Imagine if you could bring George Washington to life and help him cross the Delaware. Or maybe you want to see the characters in Charlotte’s Web actually moving and spinning. Episcopal students have the technology to do this and more.
Lower School students recently learned how Bloxels Gameboard and app helps users create their own video games. Josh Stevens, Co-Founder of Pixel Press which created Bloxels, and Richard Nava with Pixel Press’ Community Development Department visited the school to show the students firsthand how to quickly take their ideas from drawings to color-coded blocks to live action games. In no time students were playing games featuring unicorns, alien men or super heroes of their own design.
Stevens says the idea behind Bloxels is to allow students to tell a story through a video game. This happens as students create a hero, villain and background scenery. Once the blocks are in place on the 13 X 13 grid the students snap a photo with the iPad app and the image comes to life. Nava, who is a video game creator, says you used to have to know five coding languages and have a $1,000 computer to do the type of creations that can now be done simply with an app and an iPad.
Episcopal students are accustomed to technology. In Lower School they use Osmo for interactive learning on everything from spelling and counting to coding and animation. Middle School students recently used virtual reality headsets to explore distant volcanoes. There are Bee Bots, 2-D printers, 3-D printers, touch screen computers, iPads, circuit boards, and so much more.
Lower School Head Bridget Henderson says the key is to be purposeful when incorporating this technology.
Students today have so much more available to them than floppy discs and graphing calculators. Imagine what will be available twenty years from now. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that students were playing the original Oregon Trail on green screens in the computer lab!
I remember back when I was a preteen and enjoyed using three way calling - yes, a high tech feature - to connect with multiple friends. We rode bikes to the nearest playground to hang out, and our main video game systems were Atari and then Nintendo, with two player options if your friend was right beside you. Today's preteens are finding their playground online - it's called instagram, Snapchat, twitter, and a variety of other venues. Video gaming is now digital, connecting teens all over the world. Times and interests for adolescents haven't changed but the WAY they connect has shifted. The online world available to teens brings a host of new challenges in parenting.
As an adult, I enjoy technology, browsing Pinterest and Facebook in the grocery store line or while relaxing after work. The dangers that those leisurely activities present are few. But what dangers do I worry about for our children online? As a middle school counselor, my primary concerns are the physical and emotional well being of our students. Cyberbullying, online predators, and exposure to violence and pornography can be damaging to their physical and emotional well-being.
How can we, as parents, help our children navigate their digital world safely? Here are some suggestions:
For more discussion on safety in the digital world, join the Episcopal Counseling Team for a book study of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and survive) in their Digital World by Devorah Heitner, PhD on October 19th at 10 A.M. in the Alumni House Parlor Room.
Common Sense Media- https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
Teen Safe https://www.teensafe.com/
Bailey, Tricia “Talking to Your Kids About Social Media Safety” retrieved from https://identity.utexas.edu/id-perspectives/talking-to-your-kids-about-social-media-safety
Heitner, Devorah (2016) Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World. New York, NY: Bibliomotion, Inc.
Alicia Kelly has served as a School Counselor at Episcopal since 2001. As the Middle School Counselor, she has a passion for helping preadolescents reach their potential, academically, emotionally, and spiritually. Alicia holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, Masters in Health Sciences - Rehabilitation Counseling, and is a Certified School Counselor.
“How Connected is Too Connected? Finding Balance in the Digital Age”
As I scrolled through research for this post on my iPad, my husband asked what I was reading about. “I’m researching for a blog post about the impact being connected has on our daily lives.” A knowing grin crept onto his face, and I didn’t need to ask why. I stood for a moment to satisfy the alert from my Apple Watch, cleared the notifications from my iPhone, turned on my Bluetooth headphones to stream the Beethoven station on Pandora (one of my favorite work stations), and opened my MacBook to begin writing this post.
I entered this endeavor knowing that my digital devices and media consumption have become an integral part of my daily life as they have for so many Americans. The Nielsen Company’s audience report for the first quarter of 2016 revealed that adults in the U.S. spend an average of 10 hours per day consuming media (2016). Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey (2016) found that 77% of Americans have ready access to a smartphone and 40% of consumers reported checking their phones within 5 minutes of waking. Another interesting finding is that many individuals reported using their phones in many settings and while engaging in other activities, including shopping (93%), at work (93%), and spending leisurely time (90%).
