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2015

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Meet an eMINTS Teacher: Dustin Curtis

Meet an eMINTS Teacher

Dustin Curtis, Grade 4/5, Bayyari Elementary School, Springdale, AR

1509-curtis-newletter2Dustin Curtis is in his fifth year of teaching at Bayyari Elementary School in the Springdale Public School District in Springdale, Arkansas. This is his second year teaching students who are split between 4th and 5th grade levels. He also has three years experience teaching 4th grade students. Dustin served six years in the military and is a veteran of the Iraq War. He is in his first year of eMINTS Comprehensive professional development. [Note: Dustin was interviewed during the 2014-2015 school year. He is now in his sixth year of teaching at Bayyari Elementary and his second year of eMINTS Comprehensive professional development. 🙂 ]

 Dustin characterized his first year in eMINTS professional development as reinforcing his philosophy of teaching that includes “…real world relevance using technology to enhance the educational experience.” eMINTS helps him align all of the service learning projects that he has developed to relevant education standards.

Dustin described one of his favorite units that involved helping his students develop and operate an “espresso coffee shop.” He initially thought the unit would be centered on Arkansas state standards for social studies related to understanding economics concepts. After working through several eMINTS professional development sessions about aligning instruction to standards, Dustin and his grade level partner created a stronger framework for the project. They also revised the unit’s alignment to include additional standards related to cultural and geographic concepts.

The new unit framework gave Dustin and his students opportunities to explore a variety of cultures and their contributions while relating them to social studies standards about early American history. With a high percentage of Hispanic students in his classroom, Dustin capitalized on his students’ eagerness to learn more about Honduras, Mexico and other Central American countries that produce coffee. The work extended throughout the semester and helped his students learn about everything from fair trade to the development of slavery and the Civil War. Dustin believes “…anything that you want to learn about can be tied to the reading and writing standards. eMINTS has helped me to focus more on the content standards with the strategies that are taught in professional development sessions”

Dustin continued relating his example of the espresso shop unit to describe how he uses his students’ interests and talents in designing instruction. The real-world connections that the shop provided had students asking him for help with additional informational resources they might not otherwise have sought out. For example, when teachers who patronized the shop asked about the origin of the coffee and how it was harvested, students had a reason to research the topics and read associated informational texts so they were prepared to answer the questions. “Having a purpose for reading is so much more meaningful to students than just having them come in cold and read an article or something that the teacher has chosen,” Dustin noted.

Dustin described the authentic assessment techniques he used with the espresso shop project. Dustin has all students balance the daily receipts for the shop. He observes their presentations within and outside of their classroom to assess accuracy of information and specific writing and presentation skills. Dustin believes that it is very challenging to design assessments that truly assess what students know. He has found that the technology tools and strategies he has learned during his eMINTS professional development sessions have given him many more options for assessing his students. From PowerPoint to videos to apps that are available to students on their iPads, he has found that his students’ interest in technology has fueled their desire to not only be accurate in terms of content but also to attend to the appearance of their end products.

“Students are more like directors who are writing the scripts, which have to be accurate, and also making sure their production is attractive, “ he related, “I think this is how students begin to become directors of their own learning. If a teacher is truly invested in helping them with that, you have to start at the elementary level. The biggest role I play is that of motivation. I have to know what they want to learn, keep them motivated to learn, and yet tie the learning to the standards. If they are doing what they want to do, they are directing their own learning and will keep themselves going.”

Dustin is excited to have the high levels of technology, especially a computing device for every student, that eMINTS brings. He uses the technology to support his belief that textbooks are not really needed in classrooms where learning is truly personalized for students. Dustin has turned a large portion of the responsibility for locating information and researching topics over to his students. “I can do the research with them now instead of for them. I can now spend more time thinking about the group and then each individual and how I can best benefit and support them. I’m actually planning instruction as opposed to collecting materials. I’m analyzing the standards more and seeing where my students need more emphasis to accomplish them.”

Dustin has a strong network based on mutual support with his fellow grade level teachers, providing them with summaries of what he and a colleague are learning in eMINTS. Dustin also works closely with the middle school that his students attend when they move to grade six. He formed a close association with the teacher who is responsible for the Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST®) program at the middle school. For more information see: http://www.eastinitiative.org/aboutcontact/

Middle school students who were involved in the EAST® program came to Dustin’s classroom to help his students understand geographic information system (GIS) needed to support mapping. The mapping provided a portion of the foundation for another service learning project that involved a fund raising effort for Heifer International. For more information see: http://www.heifer.org/about-heifer/index.html

Dustin’s students had researched the coffee industry in Central American countries for their espresso shop unit earlier in the school year and learned about the levels of poverty often found in those countries. The students wanted to have a fund-raising project to contribute to Heifer International so that they could make a difference for families who shared their cultural background.

Another interesting connection between the middle school and elementary school occurred when the EAST® middle school students learned more about the espresso shop project that Dustin’s students were engaged in. Dustin’s students were so enthusiastic about their espresso shop that the middle school students decided to “franchise” a similar shop for their school.

