Friday, June 21, 2013

Henrico Visit April 8th and 9th

On April 8th and 9th we, +Joanna Antoniou  +Mary Howard +Corey McKinney +Jeannette Torres-Gomez+Shirley Romerohad the pleasure of visiting six middle and high schools in Henrico county Virginia. Although many of these schools differed from our own demographically, we shared some common themes and values which made the visit worthwhile. Each of these schools served to provide us with lessons on the big picture as well as the mundane day-to-day procedures involved with implementing a 1:1.

During the first day,  we visited two schools where the culture differed drastically from our own. In both, Walton Middle School and Albemarle High School, students were lounging in the halls and working on the floors. In this relaxed environment, students were engaged in rigorous work. Students worked collaboratively on a wide range of projects from the more familiar peer editing online to interdisciplinary projects that married curriculum which fostered student centered learning. The end product of many groups of students was the creation of an electric guitar built by students working in pairs.
Albemarle High School combines Math and Science into three hour blocks. Although technology is vital in these rooms, it does not drive the instruction. It is a tool that facilitates the learning. Since they wish to create lifelong learners, students are engaged in inquiry-analysis and reflection. Projects are challenging and scaffolded. Instruction is provided as necessary but much of the learning is student directed using resources online and those provided by the teacher. Differentiation occurs naturally since students are dictating the pace of their own learning
Just as teachers train teachers, students work with other students to tutor and mentor prior to school. Learners, both students and teachers, need to feel like they’re constantly growing. Students have led professional development and worked with teachers. Teachers use self evaluation rubrics that drive discussion. “Reflective friends” provide peer evaluation that serves to promote professional growth without reprisal.  On our second day, the principal of Glen Allen HS said, “ I have rock-star teachers.  They love PD.  I'm surrounded by the greatest teachers and they make me look good. As such, they’re unfazed by visitors.”
The common thread among all the schools was the importance of creating  a school culture where lifelong learning is paramount and distributed leadership is crucial. For all, the first year was difficult but now all stakeholders share the same instructional goals and language. Some classes are even team-taught to help struggling teachers form a foundation to understand what good teaching looks like. This does not  occur in an evaluative manner. Teachers see this model as supportive rather than punitive. An incredible mutual admiration society exists among colleagues and administrators alike.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Richland2 South Carolina Visit April 22 - 23rd 2013

Four members of the Passaic Technology Team, Maritza Villanueva, Jason Smith, John Menichella, and I, were provided with the tremendous opportunity to visit Richland 2 schools in South Carolina last month.  What an eye-opening, enriching, and exciting learning opportunity for our team.  We were provided the opportunity to see Richland 2 school's 1TWO1 in action.  Facilitated by Donna Teuber (Technology Integration Specialist) at Richland2 schools, we were able to see 1 elementary school, 2 middle schools and 3 high schools while we visited April 22nd and 23rd. We visited Conder Elementary School,
Dent Middle School, Longleaf Middle School, Richland Northeast High School, Ridge View High School, and Westwood High School.  To be able to visit all of these schools in two days and gain insight and materials from the technology team and Richland 2 has been extremely invaluable.

First we visited Conder Elementary school where we observed a 1st grade class opening a Google doc and preparing to collaborate on the document with their classmates.  Students opened browsers, titled their document, and opened a second browser with a URL provided by the teachers.  After students prepared their laptops, they sat on the carpet in the center of the room to participate in the teacher's activity.  It was new seeing students at such a young age learning to use Google docs to enter information as well as open browsers and access the internet.  We also observed a second grade class working in centers completing projects for earth day.  Students were broken into centers of 3 - 4 students per center.  Group 1 worked on posters, Group 2 wrote a poem in Google Docs, Group 3 completed an earth day writing assignment, Group 4 wrote something meaningful in their journals about Earth Day, and Group 5 used the App Puppet Pals on the iPads.
Next we went to Dent Middle School where students were using to discover the muscles of the body.  The web-based program assessed student knowledge on muscles in the body. Students were given a muscle and they had to mouse click on the part of the body where the muscle resided.  The program gave students instant feedback whether or not they were clicking the right part of the body.  Students were very engaged and spoke very highly of the program because it provided instant feedback and showed them their percent correct right on the screen.

