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
What is blended learning? Are we truly blending learning in our region? Yes we are! Below are examples of Michael B. Horn - The Christensen Institute’s blended learning models that are taking place across our region, and quite successfully!
While blended learning began in simple applications to serve students in situations where there was no other alternative, it has grown exponentially over the past ten years in the Cattaraugus Allegany region, where our region is recognized as the leader in online learning in New York State BOCES regions!
Michael B Horn’s and Heather Staker’s book, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, lays out the process in a useful level of detail making it a must read for educators that want to take full advantage of tech-enabled learning. Staker shared, "I feel deeply sad when I see how many children do not have equal opportunities to high-quality schools. It's wrong that in a rich country with universal public education, zip code determines quality." But she feels fortunate to be living through the learning revolution where internet connectivity and personalized learning is “decimating old constructs about who gets what and introducing a new paradigm of shared access to the best learning experiences, regardless of geography.” (Education Week article - http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_innovation/2014/09/blended_a_conversation_with_michael _horn_heather_staker.html)
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning? Michael B. Horn adds, “Online learning, particularly in blended learning schools, gives students more and more ownership of their learning, this is a big deal as it can allow schools to individualize for each student’s unique learning needs.” (http://dailyedventures.com/index.php/2012/11/08/michael-horn/)
How do these online learning opportunities benefit students? Danielle, from Allegany- Limestone, replied, “I wish that I could have studied this way from the beginning of the year. When I’m in a classroom with people, I get distracted, but using APEX is great. The program is really straightforward. It tells me exactly what I need to know. Some days I let it read to me and sometimes I read myself. I came from Pennsylvania and the work was harder and my Biology class was in a different place and the online class is helping me.”
To learn more about successful blended learning models in schools, join CA BOCES in an Online/Digital Learning Showcase, where you can ask questions and view demos of 7 different online solutions for:
For more information about Digital Learning Day on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at CABOCES Olean Center Conference Rooms, go to: http://dev.caboces.org/iss/calendar/2017-04.
By: Betsy Hardy, CA BOCES Distance Learning
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
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.
Fifth grade students from Salamanca learn that all life is connected to the Great Earth Cycles of water, air and soil. The cycles are powered by the energy from the sun. In order to demonstrate their knowledge they become an animal or plant and use colored rope to show their connections to each cycle especially through the food chain.