Posts Tagged With: gifted

I’m Takin’ a MOOC, and this is actually my first assignment….

Yes, yes I am taking a MOOC  (that’s a Massive Online Open Course for the uninitiated….and yep – it’s just about as geeky as it sounds, and definitely more fun!) I have tried this before, and wasn’t really impressed. HOWEVER,  this course, titled “Today’s Blended Teacher: the Blended Schools MOOC” is all about blended classrooms, so it is more relevant, and is much better organized. Whether you call this format blended, hybrid, or flipped (which is not quite the same thing), it appears to be the direction that much of education is going.  For those who are uncomfortable with a fully online class – whether it is in higher education, or elementary and secondary schools, it can really create functional and exciting ways for teachers to teach and learners to learn.  As an instructional designer and an instructor, I frequently suggest that my faculty use this technique, especially for certain subjects – those requiring field work for example, or if they would benefit from complicated real-world projects where the student can go out and get the information online (maybe even doing some ground work), then come back to the classroom to discuss, create, and question.

Blended classrooms are, by definition, at least 50% online and 50% face-to-face. They allow students to do their own learning and discovering, but maintain the hands-on guidance that many instructors and students desire, and some subject matters require.  Some of the examples that we have created in my office are a virtual reality airplane accident for an Accident Investigation class, a crane accident for a Safety class, a three course “block” of blended courses for Early Childhood and Elementary education, and a World Diversity course which is allowing students to discuss some very touch subjects in more protected ways. This course design is allowing these teachers to develop projects and assessments that meet more than one Learning Objective at a time, thereby giving them more time for learning and demanding less time for assessing.  How can that not be a good thing!

Blended learning is here – and it has great places to go. I really am excited about this course I am taking. I have even enrolled my 13 year old son in a MOOC, and if he can keep up, I’m sure he will enjoy it as well. Yes, MOOCs are kind of “geeky” – but then so Runescape and Minecraft….and that being said, I will revel in my Geeky-ness, and continue my search for a certain police box driven by a man in a bowtie….and continue to learn about blended classrooms while I wait.

Categories: Instructional Design, MOOC, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A familiar place…..

The front entrance of Sterling Elementary

Sterling Elementary

Today I visited my younger son’s school, Sterling Elementary, and had a very enjoyable visit with their principle, Ms. Monda Reynolds. She showed me all over the building, and I was able to see a number of areas that I had not been in before. I do have two children in the school system, and they have both attended Sterling; therefore, I am somewhat familiar with it, but Ms. Reynolds was kind enough to show it to me anyway. One of the things that has always struck me about Ms. Reynolds is her relationship with the kids of Sterling – I know my son loves her, but it is always nice to see the interaction that she has with them. Today I had an even better glimpse into what she means to “her kids” when we went into a computer lab (that I had not seen before, btw), and no less than 4 Middle Schoolers jumped up and gave her a hug, and the rest of the visiting class waved and called to her. As I said above, it was really wonderful to see.

Of course, as any administrator would, Ms. Reynolds had her “wish list,” but hers was especially short. I’m sure she has many other things that she would like, but her real wish appears to be for an awning for the front entrance. She is concerned about our children being out in the weather – sun in summer, and rain and snow in fall and winter. She knows it’s in the works, but her hope is that it will happen soon. This is a good cause, I think. It’s not extravagant, but it would improve the appearance of the school as well as the comfort of our children.

I have to admit, I was a little surprised that this awning was really her biggest request. I had imagined her asking for support for more technology, or more assistance with Special Needs, but they actually are set up pretty well in these areas. I know from experience that the Special Needs program is good, although I did not realize how many kiddos there were in it – 50 in the SpEd rooms (not counting the Language/Speech rooms), and 20 in the Gifted program. I have had plenty of experience with this program with my own son, and while I can not say it’s always been smooth sailing, I can honestly say that they are always trying to to do what they believe is best for the kids. Any rough patches we have experienced seem to have developed from differing opinions of what “the best” is, or from a lack of communication and understanding between the vested parties. This is something I really hope to help bolster from within the School Board.

The technology in Sterling is very impressive. They have 1 portable laptop cart, 2 classrooms with Netbooks, 3 eMints classrooms, and 1 iPad room. Next year will hopefully bring another iPad cart so those can be more mobile within the school building, and at least one classroom that will have an iPad for every child. This is a school where the children are learning on line – they are getting invaluable experience that they will take with them into Middle and High School, and I would love to be able to support efforts to technologize every classroom in the building (if not in the district!).

In closing my account of this very enjoyable visit, I would like to note that Ms. Reynolds mentioned the communication that she has seen between the schools in glowing terms – from Sterling to the Middle School, especially. It certainly sounds like our experience with this transition should move very smoothly, with lots of planned meetings and discussions, and I am truly looking forward to that. Some of our experiences have not been quite so smooth in past years, and much of that is from ignorance on our part, as well as assumptions made on the part of the schools. I hope as part of the School Board I will be able to help with the communication and support that ALL parents and staff need – not just those with special needs.

Categories: School Board | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gifted have Special Needs too!!

Someone recently asked me a great question about the Gifted Programs in our schools. To quote: this person is “concerned about continued support and funding for the gifted program, which [she sees] as Special Needs, because so many of these students need a particular type of learning environment in order to be engaged with their studies and to thrive socially and academically.  Your thoughts?”

Interestingly enough, I was just at a School Board meeting on the 19th that had the “Gifted Program Evaluation” on the agenda. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to see how successful the program was, and that’s not really what it was. Instead, it was a very nice video presentation that showed a number of students who clearly enjoyed and benefited from the program. It was wonderful, just not exactly what I had hoped to see. 🙂

That being said, I don’t think I could agree with this person any more about the Special Needs of gifted students – they are just different needs. And another serious part of this issue is that these gifted students can find themselves on the other side of the Special Needs continuum if those needs are not addressed. The challenges and frustrations of dealing with non-challenging work can lead to all kinds of behavioral and emotional issues that eventually have to be addressed. Regardless of the need, the end goal is the same: we are all striving for our students’ success (to borrow a phrase). 

So – to try to answer the question more specifically – I absolutely believe that Gifted programs need continued support and funding, and in this current economic situation, this may not be an easy thing to maintain. I do, however, think it may be a bit easier to handle the difference than some of the programs for the “challenged” kids (for lack of a better term). Whereas students like my son need personalized, all day, all week paras and SpEd teachers, the Gifted students may be able to expand beyond the brick walls of their own schools – and they may be able to do it at much less cost with much greater rewards! I would be very interested in doing some research into some of the advanced collaborative programs I have seen using local businesses, universities, (other than dual credit for HS), and even the internet. I think there is some great potential there, not just in collaborating with relatively local schools, but on both a national and international scope.

I have to say, I was very surprised to learn that the High School does not have any kind of gifted program, relying on dual-credit and similar programs to fill that need. I got the impression that this might have been a financial decision, but I am curious if this is something that could be expanded. I haven’t had the chance to talk to anyone yet, but I am interested in learning more. I did learn that there are a total of 94 elementary and middle school students in the Gifted programs, but I am concerned about what is happening to them when they leave the middle school – I will have to do a little more research into it, but it has given me some food for thought.  What I can say absolutely is that the special needs of all the students in Warrensburg need to be addressed.

On of my personal goals is to make my actions count for those kids. As I have said before, we need to move forward, no matter how good things are now. So whether I’m on the School Board or not, I want to help make good things come for all our kids, challenged, gifted, or mainstream. 

Categories: School Board | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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