The Scott County Regional Authority (SCRA) awards hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants every year. Pleasant Valley Community School District is lucky enough to be one of the districts that receives funds from this organization. In the fall of 2018, PV was awarded several grants and we would like to graciously thank the SCRA as well as provide an update on those projects.
Advancing Student Learning of Social Studies with the support of Chrombooks
Over the course of the last five years, Pleasant Valley students and teachers have begun to utilize technology at an increased rate in the area of K-12 Social Studies. This grant was designed to allow all students enrolled in a social studies class at PVHS daily access to technology. Why is this important? Research conducted and supported by the National Council for Social Studies shows that students today need to engage in critical thinking, decision making and problem solving. In addition, we must engage students in the pursuit of active informed citizenship which requires a broad range of understanding and skills. To make sure these skills meet the demands we must have an articulated district curriculum that connects students to the social world.
The goals associated with this initiative:
- To teach students about the world outside of the Pleasant Valley School District.
- To allow students to experience things that would be almost impossible within the classroom walls.
- To increase critical analysis of primary and secondary sources.
- To interpret visual and audio sources.
- To advance comparing and contrasting skills
- To increase literacy skills, critical thinking skills and research based skills.
- To meet the Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies
- To increase student access to online testing.
While not subscribing to a one-to-one student computer philosophy, PVHS has been incorporating classroom sets of Chromebooks for gathering historical and current research, writing assignments, testing and the implementation of Google Classroom as a student learning management system. Before, there were four sets of 30 Chromebook carts shared between pairs of Social Studies teachers. Now, the additional four carts of 30 Chromebooks per cart, has allowed each teacher to have their own set.
Through the implementation of Chromebook laptop computers into all of our high school social studies classrooms on a daily basis, we have been able to advance the learning of all our students through a blended learning platform developed by Google that allows teachers to organize their instruction in such a way that students and teachers are able to communicate effectively and collaboratively in real time. This blended learning allows teachers to share course expectations in one location, students are able to access their materials anywhere at any time, and teacher to student or student to teacher feedback on their work is completed online within their online classroom.
Bringing the Outside World to PVHS
Virtual Reality is something that has been around for a while. It allows people to see and experience things that they normally could not. For instance, you can take a trip to the Pyramid of Giza without leaving your living room, you can experience what it’s like for a red blood cell to travel through the heart, or see what a Pennsylvania steel mill worker looks at every day on the job. The possibilities are endless! Students are able to experience things like never before!
Money and budgetary restraints are always an issue in the education system. However, with the SCRA grant, Google Expeditions VR headsets have allowed students to experience real-world situations from the protection of their own classrooms. There are literally hundreds of pre-made “expeditions” that students can go through by using the Google Expeditions app. This VR technology has engaged more students in learning and has lead to a deeper understanding of the world. “With the addition of the expedition kits, PVHS has been able to go places never seen by our students before. Cassidy Peterson, Secondary Innovative Technology Coach said, “We can go to Africa one hour, then head back to ancient Rome the next hour, be inside the cell nucleus the next, and then wrap up by going to Salem, Massachusetts. IT has truly changed the way we teach and what we can provide for our students.”
Push Band 2.0 for PVHS
Formative student feedback has been an instructional emphasis at Pleasant Valley CSD. We find the value in providing students quality feedback in all areas and now have a quantitative way to do that within our weightlifting classes. With the support of Push Bands 2.0 and iPads at each of the 30 lifting stations, we are now able to provide students with real time data that delivers the velocity of which they are performing their current lift.
Push Bands, a Velocity Based Training (VBT) tool is used to increase safety in the PVHS weight room while also increasing performance. Instant feedback is provided for both coach and athlete which delivers data for them to properly and safely complete each exercise, therefore, students/athletes are constantly being coached and monitored. The instructor/coach is also able to modify each students’ future program based on the data gathered from the previous session. This allows for a more individualized lifting program that will account for the appropriate safety factors when determining increases in weight ratios. Max/Performance testing can be down safely by putting certain targets or restrictions on the data that is provided to the student/athlete when testing. Push Band data can also minimize injuries that can occur in a weight room by use of the instant feedback generated.
PVJH Special Education Technology Update
The use of up-to-date technological devices as tools for learning is paramount to helping students begin to bridge the gaps in their learning. Our students are heavily dependent on the opportunities afforded by having some sort of internet based device at their disposal due to our ever increasing efforts to provide a technology-enriched learning environment that enables all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals.
Our special education program at Pleasant Valley Junior High requested 30 Google Chromebook devices plus a computer cart for them to be stored and transported conveniently within the building.
Through the special education program at PVJH, specially designed instruction is offered through self-contained core content area classes as well as Skills Enrichment courses. These classes offer students who are eligible, to receive not only instruction at their individual instructional level and pacing, but also access to instructional materials by means of their accommodations as dictated by their personal IEP. Through the use of Chromebooks, students are given instantaneous access to:
- Google Classroom: This allows for students to have classroom materials and handouts organized by content area as managed by their classroom teachers. This way when they are in skills enrichment they have access to all their materials and it helps them learn organizational skills. Teachers also can help students see what is due and what they need to work on in one place. These employability skills will help the students learn time management as well completing tasks given to them in a timely manner.
- Voice typing: This allows students with severe motor skills as well as those with conditions such as Dysgraphia to speak directly into the Chromebook, and their speech is immediately translated into on-screen text. This allows students to fully express their ideas and steers away from the challenge of traditional writing where ideas are limited due to the demands of writing and the metacognition it requires throughout the entire process.
- Digital Text: Audio books and digital access to content-related texts equalize the playing field for students to read grade level text on their own in a timely manner that is commensurate to that of their peers. The majority of our special education students are reading below grade level and struggle immensely with reading academic content that is a requirement of general education courses. Audio books allow students access to independent reading books that are of interest to them personally, but may contain sophisticated sentence structures that are above their current independent reading level. Struggling readers tend to spend their time decoding words instead of learning to enjoy books.
- Word Processing: A vast majority of our special education population has difficulty with fine motor skills, and word processing allows students to be more independent with the varying writing demands of the Core Curriculum. Teachers can create and share graphic organizers, note templates, assignments and assessments in Google Classroom, eliminating the demand for paper copies and the laborious handwriting process.
Making Makers at PVJH
It's imperative that students are well prepared for jobs that don't yet exist. Certain characteristics & 21st-century skills are not being taught as efficiently & effectively as possible. With the purchase of Makey Makey Kits students are able to solve problems that were previously unsolvable. Students have learned how to code, create circuits & wire robots. These kits further increase STEM implementation & help foster all of the characteristics students need to survive in this ever-changing world.
Our students are very smart, they score very well on tests, but are we truly teaching them to be creative, to be innovative, and to be problems seekers? The purchase of these Makey Makey kits have allowed PV to create lessons that are geared towards building these types of characteristics. PV is constantly focusing on college and career readiness and there are four buckets under college readiness that define what it means to be ready for the world after high school. One bucket has to do with content, the other three buckets have to do with other skills and attributes that cannot be taught by simply reading a textbook. These kits help create students that are goal setters, can persevere through difficult times, and can problem solve, among many other 21st-century skills. Cassidy Peterson, Secondary Innovative Technology Coach said, “Makey Makey has brought coding to life for our students and they are learning new and different ways to create in class everyday. This year they created an interactive model on their allegories, some complete with moving parts and lights.”