Friday, September 14, 2012

Dear North Reading Educators

We are excited to announce Google Drive, a new way to access and share all your files and folders, at any time and on any device. Google Drive replaces and enhances what you know today as your Google Documents List.
For the most part you will not have to do anything but you will notice a few changes if you are using Google Apps for education.

What is Google Drive?
Think of Google Drive as your personal stash of files and folders that follows you wherever you go - it lets you keep everything and share anything. With Google Drive, you can access files, folders, and Google Docs from a web browser or any device where you've installed your Google Drive.
Your Google Drive is in the cloud, but you can also install the desktop and mobile application to access your files from your computer, smartphone, tablet, or other Android or iOS mobile device, in addition to the online interface at Google Drive's built-in sync capability ensures that your files, folders, and Google Docs are the same on all your devices.  If you've used Dropbox this is a very similar interface.
How do I try out Google Drive?
  1. We will download and install Google Drive for everyone in North Reading for your work computers.
  2. At home: Download and install the Google Drive for your Mac/PC application. This lets you sync files from your hard drive to Google Drive on the web, giving you access to your files on any device, at any time.
  3. At home: If you'd like to access your Google Drive contents on your Android or Apple iOS device, see Google Drive on a mobile device.
How is the Google Drive online interface different from my current Google Documents List?

The Google Drive online interface looks similar to the Google Documents List you're used to, with a few key differences:
  • Collections are now called Folders.
  • When you first switch to Google Drive, a new folder called My Drive contains:
    • Documents that you own or have previously uploaded
    • Folders you own and the items contained within (regardless of ownership)
    Note that only items contained in My Drive are synced to your computer and other devices. If you want to sync items from Google Drive on the web that aren't contained in My Drive by default, just drag them to My Drive.
  • Other items that would have previously appeared in the Home view can easily be found elsewhere. You can choose different views and filters to see recently opened documents, starred items, documents that have been shared with you, items owned by a particular person, files of a particular type, and more.
  • You'll have powerful new options to search, sort, or preview your files before opening them.
See the Google Drive user help to learn more about Google Drive versus your Documents List, and how to navigate your Google Drive online interface.
How much storage do I have for my Google Drive files?

When reading the Google Drive Help Center, you may see that the default amount of storage is 5 GB, and that you can purchase your own.  If you need more storage, you can purchase additional storage on your own.

Where can I get more information?
To get started with Google Drive, visit the Google Apps Learning Center.
--These videos may help to explain what's new with google drive!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Flipped Classroom comes to North Reading

One of the buzzwords that we often hear in educational circles is the concept of the “flipped classroom.”  What exactly does this mean, and how can this impact education in North Reading?

In the age of the internet content is readily available at the fingertips of our students.  In the old paradigm the teacher is at the front of the room as the master of the content.  In this scenario the student sits and takes notes, often individually, participates in some group activities, and is challenged to present what she has learned periodically through quizzes, tests, papers, labs, and other assessments.  Homework often consists of assignments that revisit the concepts from that day’s lesson and are, for the most part, completed individually. This is the old paradigm.

It’s important to note that this is NOT how most of our classrooms in North Reading operate today! 

However, there is always room for improvement!  In the flipped model, the student is in control of accessing the content.  Very often this is delivered not only through a close reading of complex texts but also through pre-recorded lectures that can be accessed from anywhere.  These videos could include content from textbook publishers, selected content videos (“I have a Dream” speech), uploads from teachers around the world (Kahn Academy, TED talks, MIT) or even very personal lessons recorded by the North Reading teacher.

This flipped model allows for the teacher to maximize classroom time for the students to collaborate, think critically and creatively, and to communicate with each other during the time they are all together in class. It also allows for the content to be delivered in a way that allows all students to access at their own pace.  Now, in class or for homework, you can pause, rewind, re-watch, ask questions, and bring those ideas with you to class the next day!

A deep exploration of these instructional concepts is really the first step towards creating a culture where students use iPads, mobile devices, and possibly their own devices (BYOD) in the classroom. 

