Friday, December 14, 2007

AATSP National Conference in San Antonio, TX

Neelie, Todd, and Jeff traveled to San Antonio for the AATSP annual convention. As usual at these conventions, we had more workshops to choose from than we had time for. We tended toward the workshops that dealt with technology. We learned about the use of wikis, ipods, and blogs in the classroom. Some of this we were already doing, but it's great to see and hear from other teachers. Other workshops we attended were the old standbys, those sessions led by veteran teachers where everybody shared ideas and techniques that they found useful. As a result of this conference, we'll be introducing speaking activities using voice thread, ipods and you may hear our students singing and chanting.
San Antonio is a great city. It's rich history and great cuisine made it an ideal place for a conference. Jeff was able to take some photos of places that appear in his text and we have a picture of the three of us in front of the Alamo.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Karen's Garden Prepares for Winter

On December 1, 2007 about 4 inches of wet, heavy snow/sleet/freezing rain hit the Milwaukee area. Karen's garden, which produced over 200 pounds of tomatoes for the USM community last fall, has now entered into winter phase. The tomato plants have been composted and the ground awaits the coming of spring. It is cold and silent out at the garden, but under the snow the soil continues to thrive.

NCSS 2007 in San Diego

View the collaborative voicethread project online that we created as a summary and reflection of our conference experience at this year's National Social Studies Conference in San Diego. This is a work in progress. Feel free to leave any comments that you'd like on our voicethread (you'll need a voicethread account to leave comments however).

Matt's more detailed reflection may be read by visiting his blog post on this topic.

View a little Animoto multimedia presentation with pictures from our conference:

Monday, November 26, 2007

NCTE Convention in New York City

Lori Vandervelde, Laurie Barth and I went to NYC the week before Thanksgiving to attend the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English. While there, we visited two independent schools in Manhattan, heard Jonathan Kozol talk about his new book, Letters to a Young Teacher, and attended various NCTE sessions. On top of all that we ate some delicious food, saw a very funny off-Broadway production and walked, on average, well over six miles a day! It was an extremely fulfilling experience.

Besides all the useful information we gleaned from the sessions and the books we bought that will aid our teaching, I think the best thing that came from all of it was the five-day-long conversation we had that covered everything from curriculum, to goals, to strategies and technology. I think we'll be remembering this trip, and referring to things we discussed while on it, for years to come.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

WAEA State Art Conference

Last week Thursday and Friday I had the opportunity to attend this year's state art teacher conference, Creating Connections (WAEA) in River Falls, WI. Priscilla Wicks and I made the trip together, my first time attending an art conference with another art colleague! It was a great opportunity to enrich my teaching with new curriculum ideas, new materials/resources and engaging conversations with other art educators. Let me share a little bit more about some of the sessions I attended and how it impacted me.
First of all, our keynote speaker, Dr. Roger Tomhave spoke to
us on the topic of "A Whole New Art Education," taking prominent and pertinent information from Daniel Pink's book, "A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future," and applying it to the world of art education. If you are not familiar with this book, it is definitely worth checking out. Here is a brief description of Pink's book:
  • The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: artists, inventors, storytellers - creative and holistic "right-brain" thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn't. Drawing on research from around the world, Pink outlines the six fundamentally human abilities that are absolute essentials for professional success and personal fulfillment - and reveals how to master them.
    This bestseller takes readers to a daring new place, and a provocative and necessary new way of thinking about a future that's already here.
I would love to have it as a summer reading book for us here at USM. I am reading it right now as my ORB book and I'm stunned by some of the quotes I've read and the overall concept of the book. It really shows the transition and need in our country from the L-brain worker to more R- brain, creative workers. Needless to say, Dr. Tomhave shared an inspiring presentation with us all and a wonderfu tool for advocacy in schools where the arts are not valued. This is something I am most grateful for, to work in a school where the arts do matter!
Not only was the keynote inspiring, but I also attended various sessions in which I gathered good information to bring back to my classroom as well as some reinforcement that I am on the right track with my own teaching style. The first session I attended was on student centered assessment. This was perfect since our main C.A.R.P. goal is focusing on assessment in the art room. Loaded with handouts, articles and ideas, I left the session ready to evaluate my current forms of assessment and inspired to bring new methods to my students. One teacher in particular stated something I am always working on. She mentioned that her students never ask her the question "Am I done yet?" This is something I think all art teachers strive for, and her answer revolved around assessment that is designed by the students.
Another session on went to focused on web comics. I wanted to get some new ideas for the lesson I do with 6th graders on superheroes. Unfortunately the hands-on session was not hands-on, but it did get my creative juices flowing. I need to look into this concept a bit more, especially if I want to do this with Middle School age students, but here is a link to a world of comics on the web:
The final session I'll write about was one that Priscilla and I went to together hoping to learn about the new curriculum being developed in Hong Kong. The speaker who supposed to present was not available, but we did hear from a gentleman involved in the curriculum review process. To our amazement, Hong Kong was significantly behind in the development of their art education process. They are currently initiating a trend to teach more than just art production, but now having art teachers focus on aesthetics, art criticism, and art history, something we call (DBAE) Discipline Based Art Education and have been teaching since the early 1980's. They do however, have us beat in the area of pushing for art education as one of the core curriculum areas. It is seen as just as valuable as math, science, language etc.. but will now also require standardized testing just as the other core areas do. This is being met with resistance from many art educators.
Well, that about sums up my experience in River Falls. With the exception of an awesome Carribean jerk dinner in Hudson, a great gallery walk with an opportunity to watch a glass sculptor at work, as well as a fun time socializing with art teachers at the Nova, a spectacular wine bar adorned with beautiful and unique Tiffany lamps.
Thanks for the professional growth experience!