Next we went to the High Schools and saw their 1TWO1 at the high school level.  They showed us their 3 models of 1TWO1 (classroom set, check-out, and take home model)  They were utilizing all three models throughout the district. Above is an example of the checkout model carts.  Students who opt out of taking the Chromebooks home pick up their Chromebook from a central location in the morning and return the Chromebook to the same location in the afternoon before returning home.

Richland Northeast High School
Westwood High School Main Entrance

Outside Westwood High School
One of the key takeaways for me was making connections with Richland2's outstanding staff and teachers.  We began this year carving our own path as we go, but having made this connection with Richland2, we have gained valuable insight and can utilize some of their resources to ensure that our 1:1 is successful. We have so many eager teachers and students who are willing to collaborate with other schools across the country and to make this connection and meet people who are doing the same things that we are doing at Passaic Schools is truly a terrific experience.  Richland2 staff shared their successes as well as their challenges and explained that their policies and procedures are always changing to meet the changes in their population, yet they shared all of their work and complimented us on our work thus far as well.  They were thrilled to make connections and asked to visit us in the future.  I know that this is the beginning of a great relationship between Passaic Schools and Richland2 Schools.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Deployment & #PPSKickOff

It's a VERY busy time for Passaic schools!

Since October, a dedicated group of pilot teachers at the middle and high school have been attending PD, exploring the instructional changes that happen in a 1:1 and discovering creative ways to teach about digital citizenship with our students.  They worked hard to create lessons that give students more ownership of their learning.

In the past few weeks, we have begun deploying the Chromebook carts into these pilot teachers classrooms.    WOW! These teachers have gone above and beyond...immediately jumping into creative lessons!  These amazing educators even took the time to explore the theme of digital citizenship with their students as they began.  We, as technology coordinators, have had the pleasure of visiting these classrooms.  No matter what grade level or subject area, I've seen students that are excited and engaged!
Hardworking Pilot Teachers/Turnkey Facilitators

Moreover, these teachers are pulling double duty... They have also been preparing to turnkey what they've discovered these past few months to other staff.  Last Saturday, we hosted our Wave 2 and Wave 3 KickOff Event for LMS and PHS teachers.  What a great day!

Thank you, Mr. Koen!
We started the morning with a keynote in the auditorium, where everyone was treated to beautiful messages from Dr. Everett (Superintendent), Dr. Barbosa (VP at the HS), Mr. McKinney (VP at the MS), and Mr. Koen (Director of Technology).  The excitement in the room was so apparent.  A HUGE thank you to these administrators for showing your support for these 100 teachers who came in to school on a Saturday!
Thank you Dr. Barbosa!
Our breakout sessions, led by pilot teachers, explored the use of Twitter to build your PLN, the creation of screencasts to give valuable feedback to students, and the changing of student roles in the classroom.  Each breakout session used a backchannel (Today'sMeet) to communicate and ask questions throughout the day. Additionally, we created a hashtag to tweet out during the day (#PPSKickOff).

Pilot Teacher, Heather Perruso, works with Ms. Lynch and Ms. Salerno on posting comments on Padlet

Teachers spent their breaks checking out the Chromebook Lab, which was available all day.
Our check in, using PollEverywhere, at the end of the day indicated that most teachers were leaving with 3+ "takeaways" that they will bring to their classes! Success!!  We also created Animoto videos during the day, using pictures from each session... Staff loved seeing a quick recap of the day. (And how easy to make!)

Monday, March 11, 2013


What an outstanding few weeks it has been for Passaic City Public Schools. Presidents Day marked a historical event for our district as 3100 chromebooks crossed the thresholds of Lincoln Middle School and Passaic High School signifying the first major shipment to arrive in Passaic. Pallet after pallet containing 100 chromebooks rolled through the doors at LMS. In just over an hour the hallways were lined with 20 skids, 2000 chromebooks, which will sit on the desks of students for years to come. All 2000 chromebooks were unpacked, checked, inventoried, and even deployed to pilot teacher carts. Chromebooks will be the vehicle through which educational change will occur and excellent teaching will evolve to include 21st century workplace skills and digital literacy. In the words of Dr. Lawrence Everett, acting superintendent of schools, "This 1:1 initiative with the Samsung Chromebooks is the culmination of many years of planning aimed at realizing our goal of narrowing the digital divide for our student population.With access to Samsung Chromebooks every day and all day at school, and also in their homes from later this year, Passaic students will now have much greater opportunities to obtain the 21st century skills that are so essential to success once they graduate and enter the workforce or college."

