Community University: Engage Parents and Community with Tech Classes

Early during the 2010-2011 school year, my Principals Advisory Council came up with the idea to engage parents and community members by teaching technology classes once a month. We were cognizant of a potential gap that was occurring in terms of technology tools our students use, we use, and our parents use. If we were having difficulty keeping up, we figured our students’ parents and community members were too.

As we were planning what “Community University” would look like, I read a blog post written by Burlington High School Principal, Patrick Larkin, about the technology classes his school offered to parents. I knew we were on to something! To decide which classes to offer, I surveyed the staff to find out what classes they would be willing to teach and from there, created a schedule and class description for parents. The next step was to inform parents and make it happen!

We launched Community University in October, 2011 with a Facebook 101 class and it was a hit! Our orchestra teacher along with our district Chief Communications Officer facilitated the class for about two dozen parents. Parents were very appreciative of our efforts and left excited about the new information they learned. We saw it as opportunity for them to engage their students in a conversation about digital citizenship as well.

Community University classes are offered the first Monday of each month for an hour. We now offer two classes each month and since October,  we have held a resume writing class, understanding Google Docs class, Facebook 102, and a telescope class, which was faciltated by students. Some of the future classes are as follows: How to use your Smartphone, What is Digital Citizenship?, Twitter 101, Enhance Your Power Point Presentations, Understanding Movie Maker, iPad 101, and Understanding Prezi.

Each class is facilitated by a GLHS staff member who volunteers their time to connect with and engage our community. I encourage you to offer technology classes for your community as well. We see it as an opportunity to increase parents’ and community members’ confidence in using the technological tools that are increasingly becoming a part of our world.

Be Great,

Dwight

This is cross-posted on Connected Principals.com

 

Reflections from a GLHS Senior-Guest Blogger Jonathan Harrison

Students in our Space Technology class just completed a space simulation in which they were asked to design a rover that would complete specific tasks. In years past, they would do a space shuttle simulation. But this year, science teacher, Fred Donelson (@mrdglhs) changed things up a bit to simulate the landing on and mining of materials from an asteroid.  According to Mr. Donelson, “students will be simulating a landing by using bounce technology to drop a robot down the stairway.  They are also building a rover, remotely controlled via the internet, to remove a debris field from a mine and then collect/mine some minerals.  And a PR team will communicate all of this to visitors.”

Each year, I am simply amazed by what the students do! I wanted a student to share his experience of participating in the simulation so I invited Gahanna Lincoln High School senior, Jonathan Harrison to be a guest blogger. I’ve had the pleasure of being Jonathan’s principal since he was in the sixth grade and I couldn’t be more proud of him!

Project Vesta Reflection

               There is too much to be said for a project my group and I spent over a month on completing. One of the reasons I took Space Technology was because of the teacher, Mr. Donelson. He is one of the most interactive teachers I have ever had and I feel like he really wants his kids to succeed. Yes, I do understand that every teacher, for the most part, wants their kids to succeed in their class, but Mr. D does so much more. He uses inventive ways to teach such as social networks: always posting on Facebook and Twitter to keep his students updated on certain things going on in the class. It really helps not having to jump through hoops to find out what is due the next day. He also makes sure all of his students understand the material he is presenting, which is the most important. Students who needed the extra help could always find it, no matter if it was during the school week, on the weekends or even over holiday breaks. We had put in many hours to our project, but it was nothing compared to the hours Mr. D put in.

               With that being said, my group wanted to put in just as much work towards our project as Mr. D had put into us. We wanted to go above and beyond our expectations and really knock the socks off not only our competition, but our whole community. Personally I feel like we exceeded our goals and really showed people what teenagers are capable of producing. It also showed people how social networking can really effect a student’s education. We were able to contact teachers, administrators and other educators not only from all over the country, but across the globe. It was really eye-opening to see something we use for leisure everyday open up a lot of opportunities to further your education. That was really cool and something I enjoyed doing.

