Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Leyden's First Robot Student... Wait, what?

Say hello to, well, I'm not sure it has an official name yet.  I've heard options like R2D212 (my personal favorite), C3CMe (another good one), or maybe just Double.  Whatever the name ends up being isn't nearly as exciting as the opportunities this unit provides.  Thanks to Double Robotics, Leyden now has a Double 2 telepresence robot that can simply become the physical presence for a student that cannot attend school.  Think video hangout on wheels.  The student uses either a web interface or iPad/iPhone app to drive the robot around (yep, even from class to class), uses the cameras and microphone/speaker to interact with teachers and other students, and has the ability to take photos or share a website.  This robot allows students that would otherwise be disconnected from school to fully participate in most of the daily activities.

We don't have a specific student user in mind just yet as we are still learning how to operate and maintain the robot.  Our East Leyden Tech Support Intern (TSI) students are currently experimenting and learning as much as they can.  Once we get the hang of it, we'll determine how to best implement the robot and who might qualify to use it.  I'm confident it will become a valuable tool that does more than make appearances on The Bachelor and Modern Family.

I do have to admit that when we first started looking at this robot, it was hard not to think about how cool it would be to have one for myself.  I mean, I could finally be in two places at one time. That dream quickly dissipated after we watched the following case study from Sebasticook Valley Middle School, which put the focus back to where it should always be, on our students:

Stay tuned for more posts on how the robot gets used at Leyden, and what we eventually name it.  In the meantime, check out the Double Robotics Customer Stories page for more interesting case studies and usage stories.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

E-Learning Days at Leyden

scene from the 1985 movie Real Genius

Disclaimer: We are not replacing teachers with computers or other electronic media.

However, when snow accumulates to impenetrable depths or temperatures plummet to dangerous levels or for other reasons that may have required Leyden schools to close in the past, a new opportunity is now available.  Leyden High School District 212 has been chosen as one of three districts in the state of Illinois to pilot E-Learning days.
The overall goal for Leyden's participation in this pilot is to allow courses to keep moving forward without needing to make up days at the end of the school year.  With state testing windows, AP tests, graduations, and other activities being locked into our schedules, the ability to utilize E-Learning days becomes extremely helpful to keep everyone on track.  Because Leyden has been a 1:1 district since 2012-2013 where every student gets issued a Chromebook and through the evolution of the activities implemented by our teachers that appropriately utilize various technologies, E-Learning days are a natural fit in District 212.  In many cases, an E-Learning day will almost be business as usual for our teachers and students, just outside the physical classroom space (which is already occurring on a regular basis at Leyden).

So, how will E-Learning days work at Leyden?  Here's a brief outline of our plan:
  1. If it can be determined that school needs to be closed by 8:00 PM of the day prior to the closing, the Leyden Superintendent can enact an E-Learning day.
  2. Multiple methods of communication regarding an E-Learning day replacing a regular school day will take place.  These include the following: notice on the district's website; automated phone calls to parents and guardians; and posts on social media.
  3. Every teacher will send an email to their students by 9:00 AM on an E-Learning day that will outline the instructional goals for the day, provide the necessary resources for the learning activities, identify the evidence the students will need to produce to demonstrate their learning, and clearly communicate how the students will be assessed.  The email will also include a link to an online Google Form that students must fill out by 1:00 PM on an E-Learning day to be counted as "present" in their class.  This means each student will need to review emails from each of their teachers and fill out a separate attendance form for each of their classes.
  4. Teachers will review the Google Form submissions and enter their attendance information into the regular attendance system before the end of the day.
That's really about it.  Teachers and students will not be following the traditional bell schedule.  There is no requirement of teachers and students to work synchronously together, however teachers are encouraged to identify times during the day that they can be available to answer questions, provide feedback, or interact with their students.  There is no mandate as to the learning platform that must be utilized.  E-Learning days really boil down to teachers designing effective lesson plans that can be distributed electronically, that implement various technologies to support the learning process (Google Apps tools, Hapara's Workspace, online LMS, YouTube, EDpuzzle, VoiceThread, Discovery Education, Socrative, Blogger, and so many more), and provide the opportunity for Leyden students to communicate, collaborate, think critically, and create.

An essential component to being able to run a successful E-Learning day is, of course, ensuring that all Leyden students have Internet connectivity in their homes.  We solved that challenge earlier this school year when we started distributing Sprint mobile hotspots to those students that need them (read my previous Closing The Connectivity Gap For Leyden Students blog post).

Here's a great video put together by a few administrators and students that was shared with all students to explain E-Learning days at Leyden:

Stay tuned for other blog posts that I'll share with details on how any E-Learning days play out.