Advice that Dustin offers to others who are working to personalize learning for students is to accept that the teacher’s role has changed from being the giver of information to being another student. “I may have more background knowledge than they (students) have, but I have to use that to facilitate and guide their learning. With technology they can find out anything they want to know but they may not have the experience to know if what they have found is valid or not. That’s where I come in, to help them with that.”

 

White Paper: Connections and Convergence: eMINTS and Personalized Learning

We are excited to share our recent white paper titled Connections and Convergence: eMINTS and Personalized Learning. This paper describes and contrasts the two primary paths to designing personalized learning environments in U.S. K-12 schools: 1) the technology-driven path, and 2) the pedagogical- and student-driven path. The paper explains how Springdale Public Schools and eMINTS National Center in the University of Missouri (MU) College of Education approach the pedagogical- and student-driven path.

Download Connections and Convergence: eMINTS and Personalized Learning (PDF)

eMINTS Conference goes on the road!

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We are excited to announce eMINTS is taking our conference on the road!

Instead of a once a year event here in Columbia, we are partnering with MOREnet and EducationPlus to provide you with more opportunities to connect and participate with eMINTS.  Now you won’t have to choose between the eMINTS conference and these other great conferences in our state.

The first is the MOREnet Annual Conference in St. Louis on October 5-8, 2015. eMINTS will be presenting all day in the Burlington Route room on October 5th and 6th.  Then, February 8-10, 2016, we will be presenting at the Midwest Education Technology Conference in St. Charles, MO. We will also host a couple of events including a PD4ETS Update meeting. More details on our participation at these conferences will be coming soon. In the meantime, feel free to check out all of the information on their websites.

MOREnet Annual Conference – http://goo.gl/yZv5Ty.

METC – http://2016.metcconference.org/

We hope to see you there!

2015

Fall eLearning registration now open

Registration for the eMINTS eLearning fall semester is now open

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Course offerings for fall semester include the following:

  • Chromebooks in the Classroom
  • Early Childhood: Learning with iPads
  • Effective K12 Online Instruction
  • Going Visual: Using and Creating Infographics for Learning
  • Google Tools for Schools
  • Intel: Creativity in the Mobile Classroom *4-week course; $125
  • The Role of Questions in an Early Childhood Classroom
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving with Game Design
    NOTE:
     A limited number of 20 scholarship seats will be available for those wishing to participate in a research study involving this course. The scholarship includes course registration fee, an Agent Sheets building site license for at least one year, and a $200 stipend upon completion of all of the requirements. Please see the full course description for more details and to review the requirements.

To register or for full course descriptions, visit the course registration page and click on the Fall 2015 tab.

Courses begin October 7, 2015 and most conclude on Nov. 24, 2015.*

Follow our eLearning account on Twitter at @elearn4edu for updates and discount codes!

Click for more information about the eMINTS eLearning program.

Click for information about taking our courses for graduate credit.

*Intel: Creativity in the Mobile Classroom concludes Nov. 4, 2015. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving with Game Design concludes Nov. 17, 2014.

eLearning: Fall registration begins 8/26

Registration for the eMINTS eLearning fall semester of online courses will open on August 26, 2015.

Course offerings for fall semester include the following:

  • Google Tools for Schools

  • The Role of Questions in an Early Childhood Classroom

  • Chromebooks in the Classroom

  • Going Visual: Using and Creating Infographics for Learning

  • Early Childhood: Learning with iPads

  • Intel: Creativity in the Mobile Classroom *4-week course; $125

  • Effective K12 Online Instruction

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving with Game Design

Courses begin October 7, 2015.

Click for more information about the eMINTS eLearning program.

Click for information about taking our courses for graduate credit.

 

2015

Meet an eMINTS Teacher: Kim Stichnote

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Kim Stichnote, Secondary Mathematics, Southern Boone School District, Ashland, MO

Kim Stichnote has been a secondary mathematics teacher for the past 24 years in Southern Boone County in Ashland, MO. Kim is completing her final year of eMINTS Comprehensive Professional Development.

Since Southern Boone County is a relatively small school district of approximately 500 students in the high school, teachers can get to know each student personally and can shape each one so that they are meeting their potential. Kim described how she helps students who are struggling, “I ask them the little questions to give them a bread crumb trail to follow and then eventually they will end up where you want them to go,” Kim explained

Kim cultivates student engagement by scaffolding her students’ learning. Students create and solve their own mathematical problems when studying specific topics (such as solving quadratic equations) as opposed to solving problems from a textbook. Students develop significant ownership for their work and are much more persistent in seeking a solution to problems they have generated themselves. Students then present the problems that they have created and solved to their classmates. The practice results in all students completing the assignment and also in students wanting to have the best problem and the best solution to share with their peers. Kim doesn’t lower grades for wrong answers but rather uses each wrong answer as an opportunity to help students understand key concepts. They learn that solutions to difficult problems often require multiple attempts, working with other people to arrive at an answer, and understanding why an answer is right.

Kim uses technology in her classroom as a supporting tool that extends beyond word processing and research. She also encourages students to use platforms such as Google Docs so that they can access their work anytime anywhere. Students use laptops, iPads, and their own devices so that they can learn to troubleshoot in multiple formats.

