Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teacher Returns From BHS Teacher Exchange Program

BHS Instructional Technology Teacher Jenn Scheffer just finished up two weeks at the Istituto Tecnico Pilati of Cles in Northern Italy as part of the Burlington Exchange Program. The Istituto Tecnico Pilati of Cles teacher, Luca, arrives in Burlington for his part of the trip on February 28th. This is the third installment of this exchange program and it has proven to be extremely successful. Below is the third installment of 'Where in the World is JennScheffer' from her blog where you can read all 3 installments about her experience and travels in Italy.

I started this post in Italy and I am finishing it 35,000 feet in the air as I travel back to America. I land in about four hours.
It’s somewhat bittersweet to share this final reflection on my time spent in Cles, Italy visiting the Pilati School and being a guest in the home of the Crociani’s. I’ve had an unforgettable experience thanks to Luca and his family. I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality. I must also say thank you once again to Renee Dacey, the BHS World Language Department Chair, as well as Mark Sullivan, the BHS Principal, for selecting me to take part in the Teacher Exchange Program. Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 9.22.43 AM
The True Meaning of Connection
“It is the best job in the world.” I distinctly remember Luca making this statement during one of our trips to school when he described what it’s like for him being a teacher, and I couldn’t agree more. Although we don’t speak the same native language, Luca and I are certainly like-minded educators. I don’t necessarily consider Luca a part of my PLN, as we are not connected on Twitter or Google Plus, but I do consider him a friend; which is frankly much more important.
Luca and I do not teach the same content area, nor do we use the same types of technology tools. I use a MAC, Luca uses a PC. I have an iPhone, he has an Android (although I’m probably switching to Android). Luca’s courses focus on networking, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. He prefers Firefox and Linux. My courses focus on the integration of educational technology and digital literacy. I use Chrome, Google Apps, and iOS. My role as leader of the BHS Help Desk program, a Technology Integration Specialist and Mobile Learning Coach also differs from Luca’s in the sense that I am not a “traditional” classroom teacher. Burlington’s 1:1 iPad district is quite different from the Pilati school. However, despite the differences in what we teach and the tools we use, Luca and I share a similar mindset. We agree our students need a different type of skill set to succeed in the 21st century. We believe the role of an educator has changed and we believe technology can be used to enhance pedagogy and positively impact student learning.
I know Luca and I have this similar mindset because over the past two weeks we’ve had many conversations about teaching and learning. We both believe it’s important to develop meaningful relationships with our students, provide them with personalized learning experiences, and help them realize their full academic potential. We want our students to use technology safely and responsibly, develop their intellectual curiosity, discover a potential career path (possibly technology related in some capacity), become life long learners and ultimately, successful and productive members of a global society. We also embrace and are willing to explore and try new educational technology, however we don’t believe in using technology for technology’s sake; it must always be used with a purpose. We believe it’s incredibly important that all teachers, not just technology teachers, help prepare students to work and live in a technology-rich future and for careers which don’t yet exist. It’s been wonderful to spend time with a curious, tech-savvy educator who shares a similar mindset and love of teaching. It’s been equally awesome to observe Luca’s students and introduce them to a new technology tool.
I had the pleasure of introducing Luca to both Edmodo and Google Classroom. When I discovered Luca’s digital workflow consisted of distributing and collecting assignments via email; I knew that either Edmodo or Classroom could dramatically improve his workflow, the way he communicates with students, assesses student work, and collects meaningful student data. Luca ultimately preferred Edmodo over Classroom and it was for one major reason: the ability to add a co-teacher. Luca has an assistant teacher with him in most of his classes and that teacher must have access to course materials and student work. Sure there are Classroom hacks Luca could employ, but it’s more efficient for him to just use Edmodo. I encouraged him to use the feedback button in Classroom and let Google know that co-teaching is a feature that must be added!
Not surprisingly, Luca learned Edmodo in minutes and with every feature I demonstrated (alerts, quizzes, the library, Drive integration, polls, assignments, small groups, etc) I could tell he was more and more impressed. Luca’s students learned Edmodo just as fast as their Profe did. In fact, in less than ten minutes, Luca was able to post a discussion question, poll, and a quiz so his students could experience Edmodo in action. That’s an example of the technology becoming “invisible” that we often read about. Hopefully Italian will be added as a language option in the next update of Edmodo (Italian is available in Classroom) but Luca said he would actually prefer to use Edmodo in English and he wants his students to do the same. I’m sure Edmodo is a social learning platform that Luca will continue to explore and eventually show his colleagues. When he comes to Burlington, I’d like to connect Luca with several high school and middle school teachers who have been using both Edmodo and Classroom. This will allow him to hear multiple perspectives on both tools.
Going Live…Take Two…
Pilati students celebrate after their first Live Google Hangout On Air!
Pilati students celebrate after their first Live Google Hangout On Air!
In addition to working with Luca’s students on Edmodo, I was able to reconnect with the IT class from last week and give our Hangout On Air a second attempt. Learning from our previous mistake, we tested the audio before going live. The broadcast itself was quick, but I was incredibly proud of the class and what they accomplished. I was proud that Sam remembered exactly how to launch the Hangout, including how to add a lower third. Their teacher had taken a picture of what was written on the board so her students were able to remember what to say during the broadcast, and the live event was a success! What I thought was most rewarding was hearing the boys talk about how they planned to use Hangouts at home. Talk about a classroom without walls! Watching the class take a risk and seeing them succeed reminded me a lot of an American classroom and the culture of risk-taking I’ve created with my Help Desk students. This experience was definitely a highlight of the past two weeks and I’d encourage you to watch the broadcast which is embedded below.

Another major highlight of this week was the time I spent with Fabrizio; the Pilati teacher who works with Renee to facilitate the Teacher Exchange Program. Fabrizio took me on two different walks where I witnessed incredible views of mountains and small Italian villages. He also treated me to an amazing cheese plate at a restaurant in Tuenno. Similar to my talks with Luca, Fabrizio and I had several in-depth conversations about students and why we love working in education. We agreed that teachers have immense responsibilities. We have the power to inspire young people to develop and follow their passions. Our impact can positively influence the direction of a student’s future and there are very few professions that are as gratifying as teaching. Of course we also talked about what it was like growing up in the 80’s and our love of pop music, especially Michael Jackson! I also spent an incredible evening with Lisa, an economics teacher at the Pilati school who is originally from New York. Just yesterday, Lisa literally drove me through the mountains of Italy. We shopped in Merano and had dinner at a mountain side restaurant. The menu was in both Italian and German, but Lisa was able to interpret for me so I had one last amazing meal in Italy. Lisa and I talked not only about our work lives, but also family life and discovered we had so much in common. She also brought out the sarcastic American in me and I had her laughing so hard she was in tears (I received her permission to include the photo).
We may not speak the same language, but it’s obvious that dedication to student learning is a theme which strongly connects the teachers of Pilati and Burlington. I’ll be forever grateful that I was able to meet and connect with Luca and his wonderful colleagues. I have a new understanding and perspective on education as a result of being able to observe life at the Pilati school.
I can’t wait for Luca to arrive on the 28th and experience life in Burlington! I’ve told him all about my students and colleagues and I know he is going to have a great time. Perhaps I will be able to convince him to set up a blog so that he can share his experiences while visiting America. Stay tuned for more updates on the Burlington High School Teacher Exchange Program.
Thanks for reading!

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