Students benefit from an author visit in many ways. Not only does it bring a real person’s voice and face as the creator behind a story, but an author is able to share where ideas originate from, the research process, the writing process, and essentially let students know that they too can take part in the creative process of writing.
Wellsville’s seventhth grade ELA teacher, Amy Hunt, and school librarian, Shannon Whiteside, brought Newbery Award winning author Linda Sue Park to approximately 100 students via video conference on Friday, January 22nd. Through the Arts in Education COSER 403, author visits are affordable whether in person or online.
Hunt’s seventh graders recently read Park’s A Long Walk to Water which is based on the true story of a Sudanese boy’s experience with war and a refugee camp who eventually found solace in the Rochester, NY area. Filled with adventure and hardship, A Long Walk to Water introduces readers to one boy’s personal struggle to survive and the reality that water is a precious commodity. Not only do readers experience empathy as they read this book but experience the main character’s success when he returns to Sudan as an adult to help establish water wells for remote villages.
After Park shared her writing process, nine students were able to ask questions. One student asked, “What interested you in writing?” Park’s response was, “to see a white rectangle covered with black squiggly lines and realize how those squiggles can make someone laugh, cry, or be inspired is such power. What power to make people feel!”
When asked how difficult it was to include the details in her book, Park shared that she had re-written the story seventeen times. With a giggle, she told students, “I like to play video games so I think of writing like leveling up”.
Interested in bring an author to your school? Contact your school librarian or Mary Morris at Mary_Morris@caboces.org to learn more about Arts in Education.
By: Cece Fuoco, CA BOCES School Library Coordinator
Online learning has had a twenty-one percent increase in enrollment numbers since 2014 alone. The distance learning team at CA BOCES has been busy traveling to many districts helping students with their online classes. The most popular courses this year are Computer Science, Psychology, Sociology, Veterinary Science, Criminology, Game Design, German, Creative Writing, Engineering Design, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Law and Order, and Personal Finance. Although these are the most popular, students are also learning about astronomy, sports marketing, digital art, 3D Modeling and animation, world religions, mythology and folklore, social problems facing the world, and many other diverse and remarkable things.
Every year the online enrollment numbers seem to increase due to students’ curiosity shifting and job markets broadening the skills required for employment. Students say that online courses give them a chance to try out many things that aren’t offered in their districts. As juniors try to determine where their enthusiasm lies for future college degrees, they use online courses to test out content areas and to deepen their skills in areas they are already passionate about.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Students at Forestville are taking an online Creative Writing class in Moodle through CA BOCES and are honing their skills as readers and writers with the use of Mahara’s journal feature. Students share their journals with one another and comment on the work their fellow writers are doing.
1. Each student has an individual journal that they are asked to write in five times per week. Those journals are then shared with each other.
2. The students’ teacher can then access all of their work from one page. This allows for comments from both the teacher and other students.
3. Mahara journals enhance student engagement and collaboration, bringing their work to the forefront of the class. Students have a place to play with language, syntax, genres, and various writing techniques without feeling pressured to be perfect since the assignments aren’t graded individually. Yet, students still strive to do their best since they know that their work is shared with their peers. This becomes an excellent formative assessment where teachers can constantly review the strengths and weaknesses of students and adjust the focus of lessons accordingly.
4. In this example of a creative writing journal, students are asked to find a literary device in a work of literature they are reading each week and write about it, so students are regularly exploring the way that writers use metaphor, imagery, symbolism, and other techniques and applying in their own work.
5. Mahara journals are an excellent summative tool, allowing teachers and students to see an arc of student development over the entirety of the course. At the end of the course, both teachers and students can see how students have grown as writers and have a digital portfolio to showcase their work.
Enjoy this translitic poem by Kessiah:
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
With more and more schools going paperless, student work has become more accessible for teachers, parents, and administrators. As a one-to-one iPad district, Cuba Rushford Central School has turned to digital portfolios, or e-portfolios, for their students to share and present their accomplishments. Carrie Bold, Principal at CRCS, tapped Linda Botens to guide all the 9th grade Transition classes through the personal portfolio creation process.