               The objective was to land your egg rover on the asteroid Vesta. Once there you had to clear debris and mine minerals that would act as important substances we need here on Earth. Each 6 person team was split up in 3 teams of two. The three teams were the Rover team, Lander team and the Public Relations team.

               Personally, I was on the Public Relations team. We had a lot of things to complete while this project went on. We had to develop a teaching video on space colonization, which will be a factor in our lives. The catch was that it had to be suitable for middle school students, who cannot read nearly as fast as high school seniors. We had to edit multiple times, which was extremely frustrating. But we finished it and it turned out very nicely. Next we had to make a documentary video. This basically outlined everything we did throughout the whole project. We had to keep record of everything that happened with videos and photos. We also had to “get our name out there.” I thought that what we were doing was very cool and interesting and I wanted other people to know also. I made a website, Facebook group and a Twitter account for everyone to communicate back and forth. In a few days we had educators from all over the world commenting on our progress and they were really interested in what Team Chronos, (our team name, @TeamChronos), was doing that day. They would ask for information on everything we had knowledge on, which was pretty cool. It’s not every day that an adult comes to a teenager and asks them for information so that they can teach their kids what we found out. Lastly we had to make a team brochure, which had to include each team’s mission, a small bio on each Team Chronos member and the whole team’s objective. We had a lot of fun with this, because we had made two different brochures. One was funny and the other was professional. It was awesome coming up with fake bio’s that made someone laugh.

               As a group, I could not have asked for a better group of guys to work with. We all had the same mindset and goals to accomplish during this project. Dedication, hard work and good work ethic benefitted our group unlike it did for others. We split up the work equally, and the only arguments we had was who was going to finish the projects at their homes. Eagerness to get your work done is a quick way to ensure it actually does get completed. Our group’s outlook and attitude was really positive too. When we had an idea we would share it with one another, get their opinions and find a way to improve it. We were not settled with being “good enough,” we wanted to simply be the best space tech team to ever pass through Gahanna. With that attitude, our best work came as the result.

               If I were a teacher I would definitely do a project similar to this. It brings out the best in every single student, regardless of GPA, clique or grade. This project would not work if you did not teach like Mr. Donelson however. You have to be interactive and really show the kids that you believe they can achieve great things. If you struggle with showed your students your dedication, you would still have the same kids not caring about their grades and turning in mediocre work at best. That is not helping anybody. What we’re doing here is something BIG. Rovers, space stations, alternative energy and time travel are all going to be something our generation deals with, so why not learn about them now? It is helping out our future and possibly getting kids interested in robotics and space which can open up to more career opportunities. I would definitely recommend this project to any teacher willing to dedicate time to a child’s learning. They have to want a better future for us and for their grandchildren.

               Overall I am very grateful for the opportunity to take this class. It teaches you a lot about your surroundings as well as a little bit about yourself. Also the information we learn today will benefit us tomorrow. These kinds of jobs will be the positions that pay the most and are the most available, especially to Americans. America is slowly declining in the science race and a large part of the blame goes to not educating our children at a young age. It spikes their interest and gives them options for a wide range of careers. This is what the world’s leading competitors do, such as China, Japan and many more. They teach their kids engineering and robotics at a very young age, which is benefitting them now. This project helps us with future projects that can really impact our lives. This information we gain is irreplaceable and I can never thank Mr. Donelson and Gahanna Lincoln High School enough for allowing me to take such a wonderful class.

Reflections from the Ohio Summit 2.5 Part II

On Thursday, December 8, 2011 I attended the Ohio Summit 2.5, which is a conference that showcases what Ohio schools are doing to integrate 21st Century skills and technology in the teaching and learning process. I wanted to attend the conference to hear some of the keynote presenters: Karl Fisch (@karlfisch), the creator of “Shift Happens: Did You Know 2.0”, Daniel Pink (@danielpink), author of A Whole New Mind and Drive, and finally Ewan McIntosh (@ewanmcintosh), Scottish educator. I’ve already shared my reflections about Stan Heffner,  the state of Ohio’s Interim Superintendent’s opening remarks,  which you can review here. This is part II of my reflections.