Kim related an example of how technology helped her support one of her students who was suspended from school. Kim used technology by having her other students use apps on their iPads to capture how they solved problems used in class as part of Kim’s instruction. The students’ solutions and dialogues were varied in their complexity. Kim then added vocabulary and additional dialogue explaining key concepts. The files were uploaded to Google Docs where the suspended student accessed them on a daily basis. Kim has since perfected the process for use with students who are out of class for extended periods of time for illness or other reasons.

Kim described one of her favorite assessment techniques called “Can You Move It.” See the structure at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ceeu6ieel6-r4xNOFMW0k5gnzYDlKwJPPHEzWlMmTF8/edit?usp=sharing  Students chose their problem and graphed the equation. Students then shared their graphs with classmates and the peer feedback allowed them to see immediately if they were on target or not. When students were then required to use their graphing skills later in a formal assessment situation, they were able to with ease. Students were able to recall and then apply what they had learned months before.

Kim related how important it is for her and her colleagues to know that their students have developed the accountability needed to maintain and then retrieve knowledge they have learned over time, not just for the short term. She believes it is critical that teachers layer learning in a manner that provides students with opportunities to retain, retrieve, and apply what they have learned over the long term.

In what she calls her “Twitter Travels,” Kim follows a wide variety of teachers from as far away as Alaska and Australia to glean ideas and ways to deal with instructional challenges. She plans to become a contributor to her Twitter Travels as well as a consumer of information.

Kim offered advice to others who are working to personalize learning for their students: be open to change and realize that the worst thing that happens is it doesn’t work so you have to try another way. “If teachers are asking their students to try even if they might fail and then support them, teachers have to be willing to do the same thing…try even if you fail and keep learning. Surrounding yourself with people you trust and who will support you when you try something outside of your comfort zone is really important.”

This teacher profile will be featured in the upcoming white paper Connections and Convergence: eMINTS and Personalized Learning by Monica Beglau and Christine Terry. To receive a copy of this paper when released, sign up here.

eLearning Awarded Google CS4HS Grant

eMINTS eLearning for Educators Awarded Google CS4HS Grant

UPDATE: Check out the project website for more information.

We are proud to announce that Google’s CS4HS Grant has awarded eLearning for Educators, our online professional development program for teachers, almost $35,000 to build on our successful partnership with the University of Colorado’s Scalable Game Design Project.

googleFundingThe grant will fund the development of a new online course for teachers to support the integration of math, science, and language arts with the new AP Computer Science Course standards. Teachers will learn to help their students design and build games and simulations that will not only provide many students with their first programming experience, but will deepen their understanding of core content. Using the cloud-based AgentCubes application, teachers will step into the student role as they create and publish their own games and simulations through user-friendly drag and drop, rule-based programming. Experiencing the learning from the student point of view will prepare them to help users as young as middle school students to get started coding.

eMINTS is thrilled to be a part of the exciting movement to get kids coding.  There are compelling reasons to move coding into the regular classroom, but many teachers we work with, especially those teaching upper-middle school and high school, don’t have time in their schedules to set aside their assigned standards and focus just on coding.  Introducing coding in the regular classroom is important for students because research from our partners at the University of Colorado-Boulder indicates that students who traditionally do not participate in computer science classes, such as minorities and girls, are more likely to continue to pursue those interests if they are introduced to computer science in their regular classroom.

We live in the Digital Age where computers are used in every career, but we are not teaching our kids how to be digital thinkers and creators in every content area. The percentage of students who pass the AP Computer Science test across the nation is abysmal. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 30% increase in demand for programmers by 2020, the highest performing state, Maryland, had just over 1% of their graduating class of 2013 pass the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam (United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 2014).  This problem stems from more than a lack of preparation; students suffer from a lack of exposure to, and thus interest in, computer science. Computer Science needs to move from the lab to the classroom and the Scalable Game Design Project is one step in the right direction.

ISTE 2015: eMINTS Schedule

iste2015eMINTS will be returning to ISTE in 2015!

Come join eMINTS from June 28 – July 1, 2015 in Philadelphia, PA at the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference & Expo. More information at ISTEconference.org. Catch eMINTS at the following events and presentations (all times are in Eastern Daylight Time):

Saturday 6/27

    • ISTE Standards for Teachers Mixer,  4:15-4:45 pm, Christie Terry

Sunday 6/28

    • ISTE Standards for Students Mixer, 11-11:30 am, Christie Terry
    • Seal of Alignment workshop, 12-1 pm, Christie Terry
    • Leadership Mixer,  4-4:30 pm, Christie Terry

Tuesday 6/30

Wednesday, 7/1

oDreams: Coding in the Classroom

odreamsIn 2013, the University of Colorado Boulder received a National Science Foundation grant to further spread their Scalable Game Design project across the country by offering teacher training online through collaboration with the eMINTs National Center. Read more about eMINTS’s role in this project: Coding in the Classroom — eMINTS Enhances Educator’s Abilities to Connect.

Interesting in taking the next oDreams course? oDreams: Coding in the Classroom will be offered beginning July 8, 2015. Sign up here.