An e-portfolio is an ideal tool to create collections of documents, images, blogs, resumes, videos, and hyperlinks to share with classmates, teachers, family, and friends, and to present to potential employers. Making e-portfolios a requirement for all high school students enables every student a chance to take their work with them and create a visual artifact to show progress and development in all facets of their high school experience. These portfolios have become an online space for students or teachers to reflect on their life, learning and goals, and have become "the new generation of the three ring binder" JISC My World Project Final Report, Roberts, 2006.
Upon completion of the first year developing e-portfolios using Mahara, an e-portfolio platform supported by CA BOCES Distance Learning, Linda Botens shared, “It was great seeing all students, regardless of their academic grades in some courses, to be successful in creating e-portfolios in Mahara. This was one place that all students could achieve success, as they got to see their works in a type of on-line program. They were excited about posting photos onto the gallery, especially the students who used their own photo works from an art class.”
Mrs. Botens added, “Many students were excited about the fact that parents, including grandparents, could see their works, if they chose to do the sharing. Many of the students liked sharing their works with other students and teachers. The ultimate success was placing the Romeo and Juliet videos on Mahara. These could be shared with family members, friends etc., and it is something, that upon graduation, they can view again and bring back the memories. Overall, this past year proved to be exciting, as we were the first class at CRCS to create digital portfolios, and the students took pride in this.”
Mrs. Botens is eager to meet her new class of 9th graders and to begin the Mahara experience with them. The past CRCS 9th grade students will continue to add to their e-portfolios in their 10th grade year, and will develop a valuable collection of school memories throughout their years at CRCS.
By: Betsy Hardy, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Distance Learning, Blended Learning, Online Learning...just some of the names we use in the region to describe virtual learning. The Distance Learning team is always busy working with students and teachers. Check out this infographic: https://infograph.venngage.com/p/19994/what-is-up-in-distance-learning_
This spring, two classrooms at Cattaraugus-Little Valley have been communicating with two schools in London. Learning Resources at CA BOCES helped facilitate the connections between the two schools. The students were all very excited and eager to interact with each other.
Mrs. Christopher’s 3rd grade class connected with Mrs. Begum’s 4th grade class at Red Bridge Primary School on Tuesday, June 2nd and talked about a variety of topics. Mrs. Christopher’s students walked through slides in a PowerPoint that showcased different classrooms, teachers and activities that they have here at Cattaraugus-Little Valley. The students from London asked a variety of questions about the number of students, the school mascot and what students here did during the day. Mrs. Begum’s class in London taught the students at Cattaraugus Little Valley about landmarks in London, what their neighborhood around the school looked like, and shared information about their school. At Red Bridge Primary School there are 21 classes and a nursery. Each year the grade levels have three classes with about 30 students in each class.
Later in June Mrs. Urbanski’s 2nd grade class will also make a Polycom connection with another school in London. The teachers in London reached out and stated that they would like to continue connecting next fall.
By: Mark Carls and Kristen Meiers, CA BOCES
Over the past six months, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a mentor for Patrick Coyle as he wrote his way through an online English credit recovery course. Patrick is an intelligent young man who loves fishing, hunting and working on engines. We studied together once or twice a week to help hone his English skills as he worked on his class. Patrick had a study hall set aside for his course, but was also willing to meet me after school to work on specific areas he was struggling to understand.
Jamie is Patrick’s mother and she is rightfully proud of her son and his accomplishments. I got to know them both over the time that I spent at Andover and enjoyed that time immensely. I sat down with Jamie and Patrick at our last tutoring session to find out how they felt about Patrick’s online experience. I wanted to know how Patrick felt as a student taking an online course and how Jamie felt as a parent of a student taking the course. Patrick said, “It was pretty straight forward, not very difficult. It was a lot easier for me to work on my own than it was to sit in a classroom. I’m easily distracted.” He laughed a little then.
