Friday, May 27, 2011

Introducing iLearn@ZPS

As the ZPS TPIT (Technology Plan Implementation Team) prepares to get iPads into the hands of teachers and administrators this summer, we would like to introduce you to iLearn@ZPS.  

iLearn@ZPS brings together the ZPS mission of life-long learning on the part of both students and staff and the new modes of learning made possible through technology.  Here are four tools that have been created for our personal and collaborative professional learning.

Wiki - The iLearn@ZPS wiki contains a collection of resources at all grade levels and in all subjects that will assist us as we shift to the student-centered learning made possible with 1:1 iPads, SMART Boards, and presentation carts.  This resource is being continually updated, so please stop by often.

Blog - The iLearn@ZPS blog is a collection of posts by ZPS bloggers sharing the vision of the transformative teaching and learning made possible by 1:1 as well as showcasing classrooms from around the district that are embracing this new learning.  We encourage you to visit the blog and subscribe with either your email address or a RSS reader such as Google Reader.

Diigo Group - Diigo is a web-based social bookmarking tool that allows users to bookmark online resources.  The iLearn@ZPS Diigo group is open to anyone who would like to share and comment on resources related to the change in teaching and learning through the use of technology.

Google Group - The iLearn@ZPS Google Group is a discussion forum open only to ZPS staff.  Browse through questions and responses posted by staff or share your own questions and learning.

Links to all of these tools are available at  We hope that you'll take advantage of these tools this summer as we venture into this new learning for staff and students.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Project Based Learning in the Freshman House

The end of May is an exciting time for 9th grade students at Zeeland East. Instead of cramming for exams students have a chance to showcase their knowledge and passions through a project based learning experience called "Our Community, Our World- The Freshman Capstone Project".

The purpose of the project is threefold: 1) provide a real-life, collaborative experience in which students can demonstrate how their core content area classes are connect to their life passions, 2) Develop knowledge about how math, science, and history are used to build and improve the community, and 3) Enhance the communication and leadership skill of the students.

This past week students were given six guiding topics to help them refine their project. The common thread woven through each of these topics is "how are math, science, and history tied to your area of interest?"

During the project week teachers serve as advisers challenging students to collaborate with one another and the community at large. Several guiding questions such as "What are you communicating to your audience? What is the significance of your topic and findings to the world?, How are you likely to use your new knowledge in the future?" shape the students research. Students also spend time throughout the day making phone calls to local businesses, inviting relatives and local experienced people to come and speak with them on their given topic.

Final presentations are set this year for June 1st in the gym at Zeeland East. The public are welcome to attend and encouraged to ask students questions regarding their findings. If you would like to know more about Project-Based Learning (PBL) this short video from the Buck Institute of Education provides a good overview.

Look for a future post showcasing some of the student's work.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Patriots vs. Loyalists in Edmodo

Phil VanKampen's 5th graders have been taking on the roles of Patriots and Loyalists from the Revolutionary War and having "real time" debates. They have also been asking each other questions about the role each played in the history of the country. They have been speculating about their relationship after the war and making predictions. They have been switching their roles, debate style and starting new conversations.

Does this sound like a lively discussion in a typical classroom?

This discussion has been taking place virtually on Edmodo. Edmodo is a free social networking site created for educators and students where students interact only with others who have the code to their group. This means that students would be posting only to an entire group or the teacher, rather than among themselves individually. It is a place to practice netiquette, the online rules of courtesy and respect. But also to have online discussions which may draw out shyer students' comments. It also provides opportunity for students to respond to a range of comments, rather than one at a time.

Here are some samples from VanKampen's class in the Patriots vs. Loyalist discussion:

Discussion Thread 1:
Jordyn D. to VanKampen Tech:
will anybody find out who took the frist shot before the war started? If i had to guess the patriots took the frist shot because they were sick of getting there homes taken away and getting taxed alot.
Nick S. - That's not true you british regulars started everything in Boston. We were having a little peaceful "meeting" when your highly armed men started shooting at unarmed colonists. Don't you remember it the Boston Masacare!
Jordyn D. - you are right but will anybody find out who took the frist shot in the war.
Nick S. - I told you it was the British, first in Boston, then when they sent their army to Lexington and Concord. If the army had never been sent then there would have been no shot fired. So it doesn't really matter if we can find out who actually fired the first shot it's the fault of the british.

Discussion Thread 2:
Kynzie W. to VanKampen Tech:
those african americans are free because of those patriot captains so now there are free slaves roming everywhere so we can capture them and use them as slaves.
mike a. - ireally diss agree with you kynzie. that sounded must up to me . really
Madeline A. - that has nothing to do with the war unless they were free because the loyalist were on there side but the loyalist and patriots needed sllaves to work on there farms I AM CONFUSED!
Kynzie W. - Well mike thats what happend the war ended in 1782 or 1783 and slaves werent free till 1865
Alex L. - slaves werent really a big deal in the war
Kynzie W. - madi captains in the war said to slaves if you fight in the war you you get freedom so thats whgy i wrote the post.
jalin u. - Um thats kinda offences us that does sound kinda messed up.
mike a. - still thats is affensive to some of us thats messed up.

Discussion Thread 3:
Chloe K. to VanKampen Tech
everybody i got a question did any of the loyalist become friends with the patroits.
Madeline A. - No not a bit they hated loyalist and loyalist hatted them back.
Chloe K. - I ment at the end after the war
Bekah R. - Probably but at firt sthe werent
Heather T. - i'm not sure, but what if a loyalist really cared about the patriots and became one
Anna B. - i would not think that they did cause loyalist are loyal to the king and patriots dont like the king.


Mr. VanKampen also noted that he jumped into the discussion from time to time to play "devil's advocate," sparking even more discussion. He also mentioned how engaged his students were. When he prompted them to take the other side in a subsequent session, his students protested until he explained that a good debater is able to take on both sides.

Online discussions are not only engaging, they can be free-wheeling, so teachers may want to think that through. In any case, you have a document of the student discussion to refer to and have students re-read for future discussion: face to face or virtually.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Fourth Grade Experience: Fossils and Petoskey Stones

A student presents her Petoskey Stone Tic-Tac-Toe Project on our new technology equipment. The tech cart was designed to have student and teacher presentation as a focus. It's great to see it finally coming into the classroom!

A student had this to say:
I thought the open office presentation was fun to do because of all the new stuff I learned. Also I put down what I knew and some information from the internet. And I hope people liked my pictures and info I put down but if not they still looked like they were interested. Also I loved using the new technology cart.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Am I Googleable?

That's the question that blogger and author Will Richardson would like us to ask of ourselves as educators.  In an interview with Education Week from last October, Will shares:
...too few teachers have a visible presence on the Web. The primary reason this matters is that the kids in our classrooms are going to be Googled—they're going to be searched for on the Web—over and over again. That's just the reality of their lives, right? So they need models. They need to have adults who know what it means to have a strong and appropriate search portfolio—I call it the “G-portfolio.” But right now—and this is my ongoing refrain—there’s no one teaching them how to learn and share with these technologies. There's no one teaching them about the nuances involved in creating a positive online footprint. It's all about what not to do instead of what they should be doing.

The second thing is that, if you want to be part of an extended learning network or community, you have to be findable. And you have to participate in some way. The people I learn from on a day-to-day basis are Googleable. They’re findable, they have a presence, they’re participating, they’re transparent. That’s what makes them a part of my learning network. If you’re not out there—if you’re not transparent or findable in that way—I can’t learn with you.
 If a student, parent, or colleague were to Google you, what would they find?  How are you using online communities to learn and grow professionally?

Join in with us as we all learn what it means to say iLearn@ZPS.