Sunday, April 6, 2014

Austin Experiences Project Based Learning...

If you've followed us for any length of time, you know that Austin Elementary is on a journey to implement the Schoolwide Enrichement Model (SEM).  You also know that as a district, we are digging deep ("soaking") into the CISD Learning Framework.  Additionally, each campus has been charged with selecting a learning design model (UbD or PBL).  Austin Elementary has selected Project Based Learning because of how closely it aligns with SEM Enrichment Clusters.  Put all of this together, and you have somewhat of a PD melting pot.  

With that in mind, we set out to design a meaningful learning experience for our educators that (hopefully) can kill three PD birds (SEM, Learning Framework, and PBL) with one stone.  Thus, our Austin educator PBL unit was born!  If done correctly, this educator PBL unit could help strengthen our understanding of the relationship between SEM and the CISD Learning Framework, AND provide the opportunity for our educators to actually experience a PBL unit as we go through the training.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

SEMCamp @ Austin

Austin Elementary is a school of passionate individuals (both learners AND educators).  We're so passionate about what we do that we included it in our guiding purpose...

"At Austin Elementary, we are driven to unlock the passion
and cultivate the uniqueness inherent in every learner."

One of our passions as educators is sharing our experiences of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model with others.  That's one reason why on Friday mornings we continually play host to educators from other campuses curious about what SEM looks like "in action."  

With that in mind, we have dreamed up what we affectionately call SEMCamp. This will be a 3-day experience designed for classroom teachers and administrators alike where we will dive deeply into the Schoolwide Enrichment Model and how it can impact a campus.  Check out this Smore, and learn more about what SEMCamp could do for your educators!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

PD... It's Not Just For Teachers!

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, there is at least one thing you know for sure... At Austin Elementary, we are passionate about giving learners the opportunity to explore and grow with their interests! That is the foundation of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM).

Aside from fostering those interests and passions, SEM also provides us with a vehicle to strengthen and build reciprocal relationships with our community and local businesses.  This is evidenced by our weekly E-Time visitors from around the community and the countless ways that our learners have made a difference in Coppell (through fundraising, community service projects, etc.).

The next step in strengthening that school/community relationship is inviting our parents and community in to actually partner with us in facilitating enrichment clusters.  Today, our SEM Coordinator (Liz Malone) is doing just that.  Hence the title of this post:  PD... It's Not Just For Teachers!

We are thrilled to have a group of community/parent volunteers going through "SEM Boot Camp" and experiencing the same professional learning as our Austin educators.  Here are just a few things they are exploring-

  • What is the difference between E-Time and Enrichment Clusters?
  • What is the "WHY" behind our work with SEM?  What "WHY" do they bring to the table in wanting to share their passions/interests with our learners?
  • What are the 5 components of a strong Cluster?
By inviting our community to be a part of our professional learning, we hope to further strengthen our commitment to building reciproal relationships with those around us and provide more authentic enrichment experiences for our learners. 
Want to know more about the Schoolwide Enrichment Model at Austin?  Check out our SEM Blog!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Austin Represents @ Learning Forward National Conference #learnfwd13

We're just back from the Learning Forward National Conference located down the road in Grapevine, TX!  Over the past few days, several Austin educators were able to attend various sessions on a wide variety of topics (Digital Learning, Supporting New Educators, "Teaching Like A Pirate," etc.).  It was an amazing learning opportunity made all the better by the fact that it was hosted in our own backyard.

It addition to attending the conference, 3 Austin educators also led a session on school transformation. Laurie O'Neill (Principal), Cooper Hilton (Assistant Principal), and Liz Malone (GT Facilitator) hosted a session on "Navigating The Winding Road of School Transformation."  Their objective was to provide a case study of the growth and transformation that Austin Elementary has undergone over the past few years.  They were able to share progress/celebrations/hurdles that they have experienced while continuing to transform.  Below is a "SMORE" outline of their presentation.  Haven't used SMORE?  It's a great tool for creating online newsletters, brochures, etc.  Several Austin educators have adopted it as a tool for communicating their class newsletters each week.

