Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Rewind Wednesday: Digital Learning Day

I write this as the snow begins to fall here in the Eastern Panhandle. The past week has been busy, but the weather is going to ground us for the next few days. I've had several wonderful experiences in the last seven days, so many that I'll have to split them into several posts. We'll start with Digital Learning Day.

February 5th was National Digital Learning Day, which promotes awareness and encourages the use of technology in our schools. It's a chance to showcase the amazing ways that teachers are able to connect their students to the world that ten years ago wasn't fathomable. So much has changed in how we can reach our students, in ways that those outside of the education community may not know about unless they visit a classroom on a regular basis.
Wired for success!

Part of my job as teacher of the year is to feature the classrooms in our state and draw attention to how our schools are moving forward with the tools of tomorrow. To recognize Digital Learning Day, I visited Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary in Charleston to conduct a lesson to second graders via video conference with three other second grade classrooms across the state. In addition to the students at Mary C. Snow in Kanawha County, students at Hollywood Elementary in Raleigh County, Burch Elementary in Mingo County, and Norwood Elementary in Harrison County learned about the state symbols of West Virginia and some of its landforms with the help of Berkeley the Bear. I have been meaning to write a blog post all about Berkeley and his mission this year, but things keep happening...maybe since I'll be snowed in the rest of the week, I will get around to it. Check out his blog in the meantime to see what he's been up to. Yes, the bear has a blog. Humor me.

When I arrived at Mary C. Snow, Gerald Comer, the academic coach, took me on a tour of the school. It is a beautiful, K-5 school with 500+ students. Everything about that school made me feel positive and proud to represent educators in West Virginia. Every child should have such a caring staff and exciting, vibrant atmosphere to learn. Something I loved particularly was how there were large, poster-sized pictures on the walls of their students in action. I think that is great for those visiting the school, such as those in the community, to see that when they walk in and immediately know what that school is all about.
Berkeley's ready for his big debut!

We held the video conference in the school's library. I was met as soon as I arrived by a lot of very hard working people that had coordinated this event, because making sure you have video conference software equipment in working condition from four locations AND internet access AND all schools accounted for AND the presentation on the computer AND the teacher of the year who lives four and a half hours away is no small feat. I appreciate all of the "people power" behind making Digital Learning Day successful.

Click here to go to the WVDE's YouTube clip of Digital Learning Day.

So at 10:00 the video conference began - and I was excited - because I miss the kids most of all this year, and what was I getting for 20 minutes? Four classrooms at once!!! Whoo-hoo! That's every teacher of the year's dream, if you are missing your own classroom. Of course, they were great. I love West Virginia, and I am looking forward to sharing Berkeley and all his buddies as they help young children learn about their beautiful state. This was the first time I presented Berkeley to students - didn't think about that until everything had started and I looked at all the cameras and the computer screen showing the other classrooms.
Introducing Berkeley and the rest of the state symbols :-) 

Talking about the Mountain State!

Movements for the landforms :-)

Talking with the other students across the state. Pretty amazing, wouldn't you say?

The best part :-)

Getting bookmarks with Berkeley's favorite facts about West Virginia!

Speaking to Eyewitness New after the event. I love this part of my job, because it's a chance for the public to hear from a teacher about what is going on in our schools - and there are so many good things they need to hear!

Back to all those hard working people. I go through theses "waves" of feeling that I don't deserve all of the goodness that has come to pass since October (has it really been that long?!), so I am very grateful to all of the helpers I come across the way. So I would like to thank the following people that made Digital Learning Day happen:
- Liza Cordeiro for coordinating the event and introducing me to the students
- Mellow Lee, the principal of Mary C. Snow Elementary, for allowing us to come to her wonderful school
- Gerald Comer, for letting me see and learn about your amazing school and how it serves the community
- Mark Williamson and his team from CISCO
- the team at CityNet in Morgantown that coordinated the video conference
- Brian Adkins, Shannon Poole, Leah Sparks, and Connie Mirgliotta from Kanawha County Schools and Anthony Gill from RESA III for their help in setting up the equipment and making the video conference run smoothly
- Greg Chapman from the WVDE who taped the event and put together the video
-  The students and teachers at Mary C. Snow, Norwood, Hollywood, and Burch Elementary Schools
- and last but not least Mark Moore, who took pictures and video for me, showed me how to get to the Capitol complex, parallel parked my car for me along the street because there was no parking at the Capitol complex (and I can't parallel park anymore...okay, ever), and put quarters in the meter so I didn't have to leave the meeting I attended after the Digital Learning Day event. Thankful...embarrassed to be such a pain...but absolutely thankful.

It was energizing to having my first "meeting" with students outside of Berkeley County through Digital Learning Day. Technology is the great equalizer and connector to bringing our classrooms and teachers together, and to kick off my message to school children this way is just a sign of all the great things to come - right after we dig ourselves out of another snowstorm.

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