This year several North Reading educators will be embarking in an exploration of this topic through a blended learning course I will be offering along with others who are a part of the technology team.  Together we will be reading Flip Your Classroom by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  I had the pleasure meeting Aaron Sams this summer at the Building Learning Communities Conference (BLC12) and the energy and passion that this Colorado science teacher brought to the discussion inspired me to create this course for our North Reading educators throughout this year.

The outcomes of this course will be shared widely with the North Reading Public Schools community so please watch for us on Twitter at #flipnrps as well as on our district academic services blog!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Technology Newsletter

iPad initiative year one

iPad Initiative, Year One Reflection

During the 2011-12 school year the North Reading Public Schoolsintroduced iPads into the classrooms for use with students.  The process began last spring when five cartswere purchased, one for each of our five schools.  Our cart recipients deserve congratulations:Peter Kane, Christopher Roofe, Beth Brown, Helen Kelley, and Gretchen Shaw wentabove and beyond this year in providing support for all educators in the programas well as maintaining these carts for use with a classroom full of eagerstudents!  Additionally, Joanne Coughlinand Randy Pyrcz, along with the entire technology team, should be commended fortheir roles in setting up and supporting this emerging technology.

Some highlights from this initiative include one of our cartrecipients, Helen Kelley, presenting to an over-capacity crowd of educators atthe Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence presentation in April.  This fall several of our educators will bepresenting at the state-wide MASSCUE conference at Gillette Stadium. 

Throughout the summer educators engaged in professionaldevelopment in order to learn the best ways to utilize this new device withstudents.  They quickly learned that theiPad is NOT a laptop replacement but a whole new device that can do many thingsthat no other device before it can do. This is not about using a new tool to do the same old things in newways.  This is about changing the way weteach, the way students learn.

Throughout the year our educators gathered, both in person and ina virtual space, to discuss and share their experiences.  Some of the highlights from thesereflections:

They had so much more fun with the app than simply with paper andpencil review.  They were interested,identifying their mistakes and working with each other.
--Sally Sorrentino, grade 6 Math

In previous years, this lesson was created through SMART notes forthe detail and the textbook for basic information.  This year, the notes were still used, butreinforced with the information provided by the Smithsonian website through theapp.  Students were far more engaged withthis lesson than they were in previous years.
--Chris Roofe, grade 7 Social Studies

More often than not, my students complete math work individuallyor in pairs. With this lesson, students completed the work in small groups,which allowed them to gain perspective from other peers. This lesson helped meto track individual learning and provided an opportunity for me to facilitatestudent reflections. As the teacher, I was able to visually confirm thatstudents were checking their work.
-Shana Capolupo, grade 4

Rather than having problems on the board where only a few studentsget to show their understanding, each child had an opportunity to practice over50 problems. While practicing they are able to get immediate feedback on ifthey are completing the work correctly. It has made a huge difference for the reluctant learners who are nervousto come to the front or raise their hand. It also helps me differentiate my lessons on the spot.  I can quickly see who is having difficulty,who needs more practice and who can move on to a more challenging activity thatputs their skills to use. 
--Helen Kelley, grade 4

As evidenced by these reflections, engagement is the key. For the2012-13 school year nearly 30 new educators will be supported in the programand even more students will be exposed to iPad featured lessons and I am veryexcited to see what lies ahead in year two of this initiative. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Patrick Daly, article for Superintendent’s Newsletter

The ipad in Education

It seems that the ipad in education is making a lot of news in recent months.  Some schools are purchasing ipads for all students, while others are making headlines for placing mobile devices in the hands of all kindergarteners!  Analysts have suggested that the ipad may be the fastest adopted device of all time, and the crowds playing with the floor models at the Apple store certainly indicate its incredible popularity.  But can it really change education?  And if so, how?

Engagement is Key

If we walk into a classroom featuring interactive learning it is clear that the students are excited and engaged in their lessons.  The ipad demonstrations often reveal a classroom of students who are transfixed with the devices as soon as the cart is rolled into the room.  Of course, it is not the technology that makes the lesson, but it certainly can enhance the experience.

The ipad is touch sensitive.  Imagine a young learner tracing his letters directly on the screen and receiving instant feedback.  Imagine a middle school student using her fingers to click on the tools to dissect a frog and peeling back the layers to expose the organs, a virtual lab so realistic that you can nearly smell to formaldehyde.   Imagine a high school student creating presentations collaboratively with a small group and then projecting that information on a screen for the entire class.  These are the highest levels of learning (applying, evaluating, creating) and engaging all students in these activities is our vision as a district.

