Schools That Inspire Learning

By Betsy Corcoran     Jun 17, 2013

Schools That Inspire Learning

It was an amazing end to a genuinely amazing school year.

Just as classes were finishing and students were daydreamingabout lazy summer afternoons, President Obama jetted down to Mooresville,N.C., to visit the rock-stars of Mooresville Middle School and announce theConnectEdinitiative, a commitment to getting high-speed bandwidth into just aboutevery school in the country within the next five years. (Last year, althoughMooresville ranked in the bottom 10 of North Carolina's 115 school districts infunding per student, it was the second highest achieving district in thestate.)

Immediately after the President spoke, the White Houseinvited three other schools to share the highlights of their year via a Googlehangout. They were: 

And--lucky me--they rang up EdSurge and asked me to moderatethe conversation.

You can watchthe whole session right here. We didn't have much time to prepare for thehangout. A few minutes before we went live, I told the teachers and studentsthat I'd ask them to describe a couple of their favorite projects. The kidswere giggling and whispering; I wondered whether we'd be able to fill the 30minutes that the White House had allotted for the call.

When the cameras began to roll, however, the students were poised, articulate,funny and frank. Loris students described projects that involved creating abook about what they found at the beach and building Glogster presentationsabout Civil Rights. Some Chappellstudents studied problems in the Sudan--and then raised $500 to build a wellthere. Other Chappell students investigated charges of child labor. And everystudent at the Science Leadership Academy had a unique and impressive project,from building websites, online portfolios and games, to exploring the sciencebehind local transit using probeware to scripting and filming their own moviesand plays.

More tool thangimmick

Students offered thoughtful descriptions of how thetechnology supported what they were learning. " We don't just do a reportand then we're done with it. We do multiple things, we dig deeper and kind ofchallenge ourselves," said one Chappell fifth grade student.

Particularly in Philadelphia, where the students spendsignificant time on their computers, they spoke first of the relevance of theirprojects. "We have five values: inquiry, research, collaboration,presentation and reflection," said a Philadelphia based SLA student."We use all those core values in everything we do. It's a transientproperty throughout all our classrooms."

Added an elementary student from Loris: "If… we had toget rid of all the electronic devices--no more iPads, no more computers--theywould have to call the emergency room because I'd be passed out on the floor…Ifeel we need that technology in the classroom… because it just makes the worldmore interesting."

After theGoogle hangout, I spoke with the teachers and administrators of these programsto learn a bit more about their schools.

ScienceLeadership Academy

A magnet high school founded in September 2006 by PrincipalChris Lehmann, the Science LeadershipAcademy is an inquiry-driven, project-based, 1:1 laptop school. It serves about465 students and is considered one of the pioneers of the School 2.0 movement,both in the US and abroad.

Lehmann relishes allthe projects that the SLA students carry out, from using motion sensors andprobeware to explore the physics of local transit to designing water pumps withGoogle sketchup, to writing and filming original screenplays. He emphasizedthat SLA students largely use the same sets of software tools used in theprivate sector. "The worst thing is when we create [software products] forour kids that aren't used in the real world," he says.  "We do our kids a disservice whenwe don't give them access to the tools we use in the real world."

"Youdon't need an educational film making program when you have iMovie. Don't needa junior varsity version of probeware," Lehmann says.

Schools do need somekind of learning management system (LMS) that can be the  virtual center of a school community,he adds, supporting communications between teachers, students and parents, aswell as storing school records and assignments. SLA has been collaborating withlocal Philadelphia design firm, Jarvus tocreate Slate, an LMS that uses open source codeand incorporates Google docs.


Project-basedlearning, Lehmann says, "allows kids entry points where they are.That's incredibly important. If you are ready to accelerate, you can run withit. A kid who needs more basic skills can go at a different pace. A project isdone when it is has met everyone's expectation. A student has a sense ofcompletion about it." 

During the Google hangout, SLA students demonstrated deeppride in the work they had done over the past year. "A kind of unspokenrule" at SLA, observed one student, is that students wind up spending justas much time working on their projects outside of school as they do duringschool. "Otherwise they won't be very good," he noted. 

