THREE ENGAGING WEB RESOURCES FOR EDUCATORS

Happy Sunday, everybody! The forensic science presentations by my students were postponed slightly due to some various scheduling issues. The presentations officially happen tomorrow, Monday, January 28th. So, next Sunday’s blog post will be about the presentations. In the mean time read about some amazing web 2.0 tools and other possibly little known resources that you can utilize in your classroom!


The New York Times Learning Network

This one is my personal favorite for many reasons. Over the past year, I have learned to love integrating current events and journalism into my curriculum. I briefly discussed this in my post about our school’s interview with Sarah Koenig. The New York Times Learning Network is a resource that utilizes the brilliant reporting by the Times. Lessons plans are pre-made and neatly laid out for educators from all backgrounds to easily understand and implement. The blog is organized and easy to navigate. They put on regular student contests for students participate in. The current ongoing contest is their 5th Annual 15-Second Vocabulary Video Challenge! The blog has a section dedicated to categorizing the various activities available for students. Just below that are lessons plans separated into the various subjects (ELA, social studies, science and math, ELL and arts, and current events). This obviously comes in handy when you are looking for a quick lesson plan and have little time to spare for planning. You can also search the blog to find any teaching activities for a specific topic that has been archived. The Learning Network is, hands down, a fantastic resource for those educators who occasionally have little time for planning, need something authentic or meaningful, or who just wants to try something new!

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Buck Institute for Education (BIE)

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) is an organization dedicated solely to the wonders of project based learning. The website houses a selection of materials for educators to be introduced to or strengthen their PBL knowledge. Available for readers are blogs, books, and articles to peruse. What may be even more helpful for you, though, are the variety of rubric, planning forms, and student handouts that are available to download for free on their site! These documents are highly professional and can be used in a multitude of subjects. Wether you are a beginner or a pro at PBL, these resources are sure to help you!

My personal favorite on BIE is the interactive project search. I practice PBL in my classroom everyday and when I am struggling with developing a project, I need some innovative ideas to spark my imagination. This is where the project search comes in. Here, you can search by source, subject, and level to find incredibly creative and authentic projects that your students can engage in.

BuckInstitute


National Center for Case Study Teaching In Science

I came across this great site by linking through on BIE. Based at the University of Buffalo, SUNY, this site contains a vast library of case studies (721 to be exact!) from virtually all areas of science. The premise of the case studies is that students are introduced to an authentic scenario that could easily be present in the real world. From there, the students answer a series of questions in which there are to problem solve and critically think their way to the answer. This site probably provides the most realistic application of science than either BIE or The Learning Network. These case studies also come in handy when you are short on planning time and need an engaging, easy to understand activity. Just a note: If you sign up for an account to access the answer keys, you will need to prove that you are an educator at which time the organization will provide you with a password.

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PROJECT-BASED LEARNING WORKSHOP

This last Friday was a half day for our students which means that teachers had an opportunity for some professional development. I was lucky enough to be asked to lead one of the workshops on my passion and specialty: project-based learning (PBL). The workshop focused around the very basics of PBL and how it can engage students in authentic, meaningful learning. We also discussed how teachers new to PBL can dive in and get started with the daunting task of project planning. I am more than happy to share the details of my workshop below! I discuss the workshop as it happened in chronological order. I hope that it helps you in your potential adventure into project-based learning or, if you have tried it, is a nice review for you. Enjoy!


Step One: Project Exploration

High Tech High is a charter school organization located in San Diego, California. They are incredibly famous in the local San Diego community and with those who read consistently about innovation in schools. It is strictly a project-based learning schools that also, impressively enough, runs its own teacher credential program and Graduate School of Education (offering a Masters in Educational Leadership).

When exploring HTH’s website, an excellent place to start is on their Student Projects page. From here, you can analyze specific projects by doing the following:

  1. Look through the long list of projects and choose three (3). One should be a project dedication to your field of teaching. A second one should be a project outside of your field of teaching and new to you. The third one should be one of your choice.
  2. For each project, read through the project details.
  3. As you learn about all three projects, respond to and discuss the following three questions
    1. What impressed you?
    2. What similarities did you see between the three projects?
    3. What questions do you still have?

The purpose of this introductory activity is to show what is really possible with PBL, especially for those who are beginners. Seeing the innovative techniques that can be employed can spark some great inspiration for readers.


Step Two: The 6 A’s of Project-Based Learning

While this is obviously just a guideline, many PBL designs should center around the six A’s. Each of these characteristics are detailed in the PowerPoint below.

