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!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Promoting Global Competency at the Elementary Level

At a recent faculty meeting, Kara Cadