

Skip to toolbar