Now that you have a very basic understanding of what it takes to design a project, let’s design one! Use the following guidelines and, if available, design a project with teaching partner who is is in a completely different discipline than you are.


Step Three: Project Design

The details of this activity are discussed in the last slide of the PowerPoint above. To complete the activity, use the following Project Design Template to help you get started. This is my design template which was adapted from the many that can be found from various sources online. You can also find a link to the template here.

SARAH KOENIG Q&A

Serial

It seems as if the brilliant podcast Serial never fails to make the news somehow – for good reason! This last Thursday, my students and I had the incredible opportunity to have a Skype Q&A session with Sarah Koenig, the amazing creator and host of the podcast. I’m not sure how he did it, but my high school English teacher colleague managed to find a personal connection who happened to work with Sarah at some point in their career. Within 24 hours of that contact, we were Skyping with the fantastic journalist.

When I read the email from my colleague about the news, I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity. The bad news was that I had a class exactly at the time in which the Q&A would take place. The good news is that I’m lucky enough to work at a school in which teachers are given much autonomy. So, I told my 7th Graders that there was a presentation from a major figure from the journalism world that I could not miss seeing. I let them loose at the ping pong tables while I had the privilege of watching and listening in.

Most of the questions from the students for Sarah, for good reason, focused on the basics of Season One of Serial (they had listened to Season One in English class). What are her thoughts on Adnan as a human being? Does she think Adnan committed the crime? What inspired her to become a journalist? Me, personally – I couldn’t help but ask about her concerns, if any, about the state of journalism with the current political climate in the United States. She addressed my question with a very intricate, detailed answer. Essentially, she believes that the current administration has actually improved reporting by the media and has caused citizens to be more aware of the political climate. She stated that subscriptions to many media outlets have actually increased as a result. I would know as I myself subscribed to various outlets in recent months – which brings me to the point of this blog.

Something about the combination of living in Guatemala, an incredibly impoverished country with one of the largest income gaps in Latin America, and the current politics of the United States has inspired me to incorporate elements of currents events in my curriculum. Now, keep in mind I have a lot of freedom in my current position. And I count my lucky stars for this reason. Yet, I firmly believe that so much of the disengagement seen in students is because of a lack of connections. Students should be presented opportunities in which they can connect the content to their personal lives. Current events is crucial to make this happen. For example, as I currently work on a forensics project with my students, similarly we recently discussed the neurological effects of solitary confinement in prisons. We did so by examining the case of Kalief Browder and reading the first published story about the then-teenager. In this case, I was sure to emphasize the point that Kalief Browder was only 16 years old when he was arrested and subsequently spent 3 years at Riker’s Island without having been convicted of a crime. This really stuck with them. They could never in a million years imagine themselves, the same age as Kalief, being put in the same situation. I’ve yet to observe so much emotion and passion from my students as I saw when I read them Jennifer Gonnerman’s piece.

These types of connections give students an incredible perspective of the world and how it can affect their personal lives. All this being said, journalism, I think, is crucial for educating the youth with authentic, meaningful learning. I highly recommend doing anything you can to incorporate these journalistic elements into your curriculum. An excellent place to get started is with The New York Times’ The Learning Network.

Regardless of what you do or what your teaching philosophy is, I think we can all agree to be passionate, be aware, be educated, and be open minded.

Regards,

Mr. Noondi

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Perhaps You Need A Little Guatemala

Hobbitenango, Guatemala
Hobbitenango, a magical village located in the secluded hills outside Antigua, Guatemala

Last year, I took the daring leap to leave the security of my family and friends behind in San Diego, California to pursue further growth as an educator. Where I ended up is here in the colonial city of La Antigua, Guatemala. I had accepted a position teaching middle and high school science at Antigua International School. It has been the most incredible personal and professional decision I have made thus far. It’s a place of sheer beauty. A place in which there are magical places to call home (such as Hobbitenango – pictured above). A place in which learning Spanish as a second language is critical to your success. A place that opens your eyes to the severity of some of the societal issues that humans must face.

It has been a time for me to view the world from, most importantly, the perspective of students raised in an immensely different cultural and socioeconomic background than of many students seen back in the United States. I surely have grown during my time spent here.

My time here will never be forgotten. The purpose of this blog is to share my experiences as an international educator, my unique project-based learning resources, and their positive effects on my students.

I look forward to sharing my writings with all of you readers. In the mean time, please check out my current resources available on my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Regards,

Mr. Noondi