Monday, October 29, 2007

This is Cool!

Just horsing around with photo sharing tools. This one is pretty neat!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

K12 Online Conference is AWESOME!!!

This is an outstanding professional development opportunity that is going on right now, and it is FREE!!! The conference primarily focuses on what it means to teach and work with the "21st Century Learner." As a result, a large focus of the conference deals with the tools of 21st Century Teaching and Learning. I've watched several of the presentations and came away with many practical and applicable ideas for use here at USM. For example, one of the presenters talked about how special ed teachers in his district are using Google Docs to support the students they are working with. Student share/collaborate their google docs file with their special ed teacher, and the special ed teacher is then able to provide the appropriate scaffolding at every step of the writing process without having to be in the classroom looking over his/her shoulder.

There are many other excellent ideas to mention, but I want to keep this post reasonably short. If you are interested in the K12 Online learning conference, visit: . You can visit the website and watch the presentations any time you want, even after the conference is over. Click the schedule link at the top of the page to see the full schedule of events and to view the presentations.

If you feel inspired by a presentation at the conference, leave a post here at the Middle School Professional Growth Blog (or on your own blog!)


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

10 Minute Tour of the MS!

A few weeks ago I was walking down the hall and noticed quite a few interesting lessons involving technology taking place at the same time. So I quickly grabbed a camera and took a few photos. All photos were taken within 10 minutes. Yesterday I made a "VoiceThread" with these photos. VoiceThread is an online tool that allows you to quickly create a web based slide show with narration. Voicethread would be a great tool for students to use in creating web based multimedia projects.

Below is the voicethread (go easy on me--this is my first voice thread!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

LMAIS Technology Group-Fall Meeting at USM

On Thursday, October 11th, the Academic Technology Dept. hosted the fall meeting of the Lake Michigan Area Independent School Tech Coordinators meeting. Nearly 25 people representing close to 20 schools were in attendance. A big part of the meeting centered around Web 2.0 and the classroom of the future. Our complete agenda and meeting notes may are online at a here to see the notes.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Solar Power 2007 Conference

I was fortunate enough to attend the Solar Power 2007 industry conference in Long Beach, CA through a grant I received from the renewable energy department at WE Energies. I was at the conference from September 23rd-September 27th.

Pictures, videos, notes and reflections may be viewed at the following website:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Summer Service Project

This past July, several members of the USM community* were involved in a FIRST EVER summer service -learning project at Gray's Academy in Milwaukee. In three short mornings, a beautiful flower bed surrounding the flag pole was prepared and planted, a second floor class room was painted, and a baseball field was measured and the baseline "carved out" via a sod cutter. All participants agreed that it was time well spent "doing good".