Don't hesitate to contact any of the presenters with questions about the Smore!  Also, feel free to leave questions in the comments section of this post.

Want to explore more of the learning from Learning Forward?  Search for #learnfwd13 or #austinlearns on Twitter, and join in the conversation!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From Ordinary to Extraordinary...

From Ordinary to Extraordinary... A Hero's Journey

That is our theme in the Coppell Independent School District this year.  Personally, I think it accurately describes the work ahead of us; transforming an ordinary/stale/broken educational system into something meaningful/engaging/relevant.  That's no easy task, and as the slogan implies, it will take a group of educational "heroes" to achieve such a gargantuan feat!

After attending the 2013-2014 CISD Principals' Academy over the summer, the administrative team @ Austin Elementary (Laurie O'Neill, Principal and Cooper Hilton, Assistant Principal) was charged with continuing to lead this transformation.  Though our professional learning for this year has only recently begun, we'd like to share a little bit with you from our learning on August 23rd and highlight some of the tools that are helping enhance our transformation.

Our Return to Confratute...

If you've read any of our previous posts, you may have come across this strange word that we keep throwing around... CONFRATUTE.  Don't try looking it up.  If you do, you probably won't come up with an accurate definition or description (chances are the definition will say something like Conference, Fraternity, and Institute).  That is because CONFRATUTE is indescribable.

Educators from Austin Elementary have been attending CONFRATUTE at the University of Connecticut for several years now.  It is, after all, the "hub" of professional learning for the Schoolwide Enrichment Model and gifted pedagogy.  We were fortunate enough to have our very own Liz Malone, GTI Facilitator and SEM Coordinator, attend again this summer.  Check out her "take-aways" below.  Hopefully, they'll help you come a little closer to understanding what CONFRATUTE is all about!  For more details on the Schoolwide Enrichment Model @ Austin Elementary, check out           Learning Made SEMple .


CONferenc...FRAternity…InstiTUTE  - Put it all together and you have CONFRATUTE, an amazing, weeklong adventure in learning on the beautiful University of Connecticut campus in Storrs, Connecticut.  If you have been following this blog for very long, you know that CONFRATUTE is where our SEM dream began four short years ago.  That summer, eight educators, accompanied by our principal, Laurie O’Neill, visited CONFRATUTE for the very first time.  When we arrived, we were immediately immersed in a culture of enrichment and talent development that would forever alter the way each of us thought about education.  It didn’t take long before we were absolutely convinced that the journey of SEM implementation was one our school needed to make.  Since that time, we have taken great strides towards full implementation of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model at Austin Elementary.  As a staff, we have spent countless hours on professional development, exploring the research behind The Schoolwide Enrichment Model, and designing what it would look like for our learners.   We have redesigned the way we form our classes, and have implemented “E-Time” on Friday mornings to provide a dedicated time each week for school wide, learner driven enrichment.  Last year, we moved forward with the implementation of Enrichment Clusters.  During these 5-8 week enrichment journeys, our learners were engaged in authentic, real world learning experiences through which they had the opportunity to pursue their interests, develop their talents, and make a difference in our world. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Who's Asking The Questions In Your Classroom?

Some of the most meaningful and useful professional learning sessions share ideas/strategies that you can take away and immediately implement.  That's what Liz Malone (GT Facilitator & SEM Coordinator) and Cooper Hilton (Assistant Principal) set out to do yesterday afternoon for the educators at Austin Elementary.  They presented a session on promoting student questioning.  This was yet another piece of learning brought back from the National Learning Forward Conference they attended this past December.

The information and technique from their session came from a book called Make Just One Change: Teach Students To Ask Their Own Questions by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana and is based around the Question Formulation Technique.

Check out their Slide Rocket presentation HERE.

As part of the process in determining where we stood as a campus (what percentage of questions are student generated) and where we want to be as a campus (what percentage of questions SHOULD be student generated), Liz and Cooper experimented with a simple polling tool KwiqPoll.  It's an easy way to gather quick data using any device (iPhone, computer, etc) and could be a great formative assessment tool in classrooms.

If you would like more information on how the Question Formulation Technique could impact your classroom, leave us a comment!