The first keynote speaker was Karl Fisch, Director of Technology and Mathematics teacher at Arapahoe High School in Colorado. He was such an inspiration! His energy was electric and his humor was spot on. He feverishly paced back and forth during his presentation, which keep things interesting.

He is the creator of the YouTube hit, Did You Know? Shift Happens 2.0. He started off by stating, “I am not an expert. I ask questions and a have several questions that I would like to discuss with you.” Besides the hit YouTube video, his humility gave him credibility. Following are some nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from his presentation:

 “If you put good people in a fundamentally flawed system, the system will win.”

  • The key here is that we must have systems in place that support the 4 Cs (communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity). Not only that, there must be a systemic and ongoing process for providing support, advice, encouragement, and a different perspective.
  • Often times our conversations about school reform stall because we are overcome by the entrenched factory system of doing school. Yes, school may have worked for us, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better for our students today and tomorrow. Instead of asking what we need to do differently in schools to meet the needs of today’s learner, we should ask how are we going to do things differently.

 He asked a fundamental question that really piqued my interest: What does literacy mean in the 21st century?

  • This is definitely a moving target and it’s deeper than just one’s ability to read. He shared a quote by Jason Ohler that hit the nail on the head:  “Literacy means to consume and produce the media form of the day.”
  • To further hammer home his point he said, “If all we teach students is the 5 paragraph essay then that’s educational malpractice.” The five paragraph essay is extremely important and a skill necessary for effective writing, but I believe his point is that literacy today is much more complex, much more diverse than it ever has been. With social media, we have to teach and model for students how to appropriately and effectively “consume and produce the media form of the day.”
  • This has to include sharing content on YouTube, connecting with others globally through Twitter, Skype, and blogging. Since the audience in these venues is authentic and more public, digital citizenship is paramount.
  • An example he used was the 2008 presidential election. Observers of the debates were able to check facts in real time while watching the debate on TV. Thus, it became an interactive learning process as opposed to a passive exercise of just listening. We must use these same tools in the classroom as a means to teaching literacy.

 What should students  (and their network connections) know and be able to do?

  • The first thing that came to mind was, “can my students tell me who is in their personal network? Do they even know what that means in terms of learning and collaboration?” Well, the only way I will know this is to ask them!
  •  He stressed the importance of providing opportunities for students to create globally connected learning networks.  He shared several examples of what this can look like:
  1. Ohio history- discover why buildings, streets, or communities are named the way they are by researching primary sources and conducting interviews of local residents.
  2.  American Revolution-Skype or build a wiki with schools from Great Britian about the revolution.
  3. Book Reports- create a movie trailer and post it on YouTube then create a QR code and tape it to the spine of the book found in the school’s library. Talk about a relevant and authentic project!
  4. “Wikify” Research Papers- at the end of each page, students create hyperlinks at the bottom, just like what’s found on Wikipedia.
  5.  Skype with students in another country to discuss books, war, hunger, or other social issues that impact the lives of teens. This can be taken one step further by creating reflective blogs, wikis, or Google Docs about the information shared.
  6. Skype with experts-reach out to experts in any field via Twitter or business Facebook pages and then connect with them via Skype for presentations, interviews, and discussions.
  7. Live blogging about books-instead of doing a traditional book report, have students blog about main characters, key themes, or opposing points of view then share the blogs with others.
  8. Skype with authors-self explanatory.

These are some very practical examples that require just a little bit of knowledge of how to use a specific tool. Each one incorporates technology, collaboration, and creates an authentic audience. Together, we can make the 4 Cs of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity a natural part of teaching and learning. What examples can you add to the list?

Be Great,

Dwight