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How Teachers *Really* Spend Summer Break

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It’s a common misconception that all teachers spend their summers sipping iced tea by the pool. In reality, many of your children’s educators are hard at work with students in summer programs or preparing for the new school year.

We caught up with a few members of the Rodel Teacher Council to learn about their summer projects.

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Students present their racecar creations to parents and friends at Towne Point Elementary School’s culminating camp event.

 

Michele Johnson, a gifted and talented teacher and library media specialist at Towne Point Elementary School in Dover, had a busy summer. In addition to taking two courses and serving as a teacher leader in the Delaware Teacher Leader Pilot, Michele co-taught at her school’s project-based learning summer camp with colleague, Krista Seifert. Towne Point’s three enrichment camps included concentrations in gardening, engineering, and drumming for over 50 campers, and were provided free of charge by Capital School District.

Districts near and far are working to incorporate project-based learning opportunities during the summertime, as well as the regular school year. The projects give kids a practical, personal framework for thinking about their education. What better way to engage students than with an engineering camp about racecars?

Michele’s 10 students, ranging from first through fourth grade, spent the week designing racecars: making a plan, testing it, and heading back to the drawing board. A tour of Dover International Speedway was a highlight of the camp experience. She says, “Students who are engaged with something like this over the summer are able to get back into the school routine much faster.”

A summer camp is not the only way to keep your little ones thinking, though. Michele suggests giving your kids a budget at the grocery store, or letting them plan a day of your family trip. These fun ways to incorporate math and research will keep their minds active even on the hottest of days. For more summer activity ideas, check out Brandywine Buzz and DE Thrives.

Tim Brewer is preparing for a new role as an instructional technology coach at Hodgson Vocational High School. The high school, which is transitioning to a 1:1 technology program, is looking to Tim’s expertise to use technology effectively in the classroom.

Last month, Tim attended Schoology’s NEXT Conference in Florida, where he spent time learning about the changes to Schoology for the fall and ways to get teachers on board. He pointed out that there is great diversity of comfort with technology in the teaching profession, and called it both a blessing and a curse. Tim says the difference in confidence is most strikingly noticeable between millennials and those who consider themselves “digital immigrants.”

Through his new role, he plans to encourage these two groups to exchange ideas and learn from one another’s strengths. Using this year as a transition period, Tim hopes that teachers will develop confidence with the technology before the school goes 1:1 with devices next year.

In addition to all of his preparation for the coming year, Tim teaches a course at Wilmington University and participates in a weekly webinar on technology implementation and the Schoology platform. He says, “During the summer, a lot of teachers change hats and become students.” From his perspective, more teachers are engaging in some form of summer professional development than not.

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Students dissect a stingray at Smart Summer’s marine biology camp.

 

Jen Hollstein, a high school English teacher at the Charter School of Wilmington, spent three weeks as a camp director with Smart Summer (formerly known as Cab Summer).  The program combines science, math, and art to create a well-rounded program that attracts kids of all interests.

To help make the dream of a summer program that incorporated the strengths of Cab Calloway School of the Arts and the Charter School of Wilmington a reality, Jen joined forces with executive director Nan Stidham, who has been leading Cab Summer since 2010, and Cab Summer camp founder Carlos Alejandro.

The camps were designed for kindergarteners through eighth graders and included popular titles like Lego Camp, Charter Chef Camp, Spy Camp, and Marine Biology Camp. Smart Summer saw 339 children enroll in its inaugural summer programming. A $140,000 grant from the Longwood Foundation, to be used over the course of two years, has allowed Smart Summer to expand and give scholarships to many children who could not have attended camp otherwise.

Jen described the program as an opportunity for students to envision themselves as actual Cab and Charter students, experiencing learning in a new and exciting environment. For her, one of the greatest moments was walking into a classroom full of marine biology students who were enthusiastically holding up three-foot-long sharks they would soon dissect. Who knows—maybe the experience inspired a future career or two in marine biology.

These camps are the perfect cure for summer slide, the learning loss that occurs during students’ break from school.  “Anytime you aren’t practicing a skill, you’re losing it,” Jen says. Whatever subject sparks their interest, it’s important for kids to keep a routine and continue learning all year round. The same goes for teachers: In addition to working with Smart Summer, Jen is working toward her Master of Instruction: Gifted and Talented degree.

Next time you imagine your child’s teacher binge-watching their favorite Netflix show for the entirety of July, think twice. These three educators provide just a few examples of the incredible work teachers are doing throughout the summer months.

