The Director\’s Corner

John Krouskoff’s TUFSD Blog

A Fantastic Student Collaboration at Morse: The Morse Guide Wiki

June 3, 2007 by · No Comments · The Shifts, Web_2.0

How exciting it is to see our third grade students using a Wiki! The students from the challenge program, Ms. Restivo, Ms. Gentile, and Mr.Pitz’s classes used internet tools to collaborate on a variety of topics, ultimately creating a guide to Morse School for incoming second graders. Although these students could not work on the project at the same time period or on the same days, they were able to use various Web 2.0 tools to accomplish their goals.

These students are really the first in the district to take advantage of these tools, and they should be commended, as should their teachers. This was a large project that was efficiently managed and distributed using these new tools. John Calvert’s innovative thinking and willingness to goal the extra mile contributed to the success as well.

Providing an Authentic Audience Really Motivates Our Students!

May 15, 2007 by · No Comments · The Shifts, Web_2.0

Students are motivated when they write for an authentic audience, and a number of our elementary school teachers have begun using class blogs to provide our students with this opportunity. Recently, Ms. Cristella (Ms. Cristella’s Class Blog) and Mrs. Chulla (Chulla Chatter) had students post their poems online. This was a big thrill for this group of first and second graders, but the real excitement came when students, principals, former teachers, parents, and community members took the time to comment on the students’ poems! Cathy Chulla sent me a note which said, in part, “I am a convert! My class Blog went live last week and is a great success! The kids love it! They are even writing comments to each other from home. They are excited to check for comments each morning. We are even ready to add another set of poems.” Knowing that Mrs. Chulla’s comments are based on her extensive experience and interactions with young children, I couldn’t ask for a more honest and authentic affirmation that we are providing new and powerful opportunities for the students we serve!

At Morse School, Principal Joanne Vale wrote a comment on each child’s poem, much to the delight of the students and teacher. Ms. Cristella’s enthusiasm was evident when she wrote to me, “This project took off and is SUCH a hit! Kids’ relatives from across the states are posting messages, their 1st grade teachers, members of MY family, etc. The kids are so thrilled and it’s great to help them realize they are writing for an authentic audience.”

Other teachers are using the blogs to showcase student work and motivate their students. Mrs. Calvert’s blog (What’s the Scoop?) focuses on sharing book reviews, what’s being taught in class, current events, and more. She also provides a collection of web links on the right side of the blog that are aligned with the monthly instructional goals.

The overwhelming positive feedback has motivated other teachers to explore how these Web 2.0 tools can improve student achievement. As more teachers use these tools with their students, we will feature them on our district website. I encourage you to read through them and provide our young writers with feedback. These are wonderful years to be a student!

The Foundation for the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns

May 4, 2007 by · No Comments · General

On May 5th, the Foundation for the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns will hold its thirteenth annual dinner dance fund raiser. It is fitting that we recognize the significant contributions this organization of community volunteers consistently makes, and the impact their efforts have on the students we serve. This is a group that makes a difference!

The Foundation supports our students’ education in many ways, and their financial backing of technology in our schools has been particularly strong. Direct benefits to our students include a computer lab at W.L. Morse, numerous SMART Boards, hundreds of computers, and seed money for a variety of pilot programs.

The seed money has been invaluable, and many of the projects initially sponsored by the Foundation have become permanent fixtures in our district. Examples of this include the Rubicon Atlas Curriculum software, Blackboard.com, Macintosh computers, an interactive student response system (“clickers”), iPods, materials for Podcasting, and more. In fact, the Foundation initially provided funding for Mr. Mormile’s multimedia class and related efforts, for which he was recently awarded the prestigious Pioneer Award from the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center.

Of course, the Foundation supports a great deal more than technology in our schools. Whether it’s funding a new playground, providing financial support for trips, buying mountain bikes for the high school’s physical education department or updating the sound system at the Washington Irving school, the Foundation does a great deal for our school community.

Our Children Online: Keeping Connected as Parents

April 30, 2007 by · No Comments · Internet Safety

The media is full of examples of MySpace.com, Facebook and other social networking sites that present specific risks to students, their friends, and their families, and in the past year we have had several workshops for parents and community members. At the most recent workshop, hosted at the Washington Irving School in mid-March, a number of community members requested that we provide a follow-up session. In an effort to present the most up-to-date and relevant content, several staff members have working behind the scenes to put together a presentation and collection of resources that will be useful tools. Community members will hear more about an upcoming Internet safety presentation and panel in the next few weeks.

Last week, Jean O’Brien (technology integration specialist at Washington Irving) and I attended a presentation titled “Keeping Connected to Your Plugged-In Child: A Resource for Parents Dealing with Kids and Technology.” The keynote speaker was Parry Aftab, a national speaker and expert on this topic. One area of particular concern was cyberbullying and another was the pictures and information that students share online. Though there are safeguards and steps for reducing the online risks (i.e. turning off comments and ratings, making a profile private), there are still many users who are unaware of these simple practices or who choose not to use them.