Geralyn and Conor Cannon
Harriette and Kathy Hauske
Anne and Matthew Schumaker
Jim Walzac (Landscape Architect) and his helper Brian
Chuck Kendall (Friend of USM)
Cheryl Bair
Dolores Kendall

Monday, April 23, 2007

LMAIS Technology Group-Spring Meeting

Our spring meeting for the LMAIS Tech Group that I'm part of took place at Lake Forest Country Day School on Thursday, April 19th. Our meetings provide a nice opportunity for everyone to get together to exchange ideas and talk about what everyone has been up to in the area of educational technology. I won't bore anyone with the details...instead I'll leave a link below for a summary of the meeting:

Spring Meeting Summary Link

As a side note, LFCDS recently completed a major addition and remodel project. As we prepare for phase II of our remodel, I would recommend that they be used as a resource. They did incorporate many green concepts and techniques (eg-bamboo flooring) during their process, even though it wasn't a LEED certified building.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Alfie Kohn and Michael Thompson

Pam and I recently attended a two day workshop with two dynamic presenters: Alfie Kohn and Michael Thompson. Alfie spoke about homework and also about learning and rigor. Michael Thompson spoke about the social lives of children and also about the changing roles of independent school parents. Here's a quick summary of my ( Gregg's) notes on Alfie's presentation: (I will share some of Michael Thompson's insights at a future faculty meeting)

Alfie Kohn - Homework

  • No study has found any meaningful benefit in homework before HS. Does homework help with the love of learning?

Why is homework given if it does not have value?

  1. We don’t ask meaningful questions about homework or anything. That’s the way it is!
  2. We don’t trust children on how to use free time.
  3. Attitude about use to research
  4. Better get used to it – it will happen soon in US
  5. Tougher standards – parents should not complain if no homework
  6. Homework persists because we do not understand how learning happens

Do not give homework unless you can make a good case for it. Homework is OK if:

  1. The assignment is likely to get kids to think more deeply and understand the material
  2. If kids get more excited about the topic. Will kids like math more because of this?
  3. If you did not design the homework, don’t assign it!
  4. Ask kids their view – what did you think about the homework?
  5. Try a week or unit with no homework. How did it affect kids?

Learning and Rigor

What one is doing vs. how well one is doing. - is the key question!

“An over emphasis on assessment can actually undermine the pursuit of excellence.” ( Carol Midgley, Martin Maen)

Effects of getting kids too focused on how well they are doing:

1. Less interested in learning itself
2. Preoccupied with their ability ( There are four reasons kids do well: effort, ability, luck, task difficulty)
3. Prefer easy tasks and quick completion
4. Devastated by failure
5. Quality of learning suffers
Research says giving grades will cause 1, 3 and 5

Other interesting notes from Alfie:
Good way to communicate to parents: Narrative reports
Great way to provide info: Conference with parents

Kids should collect information and share info with parents at conferences

Not the amount of motivation that’s important, it’s the type:

Intrinsic ( I like doing it) Extrinsic ( I am doing it for a reward e.g. grade)

-Extrinsic motivation erodes intrinsic motivation
-The more you reward students the more intrinsic motivation goes down
-Rewards lead to less generosity among peers

Reaching the Needs of 21st Century Learners

I just completed a fabulous Stritch class on nature and nurture of leadership and read a fascinating article about "digital natives and digital immigrants." One student's inquiry today asking, "did the Internet didn't always exist?" made me really reflect on this article. I thought I'd share it with you.

The premise is that the current group of students are digital natives... always having lived with the Internet and digital media as part of their lives. We, the adults, are digital immigrants (learning to use new technology as it is developed). Prensky touches on the idea of "twitch speed" processing for students to acquire information. Whether you're a big advocate of educational technology or more of a skeptic, there are some interesting discussion points in this article regarding how cognitive processing figures into all this.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Schwieters Returns From Space Camp- Out of this World

I attended Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama from December 28th to December 31st of 2006. While at Space Camp, I attended the US Space Camp museum which chronicles the history of the US space program and the formation of NASA. The museum also contained life-size collections of all the rockets used by NASA as well as the current space shuttle.
The weekend program was outstanding with participants using the actually equipment used to train astronauts. The equipment included the 1/6 gravity chair, manned maneuvering unit, g-force accelerator and space shuttle simulator.

The weekend at Space Camp was excellent. The staff, facilities and program was better than I hoped and the weekend was one of the best professional experiences I have had. I plan to return in the next couple of years to attend another program.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Professional Growth Opportunity: The Middle School Institute at Gordon

This looks like a great opportunity. It's a working retreat for teachers who value feedback from their peers, believe that the multicultural classroom works best for all students and know that teaching is most effective when it is connected with the world beyond the classroom. You will have opportunities to present your curriculuar works-in-progress for critique by supportive peers. You will also develop ways that middle school students can become positive forces for community change. Finally, you will return to your classroom in the fall with practical ideas for sharpening your practice. The workshop takes place June 18-20, 2007 at The Gordon School in East Providence, Rhode Island. For more information see Gregg or visit the website