BOCES and eleven regional school districts have been awarded the USDA RUS Distance Learning Grant, totaling $466,686.
Last week District Superintendent Lynda Quick, Esq. learned that Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES has been awarded a grant for $466,686 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grant, known as the Rural Utility Service (RUS) Distance Learning grant, will be implemented by Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES and eleven area school districts to upgrade video conferencing equipment and other technologies.
The equipment upgrades will provide all three Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE) Centers, as well as Belfast, Bolivar-Richburg, Cuba-Rushford, Franklinville, Friendship, Genesee Valley, Hinsdale, Olean, Salamanca, Scio, and Wellsville Central School Districts, with new portable, high definition video conference capabilities that schools will use to provide students and teachers with a variety of distance learning opportunities including videoconference courses, virtual field trip experiences, and expanded access to nanotechnology capabilities.
This is not the first USDA RUS Distance Learning grant received by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and component school districts. The Distance Learning Team at CA BOCES has been applying for and receiving RUS grants since 1997, resulting in eight previous awards and millions of dollars in equipment for our schools.
“Over the years, USDA funding has built a virtual school in our region," stated Lynda Quick. Over forty virtual classes connect via video conference every single day, allowing schools to share the instructional expertise of their outstanding faculty members. Additionally, hundreds of students to take other online courses because of this funding. These virtual courses are critical in expanding offerings in small rural schools that, over time, have been stripped of the ability to offer many (or any) AP, college credit, or elective courses to their students.
Lynda Quick also shared, "This award helps put a dent in leveling the playing field. It helps our students build a transcript that can be competitive in the post-secondary arena." Grant implementation will begin immediately.
The ROBOTC for VEX training at Pioneer High School was led by Jesse Flot, a Research Programmer & Senior Software Engineer for the Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and Josh Jarvis, the lead developer for CMUs CS-STEM Network. In attendance were nearly thirty participants from various districts across the region (Allegany-Limestone CSC, Andover CSD, Belfast CSD, Bolivar-Richburg CSD, CA-BOCES Belmont CTE, CA-BOCES ISS, CA-BOCES ISS, Cattaraugus-Little Valley CSD, Cuba-Rushford CSD, Ellicottville CSD, Franklinville CSD, Fillmore CSD, Genesee Valley CSD, Hinsdale CSD, Pioneer CSD, Salamanca City SD, Scio CSD, and Whitesville CSD).
What is a robot, and what can we can we teach with it? These were the first two questions that Jesse Flot used to open the ROBOTC for VEX training. The first question is fairly direct: what is a robot? Perhaps you define a robot as something like Wall-E, or maybe to you a robot is Arnold Schwarzenegger from the Terminator. The definition is as simple as SPA: a robot is a device that has the ability to sense, plan, and act. What can we teach with a robot? This second question is more difficult to answer unless we first reflect on how we teach rather than the content of our teaching.
When teaching Algebra 1, my students would struggle with the concept of completing the square to rewrite quadratic expressions. Rather than using the skill of completing the square as a tool to accomplish a goal, I made the skill the learning goal; ultimately, it was not until I provided students with the necessary tools and shift my focus (using GeoGebra) that they were able to better understand the process of completing the square, how to use it, and when to use it. Similarly, “project-based learning (PBL) involves learning through projects rather than just doing projects,” says John Spencer. In other words, the goal of PBL is to focus on the learning process rather than a culminating project. Jesse explained what can be taught with robotics in the same way; he said, “the Robotics Academy at CMU uses robotics as a tool to teach programming; however, you can use robots to teach many other subjects and skills such as mathematics, physics, communication, teamwork, and time management.”
With these questions answered and an understanding that the VEX robots were a tool used to help teach programming, Jesse and Josh led participants through two days of hands-on training with the programming of ROBOTC as well as the hardware of VEX robots. Participants explored intuitive and basic commands using the block coding features of ROBOTC in conjunction with the physical features of the VEX robot the first day, and on day two, participants made the progression to virtual reality with Robot Virtual World software (RVW) and explored how the text commands of ROBOTC differ from its block coding commands.
In addition to Jesse’s 16 years of experience at CMU (12 of which being in professional development), the Robotics Academy’s research-based practices helped guide the hybrid training model. From anticipating participant questions to providing examples of student questions that participants should anticipate, Jesse and Josh led participants through a highly productive two days of learning. Jesse and Josh will continue this hybrid training online from mid-February through March in which participants will gain additional knowledge of the ROBOTC language, continue to track their progress with CMUs learning management system, and explore additional features of VEX robotics.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
The coding initiative has taken hold in many of our elementary classrooms throughout the Cattaraugus-Allegany region, through the use of Bee-Bots, iPad Apps for Education, programming course platform Zulama, Lego League, and many more. Many of our teachers are breaking away from the ‘shuttering’ that ensued from the mere utterance of the word “coding”. Coding, at its heart, is simply providing a set of directions that one must follow. It encourages critical thinking and problem solving skills in our students.
On March 16, Mrs. Hamer’s Kindergarten embarked on their first hands-on coding experience under the expertise of technology integrator Mark Carls. cooperative learning groups of 4-5 students, under Mark’s guidance, programmed our Bee’s to maneuver through the grid provided.
Mark was very enthusiastic when describing his work with our students commenting, “Some students grasped the concept of the bees right away and I was able to provide more complex pathways almost immediately, while some students needed more direct support with one step programming tasks. All in all, it was great! The kids were very engaged and enthusiastic about using the Bee’s. Every student wanted to touch them and in our small groups they were able to do just that.” Through this one activity, Mark was able to provide students with an enriching differentiated critical thinking task.
Mrs. Hamer’s Kindergarten class is eagerly awaiting Mark’s next visit when they will be applying their knowledge of coding with the tangible Bee-Bots to coding with the Bee-Bot App.
Tenth graders from Andover, Belfast, Bolivar-Richburg, Cuba-Rushford, Fillmore, Portville, Scio, and Wellsville explored careers at Alfred State College. Over 40 businesses shared about careers in Allegany County. Student spent the day answering the question, "What's my next step?"
It isn’t very often that an entire district’s faculty has an opportunity to see the vertical alignment of standards that impact every area of instruction. Curriculum development within districts is generally saved for the summer, and at that time teachers work within departments to map out their curriculum alignment for the upcoming school years. Very seldom do we have the opportunity to see the vertical alignment of the standards and how they apply to every grade level, let alone across several content areas.
Students and teachers (of COSER 501 member districts) can access hundreds of thousands of digital resources using CABOCES Digital Kids.
Users may login to CABOCES DIGITAL KIDS to search clips and images or pass through to:
Brain Pop (Jr., ESL, Espanol),Discovery, Learn 360, Sylvan Dell eBooks, Teaching Books, Tumblebooks, Soundszabound, Gale Cengage, Regents Review
In September, I was given the opportunity to utilize an iPad cart for my classes until February. I used this opportunity to investigate how well high school students would be able to use them in a limited setting, for a limited amount of time. My primary goal was to try to establish a web source in which I could continue to interact with them online after the iPads were gone. I found two sites very useful for that purpose: Google Drive and MyBigCampus. When I created a document for the students, I uploaded it to Google Drive. The students then used their iPads to access and open the document in an iPad app, Notability. Having accessed the document, they could then edit and take notes directly using the Notability App. Another useful app that the students used was MyBigCampus. I would create entrance or exit tickets that the students would need to access on the application and answer. This app was also helpful to share links, images, audio and video files, and to create message board type activities for the class. MyBigCampus and Google Drive are both programs that function independently of the iPads, and I can continue to utilize them for the rest of the school year.