So what can it do?  This multi-functional device offers students not only the ability to type a paper, search the internet, and watch videos, as they could do on a laptop, but also many new features never before available on existing devices.  The ipad is lightweight, only 1.5 pounds, and small enough to slip into a notebook.  With a minimum storage capacity of 16 GB it could easily store a year’s worth of textbooks, videos, and interactive applications (apps).  There are apps that allow students to enter their answers for the teacher to instantly demonstrate their understanding, similar to a clicker polling device.  Another app allows the students to hold the ipad up to the sky to see which celestial bodies are beyond the classroom walls, trees, and city lights.  Still others allow for the creation of movies, the playing of musical instruments, and advanced photo-editing.  With over 65,000 apps made just for the ipad, the possibilities are endless.

Teachers, like their students, will be approaching learning in new ways.  In many schools the teachers are creating their own textbooks by gathering information and videos from the internet and publishing to the ipad.  With the ipads in the hands of the students the role of the educator will be to help the students discover the best and most trustworthy information, since so much is readily available at their fingertips.  Teacher-driven lectures will increasingly give way to student-driven project-based learning opportunities, and the tasks of remembering facts and dates will be replaced by the skills of using those facts and dates to create knew ideas, conclusions, solutions, and hypotheses. 

One thing is clear with the ipad; the educators using the technology for instructional purposes will need not only a lot of training with the device itself but also in how the device will change the way in which they teach.  The technology alone is not a game changer, but the right tools in the hands of an innovative and inspiring teacher can transform a very good student experience into one that is truly great.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Patrick Daly, article for Transcript

Who is the 21st century learner?

In educational circles we hear a lot about the needs of the 21st century learner.  President Obama stated “"I always hear stories about how we can't find engineers, and that's why we're emphasizing math and science. We want to start making science cool”.  Richard Riley, Secretary of Education under President Clinton stated, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist….using technologies that haven’t yet been invented…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”  Truly, our mission with 21st century learners is to engage and motivate the students to develop the skills that will allow them to solve problems and uncover the core knowledge needed for success in the global society.

But what exactly are these skills, and what can we do to improve them?

In the book 21st Century Skills: Learning For Life in our Times Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel present the four core themes of a 21st century education: Core Subjects and Innovation Skills, Life and Career Skills, Information, Media, and Technology Skills, and Learning and Innovation Skills.

They also present the 7 C’s, the skill sets our students will need for success: Critical thinking and problem solving, Communications, information and media literacy, Collaboration, teamwork, and leadership, Creativity and innovation, Computing and ICT (information and communications technology) literacy, Career and life skills, and Cross-cultural understanding.

North Reading educators are already working very hard at this task.  A group of teachers, NR21, has been meeting at the high school all year and have been strategizing about the best ways to begin training the staff for the 21st century challenges.  Next year we will be looking to expand the influence of NR21 district-wide.  In so many ways our outstanding educators are already promoting the best practices that will make the following visions the reality for every 21st century learner.

When you walk into a classroom in North Reading you will see the 7 C’s in action.  Students will be engaged in critical thinking about their topics as they work in small groups, developing collaboration and leadership skills.  They will be called upon to develop computing skills in order to create projects for their class-work.  Students will be taught self-reliance, and the skills necessary to make decisions about the information they encounter.  To see this in action, check out the Science Olympiad team at the middle school, or ask a student on the Math and Engineering team about her experiences at competition. Visit high school classes using videos to create public service announcements, or witness students solving real world problems in Mathematics classes.

In North Reading students will not only read about other cultures but engage in technology-driven opportunities to interact with students from around the world in real-time using technology.  There will be more opportunities for contests and competitions, as students use the core knowledge learned in class to solve problems and develop their critical thinking skills.  This is evidenced by students who are making Twitter Pen Pals at the Hood, presenting a living Inca museum at the Little, or using SMARTboards at the Batchelder.

