Royal Happenings: Where did all the textbooks go?

The Agriculture department has been hard at work updating curriculum and systems of operations in order to fully utilize the IPADs students now have.

Where’d the textbooks go? The Agriculture Department has been hard at work finding resources for eBooks and also online PDF curriculum. Gone are the days of $10,000 textbook cycle requests being submitted to the school as books in a department are
updated. Now all curriculum can be offered in digital form. This has also provided much needed additional storage space in the department, as well as alleviated the need for students to carry all that weight around on their backs.

Regarding content delivery, it has been an adventure this fall. The Ag classes have trained and are now using Google Docs for delivery of teacher handouts, as well as an App called Schoology. Also within Google Docs, is a document that students can interactively generate a document live as the class is held. For instance, a large chapter in Animal Science was recently divided into groups within the class, they reviewed the chapter and summarized it on a shared Google doc, and while this was happening the instructor projected the document as it was assembled onto the board. The end result was a set of chapter notes which could be saved, emailed to each student, or printed off for students who would otherwise struggle with note-taking.

Other Apps have been fun to learn, and it has been one called Notability that the students seem to like best. While the Fisheries and Wildlife Science class recently covered identifying birds by their calls, they were able to find a picture of the bird online, record the sound into the document, and draw (much like a heart rhythm printout) the cadence, the pitch, and the tempo of what they were hearing right across the picture. Then they used a text box to make notes about observations being shared about when they might hear the sounds.
Finally, for assessment, the agriculture department has moved a majority of tests into digital format. In the same Schoology application, students utilize a blog section to enter a current events write-up within a time period (weekly weekly for the most part.) Students are able to see what others have posted and can’t repeat the topic, as well as make comments or observations in what are called “threads” under the original entry. The students use the blog to engage in conversations much like we used to have in the coffee shop after seeing an article headline. Those conversations are then brought into the classroom and connected to the curriculum.

Another section of the application allows for online tests to be generated. Tests can be immediately corrected, giving the student and teacher instant feedback. Incorrect answers are identified, along with the corresponding topics, allowing for quick communication to the student, parents, and other educators on review topics and methods. In the past, due to student numbers and isolated a time to correct tests, it used to take a few days for feedback to occur. By the time the instructor completed grading, the class had moved on to the next unit. Now, students are not being “left behind.”

It has been a fun experience to transform the department into the technological age. Students will use the technology in the workplace and in colleges after graduation. When I travel with other schools and share the experiences with them, they are impressed.

— Submitted by Jim Kocherer, FFA advisor and Agriculture Education chair at WMHS.


iPads used in Science Lab Assessment

Most students tell me that they enjoy science labs over of all of our science classroom activities because they are up and doing something while they are learning. I also enjoy watching them learn through the hands on activity. However sometimes I wonder if the students are really learning the science objective or just going through the motions on the lab instruction sheet. With the addition of iPads to my Biology classroom this year, it has become very convenient for me to see if there are “minds on” with the “hands on” activity.

Last week students built a model of the DNA molecule. When they were finished with their model and had a photo of it, I asked each student to produce a short video explanation of how their model represented the structural components of DNA. A hush fell over the room as immediately everyone started thinking what they would say about their model. One student even commented, “You mean we have to know what we were doing?” Yes, young man, you do. And now it is even easier and more convenient for me to say with confidence that you do.

–Submitted by Denise Ertl, WMHS Science teacher

iPads help journalism students in every aspect

In high school journalism, students have used their iPads extensively. This course deals with the world of instant news and publication, so it has been invaluable for students to have individual access to the most current events and most varied types of media.
From recording feature interviews to researching relevant statistics to creating their own opinion-based blogs to producing their own news shows, this course has been revolutionized by the common access and opportunities the iPads have given students.

–Submitted by Emily Brisse, Watertown-Mayer English and Journalism teacher.