Upgrading Our Education Technology

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One click can unlock a world of knowledge. In a time of rapidly evolving technology and a rising tide of digital and personalized learning, having a solid gameplan in place for technology in Delaware classrooms is more vital than ever.

When asked about their current thinking, more than 69 percent of Delaware teachers said, “I wish we had more technology in our classrooms.” They’re not alone. In its Blueprint for Personalized Learning in Delaware, the Rodel Teacher Council  identified technology infrastructure as an essential element of accomplishing personalized learning goals in the classroom.

Legislation introduced in the General Assembly called for a task force to evaluate Delaware’s strengths and deficits in education technology. The task force of educational leaders including teachers, district leaders, university representatives, state legislators, and Delaware Department of Education staff members, recently submitted education technology recommendations to our state legislature. The task force outlined eight goals to improve Delaware’s use of technology in the classroom. Here’s what you need to know:

 

Goal 1: Leadership

The first recommendation is the formation of a council on education technology to meet quarterly. The council would be responsible for evaluating education technology use and providing guidance for improvements.

Goal 2: Broadband & Support

The task force prioritized improving and expanding infrastructure in every school. To make full use of technology-related educational opportunities, students and teachers need to feel confident that they can access the internet regularly and without fail. Part of this effort includes hiring technology staff to support the networks and devices in Delaware schools.

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Goal 3: Computing Devices

As most universities and workplaces require knowledge of computer systems, the task force recommends providing all students with a computing device, both at school and at home by the 2019-20 school year. According to the 2015-2016 Annual Delaware School Technology Survey, there are only 110,700 computing devices for instruction in Delaware schools, and 34,500 of them are found in libraries and computer labs. With 135,000 students in Delaware, the state is far from providing a ratio of one device per student.

Goal 4: Teacher Preparation

The task force recommends implementing a higher education credit minimum or competency requirement for teachers on technology use in the classroom.  All teachers need to be supported in developing confidence with classroom technology for purposes of personalizing instruction and guiding their students effectively.

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Goal 5: Professional Learning

Ongoing programming for educators, principals and superintendents is recommended to keep school professionals informed on the most innovative tools and resources in education technology. When teachers were asked about their preparedness for effective use of technology in the classroom, it seemed that teachers were generally unsatisfied with preparation in their undergraduate and graduate teacher education programs. About 43 percent of the surveyed Delaware teachers felt that they relied on independent learning to a major extent, and 33 percent to a moderate extent when it came to education technology.

Goal 6: Blended Learning to Personalize Instruction

The task force has suggested an online virtual network of resources for the classroom. This network would be accessible to students and faculty on a state-wide level.

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Goal 7: Assistive Technology

Providing all students, including those with disabilities, with achievement oriented technology is essential to unlocking their full potential. The task force calls for a shared state and local obligation to select and acquire assistive technology based on individual students’ needs.

Goal 8: Assistive Technology for Educators

It is equally as important to provide training for teachers in assistive technology to prepare them for effective use in the classroom. Face-to-face learning opportunities for educators will maximize student success.

Meet Alyssa McGraw

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My name is Alyssa McGraw, and I am the Rodel Foundation’s current Communications Fellow. I will be working with the Rodel Foundation this summer before entering my senior year at the University of Delaware. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science with a minor in disability studies. With a strong interest in education policy, I was immediately drawn to Rodel’s efforts in Delaware.

There are many reasons why I am excited to begin my time with Rodel. As someone with a deep rooted connection to the special needs community, I am interested in gaining exposure to some of the important special education developments occurring in the state. All forms of accessibility are integral to the futures of children with disabilities, and I can’t wait to learn about the new ideas for supporting this significant percentage of our population.

Additionally, I am an avid supporter of innovation and technology in our schools. Back when I was in high school, I benefited from a 1:1 laptop program. Access to a computer at such a young age helped me develop early research skills that have served me tenfold in my college education. Technology’s role in education is ever-changing, and I am hoping to learn more about Delaware’s goals to implement innovative techniques in school settings.

As the Communications Fellow for this summer, I will be providing support for Rodel’s online presence, including working with the blog and social media. I’m really looking forward to soaking in all of the knowledge that will accompany this opportunity. This is sure to be a special summer for me, and I hope to make a positive impact with the Rodel Foundation and its advocacy for exceptional education in Delaware.

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