The role of technology, said several students, was tosupport their goals. "We've learned to be self-reliant," said onegirl. "The technology can be annoying. Sometimes it just doesn'twork." But when students who can't find an expert at the school to helpsolve a problem learn to seek out tutorials or videos online to solve theirproblems. 

Most crucial, Lehmann says, is building community consensusand a common language of teaching and learning around the value ofproject-based learning.

Loris Elementary

Loris is a Title I elementary school that servesapproximately 780 students in grades pre K through 5. For the past two years,Loris has had a 1:1 program in the fourth and fifth grades involving about 250students. In September, the school expects to add third grade to the program.The Horry school district, which includes 39,000 students, will startimplementing a 1:1 program over the next three years, says Cox, directorof online learning at Horry County Schools. And many ofthose schools will be looking to Loris Elementary along with two other localschools for lessons learned.

This year, Loris students won 10 awards at the local techfair, including "best" in show. Two years ago, none of its studentseven entered the fair, says principal Mark Porter. 


"We've learned that the easy part is putting thehardware in the hands of the teachers," Porter says. "What'simportant is not to let it be just a 'replacement' for a textbook orwhiteboard. That's been the learning process for us: using the technology totruly go beyond the textbook so that our students learning is more rigorous,engaging and genuine." 

About three-quarters of the time, students are usingcontent-related software developed for schools, Porter estimates. CompassLearning is widely used at Loris as is Achieve3000 (for literacy) and Dyknow,classroom management software. But over the next few years, Porter expects theschool will begin to use conventional software as it increasingly becomes aproject-based learning program.

 "It's allabout taking small steps and having a good plan," says Edi Cox, directorof online learning at Horry County Schools. "We're transforming the roleof the teacher in the classroom and making our teachers goodleaders." 

ChappellElementary

Chappell Elementary supports approximately 320 students ingrades K through fifth. It's one of the first public elementary InternationalBaccalaureate Primary Years Program schools in Wisconsin and it received its IBauthorization this past spring.

"We've used a green screen for the kids to do reportsfrom 'historic' locations," says teacher Marie Sauvey, a fifth gradeteacher at Chappell. The teachers use a full suite of office tools, from wordprocessing Excel and PowerPoint to Photostory and Audacity. "Easily 90% ofour kids will be able to use whatever PC or laptop they encounter," saysSauvey.

Chappell began establishing a one device to one childprogram four years ago, and at the time created a scope and sequence of the skillsappropriate for each grade. "Our kids have really developed those skills;now it's time we increased the rigor of that scope and sequence," says Principal Kris Worden.


It takes schools several years to meet the standards andqualify as an IB school. Such programs already incorporate a scope and sequencemuch like the Common Core, notes Sauvey. "I like the Common Core," sheadds, in part because it helps teachers synch up their curriculum plans, anadvantage when students switch schools.

Having an entire staff committed to delivering a consistentscope and sequence of curriculum helped Chappell implement both its IBcurriculum and technology. "Everyone took responsibility for being anexpert in some area," says Worden. "At first we had people who struggled to use a DVD. Buteveryone helped each other grow. They became each other's mentors."

Sauvey says that every two months, Chappell's teachers put on anin-house "show and tell" session to give teachers a chance to sharehow they were implementing technology. "And you had people who said, 'Oooh,I didn't think of using it that way,'" she recalls.

Technology isn't typically used for remediation. "Wefeel the best remediation is a teacher." But technology does enablestudents who are excelling a chance to rocket ahead, she adds.

"We're seeing the fruits of all the hard work thatwe've put into tech integration and establishing the IB program now," says Worden. "Kids are owning their learning. Even in kindergarten, they're notsaying, 'So what?' They're taking action and understanding they have a role inthis world. When we can trust in ourselves to release to the kids, the learningand power will come in."



Schools That Inspire Learning

By Betsy Corcoran     Jun 17, 2013

Schools That Inspire Learning

It was an amazing end to a genuinely amazing school year.

