In March, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) selected my district as one of its Ed Tech Visitation Sites for 2011
. During this three-day event, educational leaders from around the country—and even from as far away as Australia—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 even 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 for students to create various ecosystems and then monitor each system’s health through different readings (carbon dioxide levels, relative humidity, pH levels, etc.). Using one-gallon terrarium tanks, we built ecosystems such as deserts, lakes, and brush lands. Systems were interlinked by ports in threes, allowing students to see how one system affects another over time. The project’s laptop research capability allows for a depth of material that could not have been achieved before.
The unit is an example of an authentic, hands-on learning assessment. While my students have really enjoyed it, it is interesting to note that they have been somewhat confused as to why they are not receiving a grade for so many of the assessments!
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 meaningful learning activities, 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 Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) courses has allowed me to speak about all of these concepts in a more coherent and organized manner. It made for a very professional presentation.
While I try to avoid sounding like the "know-it-all" college student, I do tend to introduce MAT course terms as I collaborate with colleagues. The Instructional Design and Effective Assessment courses have allowed me to create a more effective and meaningful learning experience for my students.
- Paul Henry, Pascack Valley Regional High School District, Montvale, New Jersey
Second Career, 11-year Special Education Teacher with a focus on Science and Mathematics