Ms. Aftab also provided a number of positive examples of pre-teens and teens using the Internet and social networking sites in productive ways. Examples include developing websites aimed at stopping cyberbullying, as well as resoureces that provide peer tutoring and remediation. She also shared one of her websites as a resource for parents, students, and educators.

You view a variety of resources and information at the wiredsafety site or the social networking section in particular

Tom Mormile: Our Pioneer Award Winner

April 23, 2007 by · No Comments · School 2.0, The Shifts, Web_2.0

TomOn Friday night, April 20, 2007 the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center (LHRIC) presented the Distinguished Technology Leader Award for a teacher. After reviewing many applications for this prestigious award, the LHRIC stated that they chose to honor Tom, “as a leader who has been extremely successful at finding ways to use technology to improve education for students, teachers, and district staff. The many initiatives he has implemented have always kept the needs of learners as the highest priority.” That phrase sums up the “Tom Mormile Experience” from which so many of our students have benefited. The latest work by students in Mr. Mormile’s class can be viewed at www.sleepyhollowhits.com. Congratulations to Mr. Mormile and the students he serves!

The New(s) Media: Old School? New School?

April 16, 2007 by · No Comments · The Shifts, Web_2.0

I recently attended a presentation sponsored by the Rockland County School Boards Association and the Rockland School Public Relations Association billed as “The New Media: Old School? New School?” There were numerous board of education members, school superintendents, and public relations personnel in attendance, and the panelists included the local media and school district public relations experts.

The conversations were rich with examples of how the print media has evolved and how the emergence of blogs and the “read/write web” have transformed a medium that had been a stable and predictable force for decades. In short, the ability for anyone to publish, comment, or post information changes the dynamic with which we have become accustomed.

As district leaders, it is important that we are aware of this paradigm shift and its implications, and that we use these new tools to our advantage. Now more than ever districts need to get their messages out in a timely and consistent manner, ensuring that unsubstantiated musings that are written in the “blogosphere” are balanced with the district’s formal messages. In short, as educational leaders we need to be out in front of the curve, consistently sharing the district’s vision and successes with our stakeholders.

A superintendent’s blog is one way to achieve this, and schools are beginning to recognize the benefits of this new medium.  In concert with this, the traditional and emerging media have an obligation to monitor these new district resources and use the latest tools (i.e. RSS aggregators) to stay fully informed,  reporting news and events through a variety of channels.

Two superintendents’ blogs (Dr. Joe Zambito of South Orangetown and Mrs. Debra Kaplan of Dobbs Ferry) were presented at the meeting, and it’s only a matter of time before more district leaders take advantage of these tools to ensure the public is presented with a balanced and accurate accounting of the district’s activities. Our own superintendent of schools, Dr. Howard Smith,  has a blog which provides him with a direct line of communication with a variety of stakeholders.

As our district leaders and the news media embrace these tools and improve the processes by which they share information, the community will benefit.

Sleepy Hollow and the Flat New World

March 28, 2007 by · No Comments · The Shifts, Web_2.0

I glanced at my blackberry this morning and noticed a quick note from Tom Mormile, our high school’s multimedia teacher. It read, “What country ranked #2 last week, in number of visits to www.sleepyhollowhits.com?” The answer: China!

Hmm, perhaps it’s time I re-read some of Friedman’s book.

Later in the day I reviewed the data for the sleepyhollowhits.com website, and the results were impressive. This is not a website that one browses and then moves from quickly to explore other sites. It is also one that has very little text, but employs the latest technologies to creatively exploit the potential of this new medium. Details regarding the sites vision and mission can be found at the “About Us” section.

So who exactly is viewing our student work? In the past 7 days, there have been 627 separate visits from within the United States, resulting in 11,915 hits! Clearly when someone in the U.S. visits the site, they spend time with us and view many of the sections. There were also 122 different visits from China, with a total of 1,940 hits. Not bad, considering the language barrier!

Since the site went live in January 2007, there have been more than 16,000 separate visits to the site, and more than 423,000 hits! These numbers are impressive, and we realize, as educators, that our students at Sleepy Hollow High School are part of a global community. It is a source of pride to know that creative talents are being recognized. If the world is indeed becoming flat, then these students are well on their way to being ready to compete in a bold new economy. If you haven’t checked out the site yet, you’re in for a treat!

Click here and view the complete “World Countries” statistics as a PDF document!

Internet Safety and Our Children

March 17, 2007 by · 1 Comment · Internet Safety, jkrouskoff, School 2.0

This past week there were two internet safety presentations for parents in our community. I was a speaker at one, and a guest at another. I will create a page on this blog that will provide resources for parents, as there were many requests for specific steps that parents can take. Things have changed quite a bit in the last ten years, but a good dose of common sense and learning about internet safety goes a long way toward minimizing many of the online risks that our children may encounter.