“Thinking back, how did you feel about the program going into it?” I asked.
“I wasn’t really sure. I was kind of nervous because I hadn’t really done an online class before. I don’t know. I knew I was going to need help because I usually tend to get off track. I just wasn’t sure about it at first.”
Jamie said almost the same thing when I asked her how she felt as a parent, “I wasn’t sure, going into it. I didn’t know what all it involved.” But as the course progressed and she saw how it worked, she began to really like it. She said, “Well, what I really liked was him being able to do the work here in the computer lab. It was such a help. The biggest benefit for me was being able to do the online part here.”
Patrick said it was beneficial to him for a different reason. He said, “It gave me an opportunity to work on it by myself. Whenever I could work on it, I could go and work on it. It was a lot easier for me to sit at a computer to do it than to sit in a classroom and do it.” He would also recommend it to other students who have a similar learning style – students who are self-motivated, able to push themselves, prefer working at their own pace and are willing to ask for help, if needed.
I then asked them both how they felt about feedback they received from their online teachers and coordinators. Patrick said, “My feedback from my teacher, she always gave me feedback. It would take a day or two, but she always gave me good feedback on what I wrote about. And you always gave me good feedback when we were working and it was always a great help to have you here and help me through this.”
Jamie said, “Yes, I mean with the emails saying this is how he did, he needs to work on this, he needs to add more to this, and you know, with somebody correcting it and then saying, you did well, but it could be better if you do these things, and then he could take that and then add more and take their constructive criticism and build on that to make it a better paper.”
Finally, I asked them whether they would recommend online classes to other students, teachers, and administration and I received a big and wonderful yes. In Jamie’s words, “I would. Actually, administration, the superintendent who is no longer here – he retired last year, he actually suggested it to us because Patrick got hired by BOCES last year to work during the summer and he was so excited about that, so he couldn’t go to summer school and work at BOCES, so the superintendant actually told us about this program. I had no idea. Yes, I would recommend it, especially for someone who has plans for the summer, whether it be a job or traveling or whatever. It worked out great.”
Then Jamie went on to say that the program was very beneficial for Patrick, “I’ve told you that with Patrick getting constructive criticism from you, it meant so much more to him than coming from mom. In the way that you presented it to him, saying, you did good with this, but we need to work on this and here are some suggestions, now you go do it and you take the suggestions and do what you think you need to do. I could see, and my mother-in-law mentioned that she could see, such a difference in Patrick with his self esteem, saying, you know, I can do this. He just has a whole different attitude.”
And that is what online learning opportunities are about – helping students feel successful and achieve their goals.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES
Christy Crandall-Bean is the guidance counselor at Bolivar-Richburg and has expressed many times that she believes online learning provides opportunities and flexibility that students may not otherwise have in a typical classroom. She sat down and talked to me about the online program that has been going on for about 3 years. “We tend to use the online classes for credit recovery and to expand on electives and very particular courses that we don’t offer here if students have special interests and things like that.”
This year there are four students at Bolivar-Richburg taking classes through Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and online providers, including FuelEd and Edgenuity. All four students have very different reasons for taking online classes. Meghan wanted to try out environmental science before committing to it as a major in college. After taking the course for a number of weeks, Meghan decided to make her course a half credit and go in a different direction for her educational plan, but the online class gave her the opportunity to try out her options. She was able to assess what she might encounter and make an informed decision about her future career plan.
Another student needed a credit recovery option and is taking her course online, getting the credit she needs by working on it during what would normally be a study hall. Dedicated teachers, both online and at her school, offer assistance with difficult material. Material that the student already understands is reviewed and if she passes a quiz, she doesn’t have to spend more time on material she already knows.
