The Ashley Bryan School

The Ashley Bryan School
Serving Children in Grades K-8 from the Cranberry Isles

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Modern Schoolhouse

A couple of years ago, the teachers from the Islesford School, the Monhegan School, the Matinicus School and the Isle Au Haut School decided they wanted to build on the successes of their collaborative work as teachers by extending their experiences to their students.

Over the next several months we worked on the details for how students could collaborate across several islands with different schedules, different administrations, different school boards, different curriculum, different levels of comfort with technology,  etc.

In the end, we created the Outer Islands Teaching and Learning Collaboration (TLC).  As the TLC, we agreed to work together to develop a common curriculum so that all of the islands involved in the project would be teaching the same things at the same time, allowing opportunities for collaboration.  We agreed to go on two curriculum-related field trips together each year, in addition to our annual Inter-Island Event.  We agreed to continue to support each other through our own collaborative practices.  And we agreed to teach in virtual settings using technology to allow our students to learn and work together.  This element of the TLC has been both the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of our project. 

The details for making virtual classrooms work are many, and it wasn't (and still isn't) easy to make it all work all the time.  But today, two years into our TLC we are making it happen--almost everyday!!  Here are some examples of how our students are learning and working together via technology:

Inter-Island book Groups!  Every Tuesday and Wednesday morning, the students from five island schools (Islesford, Matinicus, Monhegan, Isle Au Haut and Cliff) work together in five on-line book groups.  Students in grades K-2 at the Islesford School, the Monhegan School and the Cliff Island School meet together on their video-conferencing systems to listen to the book My Father's Dragon.  Third and fourth grade students from Cliff, Islesford and Isle Au Haut meet to discuss The Chalk Box Kid.  Other third and fourth graders from Isle Au Haut and Islesford meet to discuss The Lost Trail.  Another group of students in grades 4-8 from Islesford, Matinicus, and Monhegan meet to discuss  City of Ember.  A final group of eighth graders from Monhegan and Islesford work to discuss,  make sense of and analyze  The Scarlet Letter.    Book group mornings are busy and productive! 

Students and teachers house their work on "wikis."  On these online platforms, teacher post assignments, discussion questions and materials for students to work on.  Students post their work on the wikis so everyone can see each others work and make comments. 
In addition to book groups, we also meet with the other four schools regularly for Social Studies and Science lessons.  Today all of the students in grades K-8 from all five islands met for an introductory lesson on the layers of the Earth. 

Here is what the video conferencing system looks like when we're all conferencing together. 

This week, it was Cliff Island's turn to teach the intro lesson.  They prepared a pretest, a presentation complete with student-made movies,  teacher-made slide shows, and YouTube videos.  

Individual schools within the TLC also work together for other classes.  In this picture you see the 3rd-8th grade students on Islesford working with the 6th-8th grade students on Monhegan during a writing lesson.  For several weeks these two groups met to learn about narrative writing.  Each student worked on a personal narrative, and every week they revised their narratives based on new techniques they learned during these writing classes.  Sometimes the students broke out into pairs using Skype.  By sharing their writing pieces via GoogleDocs (a word processor through gmail that allows users to share and collaborate on work with their contacts) and communicating via Skype, the students were able to peer conference, giving each other helpful feedback.  When the students completed their personal narratives, they shared with the whole group and received warm and cool feedback from everyone in the group. 

 Of course, not every TLC event is academic.

Students also participate in an inter-island TLC Student Council!

Here is the student council's first every meeting.  Now all of their meetings are on the video conferencing system.  Each student council meeting also ends in a dance party! 

As you can see, we are very busy learning and having fun in this modern schoolhouse!

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