I can’t say that I am surprised by these statistics, as they ring true for me personally. I typically check my email from my smartphone as I’m making my morning coffee and then again multiple times throughout the day. When I’m waiting in the doctor’s office or in line at the grocery store, I often find myself scrolling through my Instagram or Facebook feeds, liking and commenting on posts made by my “friends.” And anyone that knows me knows that I am an avid consumer of podcasts and almost always listen to them as I’m cleaning the house, exercising, or driving the car.
And yet, despite these benefits, I do wonder about the potential negative impact of technology in our daily lives. If we are spending 10 hours a day consuming media, what impact is that having on our relationships? If I am focused on taking the perfect photo to document a moment on social media, am I truly in that moment?
In Alone Together, MIT social psychologist Sherry Turkle (2011) laments the effects of online presence on our identity development. Where once she was hopeful that social media would provide ample opportunity to explore and “try on” different identities, the reality is that we are becoming more and more confined by the identities we create on Twitter and Facebook, putting a great deal of time and effort into cultivating the perfect online persona for our followers. Turkle also describes the infringement of technology on our relationships, such as the limits of expression and empathy through electronic communication and our device's ability to contaminate our time with others by drawing our attention away from the individual immediately in our presence.
NYU Stern School of Business psychologist Adam Alter (2017) describes the addictive nature of digital devices and social media in his book Irresistible, citing statistics that 60% of adults keep their cellphones next to them when they sleep and half of those check their emails during the night. He cautions that our relationship with our devices is to the detriment of our personal relationships, our attention spans, and our ability to retain information.
Despite these potentially negative outcomes, the reality is that digital devices and social media will likely remain a part of our daily lives and can actually enhance our lives in many ways. So how do we mitigate the bad while keeping the good?
Balance. Striving to be mindful of our media consumption and digital use and its role in our lives.
Some strategies for this include:
These are just a few ways that you can maintain more control over your digital use and avoid allowing it to control you. You could also see improvement in your personal relationships and mental well-being. I encourage you to try one or all of these as an experiment this week to see if there is any positive outcome in your life.
Alter, Adam. (2017). Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked. New York, NY: Penguin Press.
Deloitte. (2016). 2016 global mobile consumer survey: U.S. edition. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/global-mobile-consumer-survey-us-edition.html
The Nielsen Company. (2016). The Nielsen total audience report: Q1 2016. Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/reports-downloads/2016-reports/total-audience-report-q1-2016.pdf
Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Jodi is a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and is currently serving as the Upper School Counselor at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. She has a Master’s of Education with a concentration in Mental Health and a Certificate of Education Specialist with a concentration in School Counseling from Louisiana State University. Prior to working as a school counselor, she worked in various clinical settings, including a community-based family clinic, a university mental health clinic, and a substance abuse detox facility. Jodi’s areas of focus and experience include school counseling, adolescent and family counseling, individual and group counseling, identity development, girls’ and women’s wellness, military personnel and veterans, academic and career counseling, and substance abuse treatment.
Growing up in the early 1980s, I had never heard of a “Science Instigator”. The same was true for robotics and engineering classes. The only engineering I remember at Victoria Village School was… Well, if I’m honest, I don’t remember any engineering. And, an instigator was the title they gave me in the detention letter sent home to my mom.
My closest exposure to engineering at school was a dilapidated sandbox in the back of the classroom. We used it to build bridges and drive trucks through the sand. Science was studying the effect of eating school glue and the velocity of spitballs.
Today at Episcopal, students have so many amazing technology tools for learning. Every day you can find students utilizing 3D printers, a SMALLab, Google Expeditions Virtual Field Trips, and computer programming, just to name a few. Back in my day, printers were mimeograph machines and computer programing was more like ribbon replacement for a typewriter. Robotics was bringing your Transformer to school, and a robotic arm was just that… my arm when I did the robot (dance).
I am always amazed at the learning opportunities our students have here at Episcopal. Sometimes I am even a bit jealous. Our Science Instigators and teachers play a huge part in the development of our students’ young minds. "At Episcopal the Instigators are a positive force for change. They challenge teachers to think cross-curricularly, take the learning one step further, and help them when the tools and technologies seem a bit daunting," says Science Instigator @Betsy_Minton. They use play mixed with real problem solving, science combined with creative storytelling, and tons of SMILES - real smiles on the faces of kids who are enjoying the learning process.