Just as classes were finishing and students were daydreamingabout lazy summer afternoons, President Obama jetted down to Mooresville,N.C., to visit the rock-stars of Mooresville Middle School and announce theConnectEdinitiative, a commitment to getting high-speed bandwidth into just aboutevery school in the country within the next five years. (Last year, althoughMooresville ranked in the bottom 10 of North Carolina's 115 school districts infunding per student, it was the second highest achieving district in thestate.)

Immediately after the President spoke, the White Houseinvited three other schools to share the highlights of their year via a Googlehangout. They were: 

And--lucky me--they rang up EdSurge and asked me to moderatethe conversation.

You can watchthe whole session right here. We didn't have much time to prepare for thehangout. A few minutes before we went live, I told the teachers and studentsthat I'd ask them to describe a couple of their favorite projects. The kidswere giggling and whispering; I wondered whether we'd be able to fill the 30minutes that the White House had allotted for the call.

When the cameras began to roll, however, the students were poised, articulate,funny and frank. Loris students described projects that involved creating abook about what they found at the beach and building Glogster presentationsabout Civil Rights. Some Chappellstudents studied problems in the Sudan--and then raised $500 to build a wellthere. Other Chappell students investigated charges of child labor. And everystudent at the Science Leadership Academy had a unique and impressive project,from building websites, online portfolios and games, to exploring the sciencebehind local transit using probeware to scripting and filming their own moviesand plays.

More tool thangimmick

Students offered thoughtful descriptions of how thetechnology supported what they were learning. " We don't just do a reportand then we're done with it. We do multiple things, we dig deeper and kind ofchallenge ourselves," said one Chappell fifth grade student.

Particularly in Philadelphia, where the students spendsignificant time on their computers, they spoke first of the relevance of theirprojects. "We have five values: inquiry, research, collaboration,presentation and reflection," said a Philadelphia based SLA student."We use all those core values in everything we do. It's a transientproperty throughout all our classrooms."

Added an elementary student from Loris: "If… we had toget rid of all the electronic devices--no more iPads, no more computers--theywould have to call the emergency room because I'd be passed out on the floor…Ifeel we need that technology in the classroom… because it just makes the worldmore interesting."

After theGoogle hangout, I spoke with the teachers and administrators of these programsto learn a bit more about their schools.

ScienceLeadership Academy

A magnet high school founded in September 2006 by PrincipalChris Lehmann, the Science LeadershipAcademy is an inquiry-driven, project-based, 1:1 laptop school. It serves about465 students and is considered one of the pioneers of the School 2.0 movement,both in the US and abroad.

Lehmann relishes allthe projects that the SLA students carry out, from using motion sensors andprobeware to explore the physics of local transit to designing water pumps withGoogle sketchup, to writing and filming original screenplays. He emphasizedthat SLA students largely use the same sets of software tools used in theprivate sector. "The worst thing is when we create [software products] forour kids that aren't used in the real world," he says.  "We do our kids a disservice whenwe don't give them access to the tools we use in the real world."

"Youdon't need an educational film making program when you have iMovie. Don't needa junior varsity version of probeware," Lehmann says.

Schools do need somekind of learning management system (LMS) that can be the  virtual center of a school community,he adds, supporting communications between teachers, students and parents, aswell as storing school records and assignments. SLA has been collaborating withlocal Philadelphia design firm, Jarvus tocreate Slate, an LMS that uses open source codeand incorporates Google docs.


Project-basedlearning, Lehmann says, "allows kids entry points where they are.That's incredibly important. If you are ready to accelerate, you can run withit. A kid who needs more basic skills can go at a different pace. A project isdone when it is has met everyone's expectation. A student has a sense ofcompletion about it." 

During the Google hangout, SLA students demonstrated deeppride in the work they had done over the past year. "A kind of unspokenrule" at SLA, observed one student, is that students wind up spending justas much time working on their projects outside of school as they do duringschool. "Otherwise they won't be very good," he noted. 

