Thursday, October 21, 2010

Climate is Everything

This week has been extremely gratifying in terms of the instructional practices I either witnessed firsthand or heard about.  Coincidentally they are all coming out of my History Department.  Here is a quick rundown:

On Thursday, October 21, I observed Nicolette Perna’s American History 1 class where the lesson focused on the major patriots during the Revolutionary War.  After a few minutes of notes, the students were directed to get in their pre-selected groups and were broken up into pairs by Ms. Perna within each group.  Each pair received a folder containing the name of an important patriot (i.e. Benjamin Franklin), their biography, and a Facebook template.  The nature of the activity was for the students to create a Facebook page for their important Patriot as the students envisioned it would look if they were alive today. Prior to beginning this assignment, Ms. Perna modeled what she was looking for by showing the class an example of a Facebook page made for Abraham Lincoln.  She further explained that each page had to include biographical information, a list of other patriots who would be friends, and status updates of historical significance.  In addition to these requirements, students were given the flexibility to be as creative as they wanted to with the status updates.  One student in particular added a conversation between Thomas Jefferson and “The Situation” from the Jersey Shore (of course all required content information was included as well).  On a side note, Ms. Perna used Prezi on Monday to introduce students to words and images associated with the Olive Branch Petition.

While learning about Immigration in Rebecca Millan’s American History 2 class during the week of October 4, students created interactive Glogster posters.  The posters were developed to provide students with a better understanding of their family’s immigration to America as well as the overall immigration experience of the countries in which families emigrated.  Students worked diligently in the computer lab for three days and were then able to publish their projects online and present them in class.

Today I observed Joe Manzo in Modern World History where he was covering the Columbian Exchange.  After lecturing on the topic, he broke students up into cooperative, heterogeneous groups where they answered questions relating to the impact of the Columbian Exchange on Europe, Africa, and the Americas.  As a culminating activity, Mr. Manzo asked the students to take out their mobile devices and submit their questionnaire answers using Poll Everywhere.  In preparation for the activity he informed the students yesterday to bring their cell phones in (they were shocked). This was an extremely significant event as this represented the first time that a teacher and students used mobile devices in NMHS as a learning tool.  I observed each and every student thoroughly engaged in the activity as they observed real-time results appear on a large television screen.  Their excitement was contagious.  Wait, it gets better; when the activity ended Mr. Manzo moved on to his closure activity and every student turned off and then put away their cell phones without even being asked!

I am extremely proud of my teachers effectively integrating technology into their instruction to create an engaging learning environment.  All three of these teachers willingly attended the Tri-State Educational Technology Conference (TSETC) held at NMHS and learned about Prezi, Glogster, and Poll Everywhere for the first time.  A climate has been established here where teachers are provided with the tools, resources, support, and flexibility to take risks with technology in order to improve teaching and learning.  Teachers are not directed or mandated to do this, but instead motivated through effective modeling, meaningful events like TSETC, and a desire to change.  These success stories must be shared to alleviate fears and resistance to using educational technology in the classroom.


  1. Thanks for a few new ideas. I love integrating tech tools into my lessons.

    On another note though, (background 1st) I am teaching a full-year Math/English class with another teacher. We each start the semestered period with the opposite class--she teaches the Math and I teach the English--and then we switch halfway through the period and repeat the lesson with the other group. It's a Student Success initiative at our school. I was asked to teach it because I really try to teach them something. I am finding it challenging because there are 24/27 students in each class respectively, and over half of these students are identified. There are numerous silly behaviours as I try to teach reading strategies. I know that for many it's their least favourite class because it's their weakness.

    I want there to be less behaviours and more engagedness in the lessons, but I also want to teach them strategies to improve their reading skills (which are 3-4 grades below actual level). I feel like a battle-axe in this class right now!

    How do I deliver the literacy in a way that they want to learn? Is that even possible?

    Wondering if you have any suggestions... :-D

  2. I learn so much from your posts on Twitter! Thanks for the collaboration!

  3. Thanks for sharing these ideas. As a homeschool mom I am always looking for fun ways to engage my students.

    I am so glad to hear that teachers are using these innovative ideas. I know that my teacher family and friends are so locked up with mandated curriculum and test prep that there is little time for creativity. My brother is a history/government teacher in Fresno, CA and is very discouraged that his wonderful assortment of artifacts and great story telling skills have little time once he has done everything mandated by the state and his school.

  4. Not only is it great to read about these teachers integrating technology into their lessons, it is really great to see it done seamlessly. So often the technology is forced into the lesson for the sake of technology, and not for the enhancement of the curriculum. Each of these three examples is a strong use of integrating meaningful technology while keeping the spotlight on the subject area.

  5. Thank you very much for the innovative lessons which you have shared with us. Teachers in your school are very lucky because they have a wonderful leader.
    Best wishes from Turkiye.