Even though Presidents Day weekend offered a much needed weekend off for many, the tech department opted to be a part of history by making sure all of the chromebooks that were delivered were counted, checked, and packed away. What a great feeling to realize that we are almost there; teachers will soon be using these chromebooks in their classes and this realization is extremely exciting.

On Friday of the same week, Samsung arrived with a full array of camera gear to carry out a case study highlighting the use of Samsung Chromebooks in one of our pilot teacher's classrooms. Pilot teacher, Mike Lauricella accompanied by LMS Technology Coordinator, Joanna Antoniou taught a brilliant lesson using Meograph (an online timeline) to emphasize the major events of the French Revolution. The class did such a wonderful job using the chromebooks to create digital content. Also, two of Mr. Lauricella's students spoke brilliantly about how the use of technology will enhance their learning experiences in their classes. Samsung also visited pilot teacher Vida Fernandez's classroom as they watched recordings of students from a class in Bavaria. They are planning to perform a trial of Frankenstein with the class from Bavaria over skype in the near future.

It is unbelievable to me how far we have come in five short months.  I know that there is much work to be done, but we have set a foundation and we are continuously working hard to dot all i's and cross all t's.  I am extremely excited to be a part of such a wonderful team.

Coming soon:
All of the technology coordinators along with our fearless leader Joshua Koen are excited to be presenting at the NJECC this week at Montclair State University.  I am confident that we have a lot of great information and experience to share with our peers, and hope that the individuals who attend our conference sessions find that what we have to offer is worth their time and energy.  We have been working hard to make sure that we provide a quality experience for those who come and participate in our sessions.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reflections from our Skype Call

A HUGE thank you to Ms. Jane Conboy from Pascack Hills High School for taking some time today to Skype with our group of Passaic Pilot Teachers.  

Pilot Teachers....Reflect on the conversation we just had with Ms. Conboy.
Respond to the following prompts in a comment below!
  • One takeaway from this experience is...
  • One thing that surprised me was...
  • I feel less anxious after hearing...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Classroom Reset and Teacher Leaders

     What an awesome few weeks it has been.  +Joanna Antoniou and I along with 4 pilot teachers from the middle school and high school, had the awesome experience of seeing a 1:1 in action.  Pascack Hills High School has had a 1:1 for the past nine years and they shared with us many of the challenges and successes which they experienced. The team that attended took notes in a collaborative google doc so that we could capture the day's experiences in one place and to allow us to go back and reflect on the day with ease.  I will share with you some of the highlights captured in the google doc.
Pascack Hills student describes his Italian class
The day began with a keynote delivered by 3 Pascack Hills High School students who have experienced technology integration first hand and the ways in which it has enhanced their lives.  They filmed a video approximately 5 minutes in length highlighting technology integration at Pascack Hills. The video concluded with the students asking their peers to describe technology at PHHS in one word.  Some of those words were, "fantastic," "revolutionary," "overwhelming," "life-changing," "great."  They continued their keynote by describing their typical day and how technology has affected each of them in their classes personally.  Two of the three students described how their language teachers connected with foreign countries through skype and google maps, and how having a real time experiences in a different country made the class so engaging and relevant.  They also spoke about how teachers used blogging and VoiceThread and how those tools allowed students to respond to content both in and out of school.  With VoiceThread, the teacher would post a question or comment and students would listen to the question/comment and respond by either posting a video, a sound clip, or by typing a response.  One student explained how it was easy for students to respond to this format without the pressures of talking in class.  It gave all students the opportunity to participate, not just the talkative ones.  The students also described, ebooks, and easybib in their language arts classes. allows students to comment on each others works while teachers can determine whether any part of their students' works were plagiarized.  Easybib is an awesome tool which helps students create a bibliography for their research papers, which many would agree is a challenging, cumbersome task.  Finally, one student described the fact that he had to do at least one presentation a month, which explained the ease with which all three students were comfortable addressing an auditorium with nearly 100 education professionals including their superintendent of schools and their principal.