We are now in the second decade of the 21st century and the students we have in class today are the students who will be leading us in the future.  Our schools and teachers have already stepped up to the challenge of creating new and innovative approaches of instruction in order to meet many of the needs that await us in the decades to come.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

QR Codes

You may have seen these strange symbols appearing everywhere: in the supermarket, newspapers, on the subway and even on products.  But what are they and how could they be used in education?

Quick Response codes, or QR codes, are two-dimensional codes first designed by Toyota to track vehicles during the manufacturing process.  The code appears in two-dimensional form on a sign, in a paper, or on a product and the user scans the code with a QR reader.  These readers can be easily downloaded onto a mobile smartphone such as the Droid or iPhone.  The user opens the QR Scanner application, holds the phone over the code, and the scanner recognizes the code and immediately transmits the information to the user.

What information can be communicated?
There are many types of information that can be communicated through a QR code.   The most common content type would be the URL of a website.  Scanning the code would bring the reader to a website with more information, videos, or details about the topic or product.  This allows for increased communication as the presenter has the ability to support the two-dimensional presentation or advertisement with all of the information and multi-media power of the internet.  And instead of providing a link that the reader has to retype the QR code allows for a very efficient and simple
process for obtaining that additional information.

Other information can be created as well, including brief text messages, phone numbers, or SMS (short message service) messages that can be sent directly to fixed line or mobile devices.

Give it a try!  Download a QR code reader to your mobile device and scan this code for more information!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Focus on the Essential

Systemically we have been working on identifying the most important ideas that are key to the vision and mission of the North Reading Public Schools.  The process of involving administrators, teachers, and school councils in this process has allowed all stakeholders to help define what is essential for the North Reading school community. 

Technology is one of the most challenging areas to focus as something cutting edge appears to be emerging every day.  This year as a district we have focused on the exploration of two main areas: the educational website as a means of extending classroom learning and the SMARTboard and iPAD tools as a way of increasing interactive classroom learning.  Many educators have been engaged in professional development and exploration of website design, SMART technologies, and iPAD trainings and are bringing this knowledge and experience to their classrooms. 

As a result, students are able to utilize classroom websites as a communication tool for assignments, activities, and as a resource for learning.  Teachers are including video clips to reiterate a lesson and links to sample solutions or practice problems that students can access from home.  Others are able to submit assignments through the dropbox and receive feedback from their classmates or instructor online.

In the classroom SMART and iPAD technologies are being used to engage the students in interactive lessons that require them to work together at the board and incorporate bodily-kinesthetic actions.  In a seventh grade history class students take photographs with their iPADs and transform themselves into their choice of prehistoric men and women using the Smithsonian app MEanderthal.  Talk about being able to put yourself in the middle of the learning!  As the students are hooked by the fun of the activity they are able to explore more about the history of our prehistoric relatives by following links to the Smithsonian website.

In Curriculum we have been working to clarify what is most important for our students to know and be able to do.   Using our new Mathematics and Literacy State Frameworks as a guide our educators have used their expertise to determine the most essential standards that all students should master at given points throughout the year.  These benchmarks for mastery will allow our educators to collect data about the progress all students are making towards these goals.

Defining which standards are most essential is a challenging task since all agree that everything is important for our students to be taught.  This is true, and yet when we consider the question of whether something is “nice to know” or essential for the next year, in other areas of learning, or for the rest of their life it allows us to focus on what is truly most important.  The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) believes that education must go deeper into fewer areas; that we must focus on the core knowledge. 

In instruction it is essential that we focus on the learner.  As we create opportunities for student-driven lessons we allow for our learners to become more involved in their own education.  Project-based and inquiry-based assignments challenge students to access prior knowledge and develop their collaborative, creative, and critical thinking skills.  Allowing students to become scientists, historians, mathematicians, critics, artists, athletes, and scholars creates within them the desire to become lifelong learners.  The student-driven approach instills within the learner the skills needed to seek out information on her own and builds upon her desire to obtain that knowledge. 

All of these activities share a common thread.  This is not about memorizing the answers for the test on Friday.  This is about making the link between today’s lesson and the career that awaits through the real-world connections to the assignment.  This is a focus on what is most essential for our students: developing a desire to explore the world around them and igniting a passion for life-long learning!