With my ADE hat on, I spent most of the day today in Austin, Texas, with a group of superintendents and other administrators discussing 21st century learning, digital curriculum, student engagement, digital storytelling, differentiated assessment, and Apple 1:1 initiatives. During my part of the workshop, which lasted about two hours, Charlie Mahoney and some of his students from Turning Point Learning Center in Emporia, Kansas, videoconferenced into our session with iChat, as well as Sandy Vaughn from Floydada High School in Floydada, Texas. This is a screen snap of my open iChat windows earlier in the afternoon, prior to my session. This is a picture of IM multi-tasking to support videoconferencing with virtual guest speakers!

Coordinating iChat Guest Speakers from my PLN today

Turning Point is one of the most innovative schools in the midwestern United States, and is led by both Charlie as well as Ginger Lumen. (Ginger helped found TPLC, Charlie joined her this fall.) Both Charlie and Ginger were in the car with me this summer prior to NECC, when we successfully videoconferenced with iChat car-to-car (using Bonjour) and webcast some reflections prior to NECC on Ustream.tv. (See the post “Live from I-35: Moving at the Speed of Creativity enroute to NECC” from June 28th for that Ustream archive.) Charlie and Ginger are not only innovative teachers, they are also fun people to hang out with on a road trip!

According to TPLC’s “about” page:

Our Project-Based, on-site program serves students in grades 5 – 8, who are driven, eager to learn, who can work with a team of their peers, and who want to be a participant in their own learning. Parents work as true partners with the school to create a full, inviting learning environment for their children.

Project based learning is a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and 21st Century skills. The students work through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks. Special emphasis is placed on global connections not only to learning, but also actual global connections, classroom to classroom via video conferencing and other technology tools.

It was fantastic to hear Charlie and Ginger’s students share their perspectives and ideas with our group of Texas administrators today. I was particularly interested to hear their description of how they use iChat IM for backchannel discussions during videoconferencing connections with Global Nomads. The project-based approach to learning using digital technologies at Turning Point is exemplary. I hope my own children are fortunate enough to have teachers as inspiring, passionate, and appropriately pedagogically oriented as Ginger and Charlie when they enter secondary school in Oklahoma. Hats off to both the Kansas USD 253 school board and ESSDACK (who runs TPLC for the district) for having the vision and courage to support such an innovative school with a digitally immersed, project-based approach toward learning!

It was also great to hear briefly from Sandy Vaughn at Floydada today via iChat during my workshop. In addition to discussing gas prices and possible reasons for the trend we’re seeing in lower gas and oil prices nationwide, Sandy shared a little bit about an exciting trip six Floydada students went on last week to Washington D.C., where they were recognized at a national meeting of state educational technology directors. Four of the students had never flown in an airplane previously, and none had visited our nation’s capitol. Sandy reported that the students were treated like rock stars, and were able to present about their digitally immersed learning experiences at Floydada to a national audience. Of the 21 TxTIP districts, Floydada is the only one which chose to immerse high school teachers as well as students with laptops, digital curriculum, professional development, and all the other elements which go into a successful 1:1 learning initiative. It’s wonderful to hear not only that the seeds of 1:1 learning planted via TxTIP back in 2004 continue to flower, bloom, and grow fruit on the plains of West Texas, but also that the students as well as educators of Floydada ISD are earning well-deserved national recognition for their 1:1 learning initiatives.

To learn more about Floydada High School in particular, check out the video from last year about their TxTIP project (linked at the bottom of the page.)

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