What hasn’t changed is that parents, teachers, social workers, camp directors, and anyone else who works with children must be aware of the risks and benefits related to adolescents using the internet. On my “Internet Safety Page” I will include a number of common sense guidelines for parents, but it’s important to realize that these guidelines provide, at best, a safety net for our children. Educating them on the importance of keeping private information private, proper ways in which to interact online, and the value of creating an appropriate online persona is essential. Equally important is that our children understand that there is no privacy online, and that what is posted to the internet may remain there indefinitely.

The common guideline of keeping any computer(s) with internet access in a public part of your home still applies, but it’s important to remember that things have changed, and the computer is not the only way in which our children access the internet. There are many other ways they access the internet daily, including using their cellphone, ipod, Nintendo Gameboy, X-Box 360, and more. In fact, if there’s any doubt as to how interactive these new devices are, I suggest reading Microsoft’s account of a blossoming love between online gamers , including this excerpt which Microsoft has posted to its website:

“She just wouldn’t stop shooting me—even when she was on my team.” Jim had Nicky laughing so hard that she says her cheeks hurt. Jim made his move and called her into a private room to tell her what a good time he had in the game. …“When I got on XboxLive, I certainly wasn’t looking to hook up, much less meet the love of my life,” she says.

Our children are frequently interacting in a global community, and will need to do so to succeed in the future. The ease and frequency with which this is taking place demands that we, as adults, are familiar with the associated risks and responsibilities and that we work with our children to ensure the experiences are safe and productive.

 

 

Distance Learning Has a Local Appeal!

March 12, 2007 by · No Comments · jkrouskoff, Web_2.0

A few weeks ago Jean O’Brien, our technology integration specialist for grades 4-6, and Nichole Conjura, one of our sixth grade teachers, had a grand idea to apply distance learning technology to solve a local dilemma. The results have been intriguing.

Recently, one of their students had injured herself and required surgery that promised to keep her on crutches for a few months. This made the science class and science labs a physical challenge for her, as both were located on the third floor and the elevator only goes as far as the second floor.

The two teachers requested web cams and configured an internal connection so that the injured student could participate in the class and the labs via videoconference…from the library on the second floor!

When I visited the class, I was impressed to see that the lab partners of the injured students included her in their discussions and activities as if she were in the class. The camera followed their movements and the process was, to borrow a phrase, “the next best thing to being there.” Though the picture above shows the student as the primary focus on the rrom’s SMART Board, that was more of a photo opportunity than anything else. Generally, the student’s image is on a monitor, situated right between other members of her lab group.

Our district has had experience with videoconferencing, but generally not as local as this current solution! In 2002, our district had a state of the art video conference center and we were thrilled with the powerful learning that took place when our middle school students videoconferenced with the Lakota Tribe in South Dakota and with an historian from the Salem Witch Museum in Massachusetts. We were equally excited as our youngest students participated with other schools around the country for “Read Across America.” We marveled when, during a public Board of Education meeting, we connected to a school deep in China (and let out a collective sigh when, after a second try, we had both sound and video). For now our video conferencing center is mothballed due to space constraints, but the global lessons we learned then have reaped benefits for us now.

Two Examples of Web 2.0 Used in Our District

March 4, 2007 by · No Comments · jkrouskoff, School 2.0, The Shifts, Web_2.0

It’s more important than ever that the technologies we embrace for our schools are ones which will address a need, simplify a process, or allow us to do things we might otherwise be unable to do. Recently, John Calvert, our district’s K-3 Technology Integration Specialist, has used Web 2.0 technology to create a new breed of tools for our elementary school teachers to use. In doing so, he has achieved all three of the criteria I’ve mentioned above. (Not familiar with Web 2.0? Click here for a detailed explanation).

The first example is an interactive map created by Mr. Calvert for our second grade students and teachers. If you click here and run the Flash program he has created, you will quickly see the power of the application. My favorite part of the program is accessed by using the Panorama check box, then selecting one of the thumbnails for the map. Try it! What you will see is incredible, but it’s even more powerful when our teachers use this on a full size SMART Board,  bringing the entire geography unit to a new level, with students engaged in ways that were previously unimaginable. Breathtaking! Of course, the second grade team is fortunate to have on-site professional development available, and by explaining and modeling how the tool can be fully embedded with this core area of study, the results are synergistic for the students we serve.

The second purposeful infusion of Web 2.0 tools is the use of social bookmarking to create a channel for providing elementary school teachers with “real time” quality links to use with their math instruction. As collaborators on the new elementary math curriculum implementation, our specialists were able to develop a tool that addresses a need presented by teachers using the SMART Boards and the Growing With Math program. This social bookmarking tool allows teachers to have access to a searchable database of links that are included in the curriculum map and/or used successfully by other teachers in the district.

The power of this is greater than it appears on the surface; when a link is added to our Atlas curriculum map, it is instantly made available to every teacher. The task of making the links available in a number of forums is automated, teachers are within a click of the latest resources, and the consistency of the district’s math curriculum is enhance by blending the curriculum map with daily instructional practices.

There are other ways that Web 2.0 can add to our district’s mission.  The ability to share information in so many ways and to add information effortlessly holds great potential for us.   We will continue to explore those that help address a need, simplify a process, or allow us to do things we might otherwise be unable to do.