And if last week is any indication, CEM will be memorable from start to finish. On October 1, I had the privilege of co-facilitating a booth for my district at the state capitol for the anti-bullying rally Stand Up! Speak Out! What a privilege to have the opportunity to boast about the #UnfollowBullying student-created, student-led campaign, which, like CEM, is heading into its second year with students leading the charge.
On Saturday, I headed to UC Davis to join in the California Writing Project’s 40th year celebration. The collective energy, creativity, and passion for sharing past practices in promoting students as (digital, multimedia) writers and showcasing their achievements was infectious. I left with wonderful ideas for powering up the CCSS through primary source documents (e.g., tons of digitized documents from the Library of Congress collections) , great tools for engaging and supporting ELs (e.g., Tellegami with primary students, and even Voki), and great questions to take back to my district regarding the upcoming SBAC tests (California’s choice for CCSS testing). Peter’s Kittle’s Storify account will provide you with some insights into the day’s events – which started with a pitch to participants to tweet the event via Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s #Hashtag video.
Week one of Connected Educator’s Month was a blast. Hmm…I’m thinking every month should be about connecting educators and their students.
Lesley McKillop, 4th grade 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.
Digital Learning Day – what a great way for schools to head into the New Year! If your district, like mine, is experiencing the weight of PI (Program Improvement) pressures, requirements and walk-throughs sucking the creative juices right out classrooms, Digital Learning Day will provide a much-needed celebration of innovative teachers and instructional strategies.
Started by the Alliance for Learning, and in partnership with the National Writing Project, Digital Learning Day will showcase powerful work going on in the many districts and classrooms where educators are making thoughtful use of the potential of digital tools to provide students with the skills they need to succeed in college, career, and life. The ultimate goal is for the event to ignite a “digital learning movement that truly provides a quality education for every child.”
Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education (and former governor of West Virginia) speaks clearly and passionately in this video message on the commitment for Digital Learning Day to be more than a stand-alone event.
“Simply slapping a netbook on top of a textbook, however, will not necessarily lead to significant outcomes. Effective digital media combined with powerful teaching, rich content, and engaged students has the potential to take learning in the United States to a much higher level and provide all students with experiences that allow them to graduate prepared for college and a career.”
Across the nation, the Alliance for Learning and the National Writing Project (NWP) will be coordinating statewide and local Digital Learning Day events. In California, under the direction of the California Writing Project (CWP), you have a number of opportunities showcase good things happening at your schools and districts:
February 1 Sacramento/Capitol Area Showcase – Writing Our Future: A Celebration of Students’ Digital Learning and Writing (4:00-6:00 pm, location TBA). CWP Director Jayne Marlink describes the event as “imagine a combination of a science fair and a gallery walk…Teams will share their approach to improving learning – the learning goals, the technological resources used, and the student work that resulted.” I am really looking forward to involving some of the amazing teachers in my district’s EETT grants and the ANU Teach 21 grant!
February 1 (and maybe during the following week) Road Tour – A tour of schools and classrooms across the state that will open their doors to invited guests and community members, so they can see great digital teaching and learning in action. There will also be an Online Road Tour of schools and classrooms that will be visited via the CWP website. Amazing middle school teacher Natalie Bernasconi, for instance, will invite visitors in for an exploration of digital writing as a powerful way for her ELL students to find their voices and share their stories.
Try One New Thing – Digital Learning Day is not limited to February 1! Across California and the nation, Writing Project sites will be sponsoring workshops and conferences for teachers and administrators. Educators will be encouraged to “sample an online lesson, use mobile devices in class, start a wiki, use digital storytelling, start a project-based learning unit, but above all, challenge your teaching, learning, and pedagogy and see what digital technology can do for you and the students you serve!”
A great starting point for DLD resources are the toolkits, which are “are designed to help you think about how technology may strengthen your instructional strategies.” More resources and tips to come!
Digital Learning Day is a call for action “to leverage innovative uses of technology in our nation’s schools to ensure every student experiences personalized learning with great teaching.” It’s also a great opportunity – in this time of painful budget cuts – to showcase good things happening in public school classrooms. I hope you will join me in publicizing this event in your districts and regions!
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.