Motivating Students – A Make and Take Workshop for Teachers

This week I head back to Edison School of Engineering & Manufacturing, to conduct a two day follow up workshop.  Our previous work together identified four target areas: 

  1. Motivating students
  2. Making learning relevant
  3. Student-centered learning strategies
  4. Effective use of technology

We are going to start by modeling a “Brainstorm, Group, Label” activity (See Tool 13).  It will also  set our agenda for the “make and take activities” of the workshop. Day two begins by modeling a “Fishbowl Discussion Group” on the topic of effective next steps. We’ll use the ideas generated in the fishbowl to design a Strategic Planning Grid (below) to prioritize their staff development for the fall.


Most of our time over the two days will be spent assisting teachers in designing specific lessons. I’ve assembled some Literacy Strategies that teachers can use as starting points for modify their existing lessons. 

Non-readers”  for students who lack decoding skills.

Word-callers” for students who can decode, but lack comprehension skills.

Turned-off readers” for students who have the decoding and comprehension skills, but lack motivation or engagement.

I’ll also be showcasing some web tools that are very engaging for students.

Wordle (text analysis) 

Many Eyes (data and text visualizations)

Prezi  (presentation tool) 

Dipity  (timeline builder) (brainstorming)

Flickr Tag Related Tag Browser (image tag analysis)

Teaching Visual Literacy: Media Studies Before the Internet

media studies demo

I thought I’d share this recently rediscovered relic from my early days as a teacher.

Back in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s I started teaching a high school “Media Studies” class. (Pittsford-Sutherland HS, Rochester NY). It was one semester, social studies elective that examined the impact of media on society (mainly TV – and all very McLuhan).   Duane Sherwood, our building edtech specialist, was inspired by early TV pioneer, Ernie Kovacs to shoot this 1 minute video. I used it after my first few introductory lessons. That day, instead of their teacher, my students found a TV / recorder in front of the class. The sign instructed them to “watch this video.”   The shot took “forever” to set up. I attribute my bad acting / missed lines to sitting sideways and trying to keep a straight face. It’s just too bad I wore red flannel and khakis that day….     Hat tip to Stan Merrell for digitizing this one

Engaging Teachers in Planning Relevant Staff Development

I recently posted "A Guide to Designing Effective Professional Development: Essential Questions for the Successful Staff Developer." I thought I'd follow up with an example of how those recommendations were followed in a recent professional development project.

This example comes from my recent work with the Edison School of Engineering & Manufacturing, a Rochester (NY)  City School District high school. We began the project by using one of the weekly early releases to do some agenda setting. I was introduced to the faculty and I spent about 40 minutes giving an outline of the types of PD subjects I could offer. I use a TurningPoint audience response system that gathered data to help us target our future PD.

We then utilized two more early release sessions to provide the requested training. I think it is critical to model the learning strategies in the session. That's especially true with PD is offered at the end of the school day. Feedback from teachers noted that they felt as if they were part of a learning environment that gave them a feeling for how the strategies would be perceived by the students.

Professional development need to move from the abstract setting of a training session into a real world classroom. So we next turned to Focus Classroom Walk-Throughs to develop a shared understanding of what the strategies look like when you are working with your students. I came back to the school on three additional days to conduct the walkthroughs.

Teachers were divided into teams of about six teachers and each team was led on a half-day walkthrough experience. Each session began with an orientation regarding goals and protocols. Our group of six was split into two smaller groups and visited classroom in teams of 2-3. We spent about 20 minutes per visit and regrouped all six teachers after visiting a few classes. 

All school faculty were aware of our walks and could elect to host a visit or opt out. We were not evaluating, nor passing judgement. Our goal was to hone our skills at identifying what we saw in the classroom. For example, could we look at classroom activity and agree on what level of Bloom we would assign to it?

After the classroom visits, I led each group in a debriefing with a focus on developing a shared understanding of what the strategies look like in the classroom. A “March Madness” analogy would be a group of observers discussing the defensive strategies they see being used in a basketball game. They share a common vocabulary and they are in full agreement about how to label what they observe.