Take the project-based unit, Enchanted Engineering, for example. This unit challenges students to rethink classic Fairy Tales (the same ones I learned about in the 80s) by using science, technology and creativity to solve the problems in the story. Lower School teacher Heather Harpole describes the unit as “a perfect combination for an integrated STEM lesson that promotes problem-solving, perseverance, and creativity."
In this unit, students think outside the box and design solutions for the characters in the story. They create tools to help the characters outsmart the “bad guys”, like the Big, Bad Wolf. Think about it. What if Rapunzel had created a better way to raise and lower people coming to her tower? Scientifically speaking, her hair was a really bad idea. I mean, c’mon!
Students are discovering real solutions by thinking creatively. They are building houses of straw - and pipe cleaner, KEVA planks and Legos bricks - all to discover whether the Big, Bad Wolf can huff and puff and still blow their houses down.
Kudos to our Science Instigators, @Betsy_Minton and Melissa Estremera, along with all of our teachers, who are making learning not only fun, but also making learning stick. Twenty years from now, unlike myself, our students can be proud of the engineering foundation they received here at Episcopal.
Both teaching and learning have come such a long way since my glue eating days.
If you have not had the chance to experience Episcopal, all you have to do is request a tour. Come see our innovative teaching and learning tools, and interact with our faculty and staff.
On a side note, I met a visitor today on campus. His encouraging words to me were, "I only wish I knew earlier what I know now about Episcopal.”
Visit us and experience the difference.
I'd love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below!
The EdCamp movement began in Philadelphia in 2010, and since then over 700 events have been hosted around the world. An EdCamp is an “unconference” that provides educators with teacher-driven professional development and incredible opportunities to network with their peers.
There are no predetermined sessions or topics. Instead, participants show up on the day of the event with ideas they would like to explore and resources to share. A session board is created that morning with a variety of topic ideas, providing participants with several options to attend at a number different of time slots. Unlike a typical conference style of professional development, there are no formal presenters or presentations being made. Sessions consist of facilitated discussion among the participants, so everyone’s voice is heard and a variety of ideas are shared.
The EdCamp model embraces the rule of two feet, which encourages participants to move between available sessions as they wish. No one is offended if someone leaves one session and moves to another, because this event is about each participant getting the most out of their professional development time. It also means if there are two sessions that sound really interesting, then it’s okay to pop in to both.
Making professional connections and networking is at the core of EdCamp. Participants come from a variety of backgrounds, work at different schools, and have experience with a range of age-groups. These unique experiences of each educator in attendance makes for great discussions and resource sharing. There is something for every educator to learn at an EdCamp.
We are excited to host the third annual EdCamp Baton Rouge at Episcopal on Saturday, January 28th from 8AM until 12PM. All area educators are invited to attend and registration is free. Local educators do not want to miss this morning of fun and relaxed learning packed with innovative ideas, engaging conversation, and great door prizes.
For more information and registration, visit www.edcampbr.com
Who knew that reading could be such fun? Episcopals' middle school students participated in the first annual Battle of the Books. Played out right in the VPAC, The Battle of the Books consisted of four teams competing after reading ten books selected for the competition. Each team received their set of 10 books in the beginning of November and had approximately 10 weeks to read. The competition, which was held today, consisted of five rounds of play. Three rounds were Kahoot multiple choice and points were awarded based on speed and accuracy. Another round consisted of four short answer writing prompts, which were judged based on quality and style. There was also a Breakout Game round, in which students had to use clues related to the books to open four locks to break into a box with treats. The final round (Kahoot multiple choice) was played in front of the middle school audience during Morning Meeting.
“Too often we give children answers to remember, rather than problems to solve.”– Roger Lewin
Sixth Grade Science Classes recently spent 2 weeks following their units on Plate Tectonics, Volcanoes and Earthquakes participating in the Engineering process to research, design, build, test and revise models of structures that are “earthquake proof”. Students worked in teams to compile information in a shared google doc regarding the methods used by engineers to construct buildings in such a way that they can better withstand movements of the Earth that are associated with earthquakes. As a class, we performed activities, watched videos, read an interactive survival adventure novel and had numerous discussions to build our knowledge. Students created a blueprint of their building and were tasked with using the most basic supplies to create their structure. While building, students “tested” their buildings, discussing aspects that were successful and unsuccessful and making revisions to their structures.
In the ever changing world we exist in as educators, working in a 1:1 environment where students have technology and information at their fingertips all day, we are challenged to meet the needs of our students in a different way than ever before. Utilizing the technology available in creative, yet appropriate ways has proven to be both exciting and challenging. Approximately ten years ago, the idea of incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts into our classrooms was introduced and has become increasingly popular as time passes. Students at all grade levels are being immersed in STEM activities, which allows them to build a variety of skills across disciplines.