Two students are taking Creative Writing, a course that has been offered in the past at Bolivar-Richburg, but didn’t have enough student interest this year to offer it. The online option gave those students an opportunity to take the course anyway. Bella is taking Creative Writing because she wants to be a teacher. When I asked her to tell me about her course, she said, “it definitely helped me progress through my writing because it helps me self edit and make it more complete before I send it to other people.” Bella’s favorite thing about her course was peer review and interacting with other students. “They just helped by encouraging you of what you can do better and things you can change to help your writing. You get to comment on their stuff and you can kind of talk back and forth about writing that everyone gets to see.
Tim is taking Creative Writing because he enjoys writing on his own time. Through the course, he found ways to publish his work through Teen Ink, an online student journal. Tim has published numerous poems and short stories on Teen Ink and was proud to tell me that “Brown Colored Pit Bull” was voted 4th for a week in best realistic fiction by his peers.
I asked Christy Crandall-Bean if she had any concerns about online courses and she told me, “I guess my main concern is just when teachers are leery of it and fearful that it will impact day-to-day teaching. That’s not our intention; it’s really to open up more possibilities.” Christy went on to talk about her wishes for the online program. “In my dream world, I would love for each one of my students to have to take an online class before they graduate. Because then they get used to that netiquette and communicating with their teachers online appropriately and I think that just a huge piece as well, not just the content, but maneuvering all the software and everything.” Most importantly, the students like the courses they’re taking. When I asked Bella if she would take another online course, she said without hesitation, “Definitely.”
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES
Mr. Bernys and his 9th grade Cattaraugus-Little Valley English students just finished reading the Module text, Romeo and Juliet. The students in each section of his classes were grouped into sets of four students. Within these groups, the students filled the role of the Verona News Team broadcasting “live news” from various scenes in Romeo and Juliet. In these simulated news broadcasts, the students needed to compose a script and write lines for each participant. The students needed to base the scripts on the on Romeo and Juliet’s death, the fight in the streets between the Montagues and the Capulets, and the Capulet Ball. The students shared text-based information pertaining to the major events in the book. Each group’s presentation lasted about 5-7 minutes. It was great to see the students so excited about a classic text as well as how much they retained from the lessons. Mr. Bernys and I got to participate with the students for some of the skits.
The students had the opportunity to use the TV/Video production room which simulated a real news anchor experience. This very unique room at Cattaraugus Little Valley is a state of the art studio containing running cameras, camcorders, digital video switchers, microphones, sound mixers, green screen, Teleprompters, and lighting equipment. It also has graphic and editing computer work stations that are used to generate productions. Mr. Chris Maguda, teacher of a Broadcasting class at CLV, assisted with the audio/visual production along with the students. It is lessons like these that allow students to showcase what they have learned, increase student engagement and enjoyment.
By: Kristen Meier, CA BOCES and Cattaraugus-Little Valley
It started with my questions, “Hey Mr. Silvers, what’s new? How has your school year been going?” I hadn’t seen Mr. Silvers in a few months. But our daughters are the same age, hence we run in the same circles. That night it was an elementary school Valentine’s Day dance. As Miley Cyrus played and our kids danced and ran around the gym, Mr. Silvers, a seventh grade Science teacher at Olean Middle School explained to me that his class had been studying the Gulf oil spill and their effects on the sea food industry.
“Cool,” I responded politely.
“So what exactly do you do at BOCES?” Mr. Silvers asked me in return. It was either keep the conversation going or join our 7 year olds on the dance floor. We opted for further conversation, as Taylor Swift was next on the playlist.
“I work in distance learning, you know, connecting schools for classes and video conferences.”
Then the idea came. “Hey,” Mr. Silvers said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could get a leading Environmental Scientist or a famous Environmentalist to speak to my class about the oil spill?” Without knowing or ever meeting an Environmental Scientist I enthusiastically responded, yes!