Armed with a shared understanding of what how we would define our instructional strategies, we then turned to agenda setting for future PD. I led each walkthrough group in brainstorming session on how they would recommend we focus their future PD. I compiled input from all six brainstorming session into a report to the school based planning team. They then met to design their  09-10 professional development program.

Here's a Wordle of the top 50 comments from our brainstorm sessions.


How To Use Twitter to Virtually Network at the ASCD Conference 2009

I couldn't attend this year's ASCD conference currently going on in Orlando. That's a shame, since conferences are such a great place to meet new people and share ideas. So I thought I use Twitter to see if I can virtually meet folks and share thinking.  

First here's my elevator speech introduction – conference attendees pretend we just met over coffee…

Great to meet you… My name's Peter Pappas, from Rochester NY. I taught high school social studies for over 25 year, became a K-12 coordinator and then finished the last 5 years of my career as a assistant superintendent for instruction. Since then, I've been able to devote myself, full time, to expanding my role as a staff developer and consultant.

I've had the chance to work with districts across the country with a focus on literacy, technology, document-based instruction and student engagement. Staff development should model what we want to see in the classroom, so I bring an audience response system and we actually use the techniques I'm promoting!

Follow me on Twitter – hope you have a great conference!

Oh .. and … have you heard of any good sushi restaurants nearby? …..

Note: As of 4/26/09 the TwitterCloudExplorer seems to have disappeared.  Here's a screen shot of what it looked like during the ASCD conference. Notice my Twitter name edteck was the 4th most Twittered word when I took the screen shot.


Technical Specs

1. Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They're like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.  I sought out the relevant hashtags people are using for the ASCD conference. Note: It seems this year both #ASCD and #ASCD09 are being used. For more on hashtags 
2. I used a Twitter Search to look for people using the #ASCD OR #ASCD09 hashtags. Search results here.

3. Then I sent out Tweets to people using either hashtag with a link back to this post. Hopefully their replies will follow.
4. I'm a big fan of quantitative display of information, so I used one the many new Twitter visualization tools – Twitter Cloud Explorer to generate this embedded query. Note: As of 4/26/09 the TwitterCloudExplorer seems to have disappeared.  There are many new Twitter visualizations coming along every day.

Wiimote Interactive IR Pen Whiteboard Solution

It's only been just over a year since Johnny Chung Lee's first posted his creative solution for turning a Wii remote into an cheap interactive whiteboard system. Watch Johnny Lee's original IWB video.   

Last week, Stan Merrell and Adam Wilcox - two of my Rochester NY tech buddies, met fellow Rochestarian – Tino Agnitti. Tino has developed a great Wii mounting bracket and IR pen that makes assembling Lee's Wii creation a snap. Tino calls his IR pen "The Groove" it's a sleekly designed, 2nd-generation IR pen that features – Hybrid Activation Tip Switch and Button, Treated LED for better tracking, Vishay TSAL6400. It runs on AAA batteries and it works great. I was especially impressed with its very intuitive interaction with writing applications. Tino also created "The Spot," a mount to connect your Wii remote to a standard tripod with a 1/4" – 20 thread.

Tino sells his Groove/Spot combo for only $39. Spend another $39 for a Wii remote (no need to use the rest of the Wii system) and you have an interactive whiteboard on any flat surface you choose to aim your  LCD. Tino showed me how to  aim the Wii at my monitor and we turned my MacBook into a tablet! 

Software? For PC, Tino recommends Smoothboard produced by Boon Jin Goh, a friend who lives in Singapore.   Tino set me up with the Mac version – Wiimote Whiteboard that I'm running. It comes out of Germany from Uwe Schmidt, a master's student at Darmstadt Technical University.  It was a quick install and it's especially easy to calibrate. For more on the growing wiimote community check out The Wiimote Project Forum  

I'm working on integrating the wiimote system into a portable whiteboard that I can use in my presentations. I'm very excited about pairing it with Prezi – its zooming capabilities will allow me to do exciting nonlinear presentations. 

My buddy Stan Merrell shot our meeting Tino

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