Last spring, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) selected my district as one of its three Ed Tech Visitation Sites for 2011. During this three-day event, educational leaders from around the country observed how Pascack Valley Regional High School District has transformed teaching and learning through our 1:1 Laptop eLearning Initiative. Our guests had the chance to interact with students and teachers, and actually demo the digital tools that empower our students every day.
This visit was a great source of pride for the entire district. In my chemistry class, I wanted to show how we incorporated technology into a curricular standard. And naturally, I wanted to do it well.
My colleague, Natalie Macke and I developed a unit in which students create various ecosystems and then monitor their health through different readings (carbon dioxide levels, relative humidity, pH levels, etc.) Our three-gallon terrarium ecosystems—such as deserts, lakes, and brushlands— were all interlinked by ports; allowing students to see how one system affects another over time. It was an example of an authentic, hands-on learning assessment. The project’s laptop research capability allowed for a depth of material that could not have been achieved before. My students really enjoyed it, and they kept wondering why they weren’t getting graded!
As the NSBA visitors observed this project in our classroom, I spoke to them in small groups explaining the instructional and technological components involved. As I presented my material, I remember referring to such terms as essential questions, anticipated misunderstandings, formative assessments and ongoing assessments.
Sure, I have used these strategies in the past, and could define a specific strategy if pressed—but the experience of my first four Marygrove College Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) courses have allowed me to speak about all of these concepts in a more coherent and organized manner. It made for a very professional presentation.
As I plan for future lessons, I find myself thinking in a way that uses my improved understanding of the concepts covered in these courses.
While I strive to avoid sounding like the "know-it-all" college student, I do tend to introduce MAT course terms as I collaborate with colleagues. I also appreciate that the section on Backward Design helped me prepare a much more effective assessment for my students.
-Paul Henry, Pascack Valley Regional High School District, Montvale, New Jersey
Second Career, 12-year Special Education Teacher with a focus on Science and Mathematics
Be sure to stop by our Marygrove College MAT booth at the NJEA Convention Nov. 10-11 in Atlantic City! We’d love to meet you.