Kristina Kochan, an LMS pilot teacher, provided this reflection on Classroom Reset. "When thinking back on my visit to Pascack Hills High School, what sticks out in my mind the most is the presentation created by three students.  These students worked incredibly hard to create a presentation that explained how technology has impacted their education.  It was truly inspiring to not only hear their stories, but to see their confidence in presenting and in their technological abilities.  I am so excited for our students to be offered these same experiences!"   

     It was really nice to see, and as Joanna and I went from session to session throughout the day, we talked about how awesome it would be to host something like that at PHS and LMS in the future.  As it turns out, this week Gregg Festa from the group who organized classroom reset, reached out to Joanna and our team at Passaic Schools and asked if we were ready to host classroom reset in 2014.  In the words of Joanna Antoniou, "Bring it on!"

     The following week was highlighted by Stephanie Garcia and Michael Lauricella, two teachers at Passaic High School.  They requested a meeting to talk to administration about twitter, a social media tool that they felt very strongly about and something that has helped them connect with their students and other professionals in our field.  They expressed the importance of using twitter both in the way it has helped them grow professionally and how it has helped them to better reach their students during the course of the current school year.  They asked that administrators help to model exceptional technology integration by opening up their own twitter accounts and tweeting to connect with other administrators, teachers, community members, and students.  Almost every high school administrator attended the meeting and listened, asked questions, and genuinely wanted to know what twitter was all about.  It was a great experience both seeing the teachers express their feelings and seeing how open and receptive our administration was to our teachers.  The definition of collegiality.

     Finally, this week, 93 Chromebook Carts from Datamation arrived at the middle school and high school.  These carts were designed with the input of Jason Smith and myself and were specifically made to support our needs.  Jason did an exceptional job designing the graphic which is displayed on all 93 carts. AWESOME JOB Jason!  The ball continues to roll forward!  Exciting things to come.
Chromebook Cart with design by Jason Smith

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Passaic Lights!

How can this image not make you smile!?!  This is a peek into an extremely dedicated and inspirational group of approximately 30 teachers, administrators and technicians at school this morning -working to transform education!  Wait!!  Did I mention this is a Saturday morning??  This is the enthusiasm education needs!  

Here at Passaic Public Schools, we have been working diligently to plan and prepare for our Chromebook roll out.  To echo my fellow blogger +Jason Smith, our Pilot Teacher team has completed Professional Development training covering various pedagogical shifts, digital citizenship discussions and deployment policies and procedures.  This morning we distributed the Chromebooks for the first time! As you can imagine this was a lot of fun!! As we all began to explore the devices the room was buzzing with excitement. Floating around and discovering the nuances, “Wait there is no right click? There has to be a right click?!?! Google That!" This type of challenge and accomplishment experience happened multiple times and will continue to happen. This exploration time re-energizes and reconnects us with the love of learning. I know this is the excitement that inspired me to become a teacher. As educators, we are challenged with the task of inspiring and encouraging life-long learning.

In the words of our fearless leader +Joshua Koen , “We are a part of a transformation. This is not a project, it is not an initiative." This is a transformation!

“A culture of change consists of great rapidity and non-linearity on the one hand and equally great potential for creative breakthroughs on the other. The paradox is that transformation would not be possible without accompanying messiness.”  

This is an excerpt from Michael Fullan’s Leading in a Culture of Change, an inspiring book that I turn to for a recharge.  The "messiness" as Fullan refers to it, is something we can all grow from as educators and professionals. Without it -we would never improve. So true in this process in which we continue to have trial, error, reflection and solution.  

We are creating a digital learning environment where the possibilities are endless. I keep looking forward to when our students are given the opportunity to explore and produce with their devices.  

To discover. To hope. To dream. To achieve.  

We are providing them with a window to the world that they may otherwise not have the opportunity to experience. Ultimately, we are encouraging students to publish globally, collaborate with their peers, find solutions to current issues and gain perspectives from people around the world! By providing students with tools that allow them to take ownership of how content is understood, transferred and re-distributed. The end vision of an empowered student working to reach his or her potential makes dealing with a little "messiness" totally worth it!  

Happy Transforming, everyone!