This week’s brush with tropical weather was a great reminder of the resources available at Episcopal. As the cone of uncertainty was plotted, teachers were making certain that electronic lessons were loaded and ready in Canvas should there be a need to close school.
Canvas is a learning management system that serves as an electronic portal between students and teachers. The platform houses the course content a teacher reviews during a class period, including slides, videos and links. It also serves as a hub for assignments, allowing students to submit their work for the teacher’s review. All of this means that as long as power and internet access is available, it is still business as usual for Episcopal students and teachers. Teachers simply enter lessons and students log in at anytime from anywhere. When a student logs in, Canvas creates a record of their virtual attendance. This record allows Episcopal to use emergency closure Canvas lessons in place of make-up days in the event that school needs to be closed.
Throughout the school year, Canvas is a critical component of a student’s Episcopal experience. Academic Technology Coordinator Betsy Minton says once a student reaches Middle School they are encouraged to manage their coursework as much as they can through Canvas. “Technology is a part of life for today’s students. This platform empowers them to take appropriate ownership of their school learning environment while learning the skills to achieve and thrive in the future,” she says.
Minton emphasizes that all communication platforms used at Episcopal are safe and private. She says an added benefit of having students manage their coursework in this manner is that they are also developing digital literacy skills and safe social media practices.
Even students in Lower School are being empowered to share information about their school day using appropriate communications tools. The Seesaw platform serves as the students’ digital portfolio, allowing students to share photos, text and even videos with family members instantly. Minton says parents love it!
“I get so excited when I get a glimpse inside their day via Seesaw,” says parent Amy Binck. She says she also appreciates that the posts stimulate after-school discussions with her second and fifth graders. As an added bonus, everything posted can be shared with other family members so even aunts, uncles and grandparents can take a peek inside the student’s day.
Students can easily share photos and information from their day using Seesaw.
There are also resources available to help Episcopal parents feel fully connected and involved in their student’s learning journey. PowerSchool, the Student Information System, houses all essential records and serves as the main resource for parent/teacher communication in all divisions. PowerSchool provides access to grades, attendance and report cards. In addition, critical and time-sensitive communication, such as an unexpected school closure, is disseminated through the
PowerSchool email system. If parents desire more frequent updates about their child’s assignments and grades, Minton says the Canvas platform also provides observer access through the website or a parent app which can be used to monitor their child’s progress throughout the year. The app can alert parents regarding their child’s performance so that parents can help their child if necessary. Members of the school’s technology team are available to assist parents with all of these tools. Minton has already trained several parents on the use of Canvas and PowerSchool. Parents who need additional assistance or training can contact Minton by emailing her and the technology team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Electronic resources are valuable tools for students and families as they maneuver the academic year. As the numbers show, families are logging in and taking advantage of the information available. For example, below is a look at Seesaw activity between August 30th and September 5th:
For a complete list of resources and information on how to register for them, click on the links below.
Parent resources -https://www.episcopalbr.org/parent-resources.html
Student resources -https://www.episcopalbr.org/studentresources.html
Be sure to follow Episcopal on all of the following social media platforms.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram - @episcopalbr and Athletics Twitter - @EHSBRAthletics
Episcopal students and teachers are providing valuable feedback on the latest Google technology. When Google introduced its Google Expeditions Virtual Reality program three years ago, Episcopal helped test the program. Recently, the school had another opportunity to partner with the technology giant – this time on the Google Augmented Reality Pioneer program.
Virtual reality allows the user to explore a computer-generated simulation of a 3-D environment using VR goggles. Think virtual field trips to France or an art museum.
Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world. Think exploring a life-size dinosaur in a school classroom.
The AR program is run from the Google Expeditions app using phones to bring everything from the solar system and the ocean floor to the food chain of a coral reef and the world of ancient Rome to the students’ desks. The 3-D images are accompanied by short text or labels that provide discussion points for teachers and students as they examine the images together from a full 360 degree viewpoint. Recently, Episcopal educators attended a Google-led teacher training on the app in the Aldrich Library. Teachers then brought their classes to the library where they had the opportunity to test the prototype. Teachers led the lessons while the Google representative and Episcopal technology staff assisted with the hardware. Afterwards, teachers and students provided feedback to the Google staff on what features and options they would recommend adding to the app before it is released to the public.
Episcopal students are not strangers to this type of technology. Recently, Middle School science students had the opportunity to use a Merge cube to generate an augmented reality experience. By using the cube and the accompanying app, students were able to get a close-up view of the solar system right in their classroom. The students were thrilled. “I can hold the sun!” “I can spin the solar system!”
Smart implementation of technology truly engages students. The sensation of holding a planet in the palm of their hand resonates with students who have grown up in an age where the iPhone is commonplace and Netflix is normal. Embracing technology to encourage students to explore their world is an exciting component of an Episcopal education. It’s a great example of how we’re preparing our students for the workforce of the future.
