South Students Visit Taiwan via Teleconference

South's Mrs. Brovold's and Brianna Gadacz (now lead by her maternity leave substitute, Ms. Brennison) got their students connected with their pen pals from Taiwan today via videoconference.

The students have been exchanging letters and small gifts throughout the year, and were able to meet their counterparts face-to-face.

The Taiwanese students, from the Affiliated Senior High of Chung-Hsing University, ranged from 15 to 18 years old. Students on both side of the globe thoroughly enjoyed meeting each other.

The South Elementary students took turns introducing themselves and their counterparts did the same. Then the South students performed two songs for the Taiwanese students, who seemed to enjoy them a lot.

Then the Taiwanese students shared a prepared slide show about their country and their school, as well as their globally recognized efforts to stop childhood cancer through the Alex's Lemonade Stand foundation.

They finished with a song of their own, and there were a few minutes for questions going both directions before the American students needed to go to breakfast, and the Taiwanese students needed to get home to bed (it was 10pm Taiwan time!)

March Madness Indeed!

During March, Princeton staff had the opportunity to participate in a competition to see who could utilize the most new education technology. We called it March Madness.

What is it?

Staff were presented with 30 challenges, ranging from fairly basic (creating a Google Doc, joining Twitter), to fairly advanced (Skyping an outside expert, implementing student blogging). Each was assigned a point value between 1 and 10. Staff were encouraged to complete challenges and submit news or evidence to the district integration specialist (me, Anthony VonBank).  I collected the points earned on a spreadsheet and kept people posted and motivated by sharing results and stirring friendly competition.

What were the goals of the challenge?

The goals of the challenge were:

  1. Inspire people to get out of their comfort zone
  2. Help people understand what was available and how it was important to education
  3. To interact with staff and encourage collaboration and invite people to work with tech staff
  4. To celebrate success in a way that didn't make others feel like failure
  5. To reinforce what technology areas we value in our district

How did it go?

Very well. It was presented as an optional challenge, and yet 125 people participated. Combined there were over 3,000 points collected, which was pretty impressive.  Many staff members were very motivated and used the challenge to motivate them to really get out of their comfort zone.

Who won?

Many people did a great job with this. Some of the big winners were:

  • Building staff performance - Middle School
  • Top points - Jodi Burling, North
  • Top High School - Sarah Durch
  • Top Middle School - Jodi Gatewood
  • Top South Elementary - Annie Porttiin
  • Top District Office - Erin Engness

What did they win?

The top building was treated to gourmet cookies, compliments of Eric Simmons
All other buildings were rewarded with some candy treats.
The top individual winner got a $25 gift card
All top building winners will get to pilot use of new Chromebooks for the rest of the year.

Other observations?

One big observation was that the most confident technology users in the district largely sat this one out. Either by the desire to let others have the glory, or because the challenges weren't challenging enough, some of the favorites to do well didn't even turn in one point.

Another important observation was that the ones that earned the most points involved their own classes in the competition, thereby inspiring even more innovation through celebration of success. Jodi Burling did this particularly well. Her students knew what the challenge was all about, and were willing teammates as Jodi experimented with unfamiliar tools. Her students craved more opportunities to earn points by learning in new and modern ways. It was very inspiring to see this play out.

Changes for next year?

There are a few changes that will make this even more successful next year:

  • A better lead-in to the competition. This should be easier since everyone knows more about how it worked this year.
  • Staff-suggested challenges would invite more ownership
  • More enticing prizes? I liked how most of the people participated for the fun of it, but I wonder if some  people didn't because there wasn't an enticing enough reward?
  • More involvement from building leaders and confident tech users.
  • Alignment with more resources and professional development opportunities
  • Individual rewards for top 5 in district, for those who might have come in second in their building but did awesome compared to the rest of the district.