As I facilitated various parts of this extensive project, I found myself in awe. Students were conversing with each other using academic vocabulary. They were working together to solve a problem where there was not one definitive answer or best solution. They were engaged in their conversations and work and were showing what they had learned by creating a model that displayed their learning. Using a shake table and tilt table built by Betsy Minton, students were able to evaluate the success of their structures by determining if their structures could survive shaking and measuring the angle that caused the building to topple over. Students were so effective at utilizing engineering design methods that they researched that the majority of the buildings were able to withstand the shaking of the shake table. In recent years, there has been a shift from delivering content, to allowing students to explore content, using it to solve real-world problems. Observing my 6th grade students research, collaborate, design, create, test and revise their prototypes made it evident that students are, indeed, benefiting from this shift.
Stacy Hill is currently in her 17th year in Science Education. Prior to teaching at Episcopal, she taught high school science, worked in East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and taught Gifted Middle School Science. She earned her BS from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi and her M. Ed from LSU.
Sixth grade students are embarking on their Genius Hour projects, and with the exploration of new ideas and interests comes a need for instruction on information literacy. Students visited the library to hone their research skills, first learning about how Google search works and the importance of constructing quality search terms. They also learned about evaluating web resources to determine credibility and put what they learned into practice.
Evaluating sources for reliability is not just something that students must learn for scholarly research. It is essential to give time and consideration in determining credibility of websites as we seek reliable sources in the thick and complex web of information available online. There are some key components to consider and questions to ask yourself when determining credibility of a website or article.
Taking the time to evaluate a website or article before citing it for a project or paper is an essential part of the research process that students must learn. Keeping the same concepts in mind when evaluating news in print, online, or televised, and the links continually shared on social media; this will make us responsible consumers of information.
Tiffany has been an educator for nine years and joins the Episcopal faculty this year as the Upper and Middle School Librarian. A lifelong resident of Baton Rouge, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education from Southeastern Louisiana University and her Masters in Educational Technology Leadership from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She has served as the President for ISTE’s Librarians Network and was recognized as one of ISTE’s 2014 Emerging Leaders. Tiffany is National Board Certified in Library Media and was named one of the 2014 Library Journal Movers & Shakers. She was the 2016 recipient of the Louisiana Library Media Specialist Award. Tiffany speaks regularly at state, national, and international conferences on school library and technology topics.
The TechnoKnights spent Saturday, December 10th at Holy Cross in New Orleans competing in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) State Tournament. They qualified for the event in November earlier this year. Sixty teams from across the state participated. The students were judged in four areas: core-values, the project, robot design, and the robot game. The theme this year was Animal Allies. FLL teams were challenged to design an innovative solution to a problem between animals and humans. Our team chose to create a PSA to help stop rain forest destruction and the habitat fragmentation of Capuchin monkeys. In core-values they had to complete a team-building exercise and answer questions about team-work and other aspects of their character. They then presented their robot and programs they wrote to the judges who asked really tough questions about their design and why they made certain decisions. The final component of the day was the robot game. Teams were pitted against each other in three 2.5 minute matches. The goal was to complete as many missions as you could in order to score points before time ran out. Our drivers kept a level head and persevered through some technical challenges to score a respectable 36 points.
While the kids were disappointed not to score higher, they ended the day on a high note. Our team won a coveted Judges Award. This is the 2nd year in a row this team has won an award at the state level. Please congratulate Mia Pulliam, Shreya Kamath, Carter McLean, Grant Palma, Meredith Thompson, and J’nea Steiner for a job well done. The team would also like to recognize two of their other team mates Scott McAdams and Jaden Dupree who competed with them in the qualifying event, contributing greatly to our success at state. Thank you to LEIDOS and the Parents’ Guild for your ongoing support of the robotics program here at Episcopal. Coach Virginia Day and I look forward to great things from this team in the years to come.
Elizabeth "Betsy" Minton is the Science, Math and Creativity Instigator at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. She enriches instruction by generating interdisciplinary curriculum, spearheading hands-on, project-based learning and supporting faculty in the application of STEM education standards. In addition, she coaches the middle school robotics team and facilitates the middle school MakerSpace. She has over a decade of elementary classroom experience in general and special education with graduate coursework in literacy, special education, and technology integration. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Bates College and was a 2002 Teach for America Corps Member.