Michelle Chenevert has been a part of Episcopal School of Baton Rouge since 2000. A lifelong resident of Baton Rouge, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Education and Masters of Arts in Educational Technology both from Louisiana State University. Michelle is the Director of Technology. During her time at Episcopal she has led many teacher professional development opportunities and taught an Audio/Video education enrichment for Middle School. In addition to being the Director of Technology for Episcopal, she is a Google Certified Educator and serves on the Academic Technology Team.
Tucked away amidst the hustle and bustle of College Drive, lies a Baton Rouge institution that is truly making a difference in the lives of the children it serves, as well as in the lives of Episcopal Upper School students who have partnered with the Center in class projects this year. The McMains Children’s Developmental Center provides a range of services to help children of all abilities live, work, and play independently. The staff offer occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech and language therapy, in addition to support services for the entire family. However, there’s much more to the Center than meets the eye.
Walk around the building and you’ll find a brightly colored flower garden set at just the right height to be wheelchair accessible. There’s a playground, an elaborate playhouse, and a peaceful gazebo. Inside, there is a specially built rock climbing wall and a quiet space for children who need time to process their world.
A tour with Kim Haynes, MA, CCC-SLP, the Center’s Clinical and Operations Director, also includes a trip to the Inclusion House. What happens inside this big red house is magical. It is in this house, which looks like a child-sized version of the average home, that therapists help families and children discover opportunities for the children to be a true part of their family and their environment. Families learn to take everyday objects and adapt them to their child’s needs. For example, by simply connecting objects to a switch, the child’s world opens up and they are then able to operate a blender, a can opener or even take part in family game night.
Upper School students enrolled in Episcopal’s NuVuX Design Studio courses have had the pleasure of being involved in the McMains Children’s Developmental Center magic this year. Early in the year, students spent time at the Center to observe the work being done and the assistance needed. Like most guests who walk the halls of the facility, the students were inspired by what they saw and the people they met. Upon their return to Woodland Ridge, they began to brainstorm ways that Design Studio projects could help.
What resulted were designs befitting the Center’s practices of making therapy fun. One such design was Blow Boats. Episcopal students Brice Frierson and Jack Morganti were inspired to create a boat racing track after meeting a child with a passion for boating. Their device allows a child in a wheelchair to race boats using a fan adapted to a simple switch. Frierson and Morganti added a tiny garden to the center of the device so that when the boats are not racing, the device blends in with the garden’s surroundings. Upon hearing about Blow Boats, the Center staff were so impressed that they invited the students to install the device permanently in the Center’s garden. The staff also hopes to receive the other NuVuX devices for the children to use.
“I love working with high school students,” said Anne Hindrichs, LCSW, Center Executive Director. “It showcases the tapestry of connectivity that exists as these students visit with our children and become inspired to get involved. It’s exciting to see the projects evolve from a concept to reality and it’s exciting to see the joy in the children’s faces as they get to use the designs.”
For Brice, the Design Studio experience has been personally significant in many ways. Click here to read his project brief where he describes how his NuVuX experience is something he’ll never forget.
The Blow Boats installation is just one example of the Design Studio’s possibilities. Episcopal students also created Kids Mist: a device to allow children to engage in water activities; DRAwER: a device to assist children with opening drawers and cabinets; Dogger: a fun game for kids with limited mobility; and Geaux Throw: a device that allows a child in a wheelchair to throw a ball. Watch the video below to see seniors Cameron Dumas and Noah Dupree demonstrating their Geaux Throw device.
To learn more about all of the Episcopal student innovations click here.
NuVu Studios was created by MIT graduates Saeed Arida, Saba Ghole and David Wang. The program uses the architectural studio as the mode of teaching Upper School and Middle School students. It is geared around multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects. There is a full-time school in Cambridge, Massachusetts for middle and high school students in addition to the NuVuX program, which is offered locally at Episcopal. NuVu provides any needed engineering instruction and students apply what they have learned from mainstream Episcopal academic classes. Studio students are presented with open-ended questions or challenges and asked to identify innovative tools or processes to solve them or improve upon them while working in collaborative groups. Each studio features equipment including a laser cutter, 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, a workshop and even a sewing machine and fully stocked electronics cabinet to help students make their designs a reality.
Episcopal Design Studio students will have the opportunity to celebrate their impact, and Easter, with the McMains Children’s Developmental Center’s children at the end of March. Students will be on hand for the Center’s annual egg hunt and to see how the children interact with their designs. What a great way to see a design come to life! What a powerful way to make a difference in the lives of others!
Want to learn more about the NuVuX Design Studio? Don’t miss the final showcase for this school year, which is scheduled for Thursday, May 3rd from 8:45 am to 2:30 pm in the Upper School Student Center.
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.