The distance learning team at CA BOCES went to work. Over the next few weeks we scoured CAP Space, a classroom networking site, twitter and friends and relatives looking for an Environmental Scientist who would be willing to speak to a group of 175 seventh graders. It wasn’t an easy find. About a month later, I found someone and excitedly sent his credentials to Mr. Silvers to see if he would fit the bill. Mr. Silvers wasn’t impressed with my find and in return sent me a list of names in return. He was hoping to get some of the most highly regarded environmental researchers in the county. We contacted everyone on Mr. Silvers’ list. Including, First Lady Michelle Obama, number 3 on the list- no response.
A few days later we met with Andrew Whitehead, Associate Professor and Environmental Scientist from UC Davis over some email exchanges. He had been studying the Gulf spill since it occurred and is a leading author and researcher on the subject. Over the next few weeks the Distance Learning team worked with Mr. Whitehead to test the technical aspects of connecting into Mr. Silver’s classroom. What most people do not understand about distance learning is that with all the firewall, content filters and security measures in place to protect students, connecting someone from the outside internet to our district’s secure and safe internet can be tricky at times. Luckily we have our team dedicated to making that happen. That’s why when we on the Distance Learning team hear, “Can’t we just Skype,” we on the Distance Learning Team often offer a wry smile before answering.
Finally, the day of the connection was here. The seventh graders filed into the auditorium and took note of Dr. Whitehead on the large screen. “He looks awesome,” noted one student. For the record, Dr. Whitehead is young, hip, funny and relaxed, all of which are highly prized attributes by middle school aged students.
By Brian Crawford, CABOCES Learning Resources
You may wonder what the phrase, “All Schools Day” means. Well, if you are a guidance counselor or principal in one of the Cattaraugus-Allegany school districts you will know immediately that this designates a collaborative day whereby schools can choose from hundreds of Distance Learning/video conference classes from all across New York State in which to enroll students for credit. Student enrollment across our region will vary from those with a niche interest for courses such as Game Design, Business Law, Hot Topics in Science, or Latin. Then to reach students requesting high level High School courses, they can take advantage of Physics or Mandarin. Then to broaden their depth of transcript, a wide variety of college credits from JCC, ASC, GCC, Syracuse University, SUNY Albany, are available in Psychology, English, U.S. History, and more. The course opportunities for students are endless.
At the All Schools Day, after a discussion of how Distance Learning can save teacher jobs, bring revenue to a district, and greatly expand elective and core offerings, the counselors explore the Regional Database of courses and have the opportunity to “claim” receiving or hosting of a course/connection. Working together, the counselors talk across the room and via videoconference to other school officials from across New York State. Classes and times are discussed...but we all know that before the start of school each year, many changes and minor tweaks will be made before satisfied students begin their semester-long or half-semester courses.
To see the full list of course offerings that are shared throughout NYS, go to: http://dlcourses.e2ccb.org and login in with UN: distance and PW: distance
By: Betsy Hardy, CABOCES Learning Resources
Online courses can help students pursue specialized interests and their meet graduation requirements. Chelsea Halbert at Genesee Valley CSD who has a strong interest in Music is currently taking Online Music Appreciation. An extremely accomplished young lady who can play eight instruments Chelsea enjoys learning more about music online. Chelsea currently plays Tuba, Trumpet, and Bari Saxophone in Genesee Valley's Band and Jazz band. She is presently pursuing an Advanced Regents Diploma. Her online course and her band courses are helping her meet her required number of Music credits for an Advanced Regents Diploma. She enjoys taking an online class because she can work on her own schedule. She likes that she has the freedom "to choose what notes to take and when to work". She recommends that students seeking to take online courses take subjects that they "are really interested in."
Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES has been awarded a grant for $218,787 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grant, called the Rural Utility Service (RUS) grant will be used by Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES and six area school districts to upgrade video conferencing equipment. The upgrades to video conferencing equipment will provide Allegany Limestone, Bolivar Richburg, Hinsdale, Randolph, Salamanca and West Valley with new high definition video conference capabilities that the schools will use to have students and teachers take part in distance learning opportunities.