Curiosity Projects: A stepping-stone to Personalized Learning

What is curiosity?

student-led inquiryIs curiosity important? What does it mean to be a curious learner? What am I curious about?

These are some of the questions Cornwall, VT students considered this winter as they embarked on inquiry-based, personalized, research projects. For six weeks, we turned learning over to our students for the (first annual!) Curiosity Projects.

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Equity begins with engagement

Care about equity in education? Start with engagement

equity in educationEducators care about equity. We all want to bring out excellence in our students, but the thing that keeps us up at night is our constant striving to do that for ALL of our students.

There are many systemic barriers to equity. Our students and schools mirror society, so the efforts of educators slam up against macro forces such as generational poverty, distressed families, institutional racism, and other forms of social injustice.

Yet we still have the power to light a spark.

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Implementing 1:1 norms and digital citizenship

How do student behaviors change?

how does professional development affect technology integration?Debi Serafino, a math teacher at Brattleboro Area Middle School, presents the results of her semester-long action research project examining the effects of implementing 1:1 norms and digital citizenship on the behavior of the incoming 7th graders, all of whom participate in a 1:1 Chromebook project.

Here’s what she and her team discovered.

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Project-based learning and math

How much do you want to change the world?

real-world problems and project-based learningAs project-based learning gives students a way to tackle authentic problems in the world and accomplish tangible change while learning, let’s not forget that math can and does sneak in everywhere. So if you have students who think math doesn’t add up, let them explore their passion for problem-solving and don’t mention how much math you see them doing.

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Cross-school goal-setting for PLPs

Motivating students around goals by connecting schools

providing support for goal-setting in a PLPMany Vermont students have worked hard this year establishing personal and academic goals as an important part of developing Personal Learning Plans (PLPs).

But when we speak with some of them or listen to teachers reflect on the process and progress, many share the need for additional motivation to keep these goals and their achievement active and present.

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QR codes and videos at Parent Conferences

Expanding parent conference time with technology

family communication around education, social media and digital citizenshipWe’ve all been there: how do you fit 40 minutes worth of information into a 20-minute parent conference, still have time for questions AND stay on schedule?  Bulletin boards hanging in the hallway help. They serve two purposes, engaging parents while they wait and giving parents a view into the classroom. But that view is static and doesn’t always feel authentic.

Mrs. Natalie Byrne, a 1st grade teacher at Christ the King School, found herself considering these questions as conference days grew near. Her solution reminded me of the answer to a riddle: once you see it, it seems obvious, but only after you rub the grit out of your eyes.  She proposed engaging parents through their smartphones with an interactive bulletin board full of QR codes linked to videos.  

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Helping your teen or tween with social media

To follow or not to follow… that is the question.

family communication around education, social media and digital citizenshipOh Hamlet, you would be so perplexed on this one!

I’m sometimes asked this question as the mother of an Instagram-using 12 year old myself. Parents of young adults often are conflicted about making this choice – at least, if your child is connected to social media – and likely, he or she is.

If your child does interact with others on social media platforms, how should you guide, monitor and support their presence on social media?

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How Vermont middle grades educators are powering up PLPs this summer

Why the 2016 Middle Grades Institute may be the most important one yet

The 21st Century Classroom podcastNew podcast ep: We visit with educators at last summer’s Middle Grades Institute to look at how this unique professional development opportunity is helping Vermont’s middle grades educators deal with the challenges posed by legislative Act 77, the Flexible Pathways Initiative.

Also, 200 Vermont educators dance like dinosaurs. And rock at it.

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Facilitating community conversations about education

4 lessons learned

how schools can conduct a community conversationA few months back, I wrote about how the Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU) here in Vermont had initiated a series of conversations with the community with a kick-off film screening and discussion. I noted that “the most exciting thing about the conversation was the feeling in the room that we, as a community, could transform our schools. People were clearly ready and willing to have a conversation, and the general vibe was that we wanted to find a way to empower students to do great things within and beyond our schools.”

I’m happy to report that those positive feelings of community engagement coalesced into a sustained and profound exercise in participatory democracy. More than 100 community members came together during four two-hour Monday evenings in March. They worked in groups to examine their own beliefs, learn about school transformation efforts already underway, and ultimately provide recommendations that will be considered by the school system’s leadership team.

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A community-based interdisciplinary unit

A tech-rich case study from rural Vermont

VT excellence

The team from Hazen Union Middle School, in Hardwick, Vermont, conducted an action research project over the fall semester of 2015, centered around deepening students’ connection to their community. They called the unit “I Belong”.

It provided students with tech-rich opportunities to engage with the small and rural community of their town.

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