In my role as Academic Technology Coordinator, I have the pleasure of witnessing technology integration, including that of emerging technology, all across our campus. "Emerging technology" refers to new and innovative technology not yet widely adopted due to cost or availability. When we typically think of emerging technologies, we often think of those areas traditionally related to science and math. Because of our positive and motivated teaching community, however, we see emerging technology in unexpected places. The first quarter of our school year offers many examples of early adopters in areas traditionally not associated with technology, such as religion, foreign language, and our Pre-K program.
In 8th grade religion, Fr. Skully Knight had a thought while planning a lesson on Incarnation: “One of the ideas that we discuss is Incarnation, the Word becoming flesh and living among us as John the Evangelist writes in his Prologue. We use the movie 'The Odd Life of Timothy Green' as an illustration of this theological concept. It is the story of a young couple who cannot have a child and they write down on paper all of the traits they believe their child would have, and when a boy mysteriously enters their life, they realize that he is all of the things they hoped for in a child. He is the incarnation of their words.” Fr. Skully enlisted the Academic Technology group and the newly created Tech Scholars, a small group of upper school students who focus on technology, to assist students create a single word that describes Timothy, while keeping in mind the concept of Incarnation in scripture. Ryan Field (‘20), guided the students through designing their words in a 3D modeling program. For printing, he enlisted the help of another Tech Scholar, Ellen Rea (‘20), to print the words using the available 3D printers on campus. The increased accessibility and training for the 3D printers across our campus is in part thanks to Betsy Minton, one of our Instigators, and her relationship with Dremel. Through her guidance, the Tech Scholars were able to print all the words in a few short days. Fr. Skully sums it up nicely: “It was an interesting way to use technology to talk about theology”.
Dr. Victoria Alvarez was the inaugural user of our Virtual Reality Lab on campus. During the first quarter, the Tech Scholars, which include Stephen Barker (‘20), Zach Holloway (‘18), Daniel Johnson (‘17), Ellen Rea (‘20), Ryan Field (‘20), and Celia Keisel (‘20), spent a good amount of time setting up our two VR Labs and going through setup training so they could assist the teachers in using the VR Labs. Dr. Alvarez went through similar training including managing health concerns and procedures before implementing in her class. Two Tech Scholars were assigned to assist Dr. Alvarez, Stephen Barker and Daniel Johnson. According to Dr. Alvarez, “Using the VR Lab in my AP Spanish Language and Culture class was very interesting. At that time, my students were studying the environment vocabulary, and had just finished a presentation-based project where they talked about about the natural world and resources of several Hispanic countries. With the VR Lab, we were able to travel to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, and role played a group conversation imagining that we were scientists working at Darwin's Research station. For a few minutes they were immersed in a different context -an authentic one- and using the target language to communicate.”
Lastly, we are seeing an increased use of digital portfolio tools on our campus. While the use of this technology isn’t officially emerging, it is emerging in places you might not expect: our Pre-K4 program. Last year, our 6th grade science teacher, Stacy Hill, introduced Seesaw, a digital portfolio tool to me, and we began to investigate its usefulness to our 6th grade students to curate digital artifacts. During that investigation, it became apparent the ease and usefulness of this tool could work for our Lower School. After introducing Seesaw to the Lower School teachers, Lindsay Smith, Julie Pace, and Sarah Reno from PreK-4 met with the Academic Technology Group to assist with setup and training. According to Ms. Lindsay Smith, “Assessment in PreK-4 does not look like the traditional methods used in upper grades. We rely heavily on the portfolio approach to document students learning, and achievements in meeting their milestones. In years past, we have used a paper portfolio that displayed students' work, alongside anecdotal records, photographs, and other detailed narratives. This portfolio allowed parents to watch their child’s growth and development throughout the year. The paper portfolio, while meaningful, was very time consuming, and not always eco friendly. This year, James McCrary introduced us to Seesaw, an online digital portfolio. Teachers are able to upload students' work with a single click, and give parents instant access to their child’s day to day activities. The hours we have saved moving to this new system gives us more time to spend differentiating instruction, and planning and implementing activities for our students.”
These are but a few examples of innovation happening on our campus. As someone who loves to integrate technology in academics, these types of stories make me very proud of our community, especially the teachers for being open to innovative ideas to enhance the learning experience for the whole child: spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically. I look forward to the rest of the year and being witness to more of these stories.