The role of technology, said several students, was tosupport their goals. "We've learned to be self-reliant," said onegirl. "The technology can be annoying. Sometimes it just doesn'twork." But when students who can't find an expert at the school to helpsolve a problem learn to seek out tutorials or videos online to solve theirproblems. 

Most crucial, Lehmann says, is building community consensusand a common language of teaching and learning around the value ofproject-based learning.

Loris Elementary

Loris is a Title I elementary school that servesapproximately 780 students in grades pre K through 5. For the past two years,Loris has had a 1:1 program in the fourth and fifth grades involving about 250students. In September, the school expects to add third grade to the program.The Horry school district, which includes 39,000 students, will startimplementing a 1:1 program over the next three years, says Cox, directorof online learning at Horry County Schools. And many ofthose schools will be looking to Loris Elementary along with two other localschools for lessons learned.

This year, Loris students won 10 awards at the local techfair, including "best" in show. Two years ago, none of its studentseven entered the fair, says principal Mark Porter. 


"We've learned that the easy part is putting thehardware in the hands of the teachers," Porter says. "What'simportant is not to let it be just a 'replacement' for a textbook orwhiteboard. That's been the learning process for us: using the technology totruly go beyond the textbook so that our students learning is more rigorous,engaging and genuine." 

About three-quarters of the time, students are usingcontent-related software developed for schools, Porter estimates. CompassLearning is widely used at Loris as is Achieve3000 (for literacy) and Dyknow,classroom management software. But over the next few years, Porter expects theschool will begin to use conventional software as it increasingly becomes aproject-based learning program.

 "It's allabout taking small steps and having a good plan," says Edi Cox, directorof online learning at Horry County Schools. "We're transforming the roleof the teacher in the classroom and making our teachers goodleaders." 

ChappellElementary

Chappell Elementary supports approximately 320 students ingrades K through fifth. It's one of the first public elementary InternationalBaccalaureate Primary Years Program schools in Wisconsin and it received its IBauthorization this past spring.

"We've used a green screen for the kids to do reportsfrom 'historic' locations," says teacher Marie Sauvey, a fifth gradeteacher at Chappell. The teachers use a full suite of office tools, from wordprocessing Excel and PowerPoint to Photostory and Audacity. "Easily 90% ofour kids will be able to use whatever PC or laptop they encounter," saysSauvey.

Chappell began establishing a one device to one childprogram four years ago, and at the time created a scope and sequence of the skillsappropriate for each grade. "Our kids have really developed those skills;now it's time we increased the rigor of that scope and sequence," says Principal Kris Worden.


It takes schools several years to meet the standards andqualify as an IB school. Such programs already incorporate a scope and sequencemuch like the Common Core, notes Sauvey. "I like the Common Core," sheadds, in part because it helps teachers synch up their curriculum plans, anadvantage when students switch schools.

Having an entire staff committed to delivering a consistentscope and sequence of curriculum helped Chappell implement both its IBcurriculum and technology. "Everyone took responsibility for being anexpert in some area," says Worden. "At first we had people who struggled to use a DVD. Buteveryone helped each other grow. They became each other's mentors."

Sauvey says that every two months, Chappell's teachers put on anin-house "show and tell" session to give teachers a chance to sharehow they were implementing technology. "And you had people who said, 'Oooh,I didn't think of using it that way,'" she recalls.

Technology isn't typically used for remediation. "Wefeel the best remediation is a teacher." But technology does enablestudents who are excelling a chance to rocket ahead, she adds.

"We're seeing the fruits of all the hard work thatwe've put into tech integration and establishing the IB program now," says Worden. "Kids are owning their learning. Even in kindergarten, they're notsaying, 'So what?' They're taking action and understanding they have a role inthis world. When we can trust in ourselves to release to the kids, the learningand power will come in."



Next In

Next in

STAY UP TO DATE ON EDTECH
News, research, and opportunities - sent weekly.
STAY UP TO DATE ON EDTECH
News, research, and opportunities - sent weekly.