For a full week in July, area teachers gathered at Houghton College to be a part of an up and coming program aimed at working in the field of digital literacy. We are blessed in this area to have so many great content area teachers. Throughout our workshops, we see interested, talented, and dedicated professionals striving to give of their best to their students.
To that end, CABOCES has partnered with Houghton College to provide professional development for teachers who wish to increase their knowledge of technology and digital literacy that will propel their learners through the 21st century. Led by Dr. David Bruce, Associate Professor of Learning and Instruction at UB and Dr. Sunshine Sullivan, Associate Professor of Education at Houghton College, Rural Voices, Rural Visions closely resembles City Voices, City Visions. This is a program based out of Buffalo State University that provides educators and students with digital video resources to augment classroom learning. In this area, though, the focus is on those in rural communities.
Rural Voices, Rural Visions stresses not simply the use of technology, but the transformational power of technology. We cannot simply use technology for technology’s sake; we need to use it in ways that impact learning and give students another tool in their toolbox. Dr. Sullivan is hopeful that Rural Voices, Rural Visions will “provide a peek into the world of professional learning communities around digital literacies in a rural context, a gap in educational research and practice”.
Through Rural Voices, Rural Visions, the goal is to have teachers teach composition using varied modalities, not simply using essays or papers to reflect knowledge of content. For example, how can we use film to supplement classroom learning? According to Dr. Bruce, “When we discuss compositional issues such as audience, point of view, transitions, specific details, etc., the video theme provides a useful framework for discussion. This is especially crucial if the coursework involves print compositions. For those students who struggle to get their ideas on paper, I have found it to be helpful to refer back to their videos as a reference point.”
What a great opportunity we have in our region to work with such dedicated educators! Please contact me if you are interested in finding out more about Rural Voices, Rural Visions. We’d love to have your expertise!
By: Alexandra L. Freer, CA BOCES
For the past few times I’ve been meeting with teachers, I’ve been introducing them to STEM Challenges. These challenges have the participants work together to solve a problem I pose. Sometimes the problem has a fictional story attached to it or connects to the real world, but all of the challenges have the teachers working as engineers to find a solution.
Once the problem is introduced, I tell them the criteria and constraints that go along with the challenge. For example, there might be a time limit, only certain materials available or limits on the amount of material to be used, requirements that need met, etc. Participants get to ask questions about the challenge, imagine their ideas, plan it out with team members, create their solution, test it out, and then improve upon it, which is known as the Engineering Design Process.
So far, participants I’ve worked with have designed packages to keep a glass ornament safe, earthquake resistant buildings, towers made out of index cards and a foot of tape to hold a stuffed animal, boats to save the gingerbread man, windmill blades to lift a cup of washers, sails to catch the wind, Trojan horse carts to roll down a ramp, and built cup towers using only a rubber band and strings.
Through all of these challenges, I noticed the participants were engrossed with the challenge and trying to do their best to solve the problem. When their design wasn’t working, they were very eager to go back to the drawing table and figure it out how to make it work. When they were successful, it was a great scene to watch. Participants were high-fiving, cheering each other on, applauding one another, jumping up and down, and making sounds of joy and excitement. After the challenge, I posed to them that if this is how you are feeling, can you imagine how excited your students would be doing the same thing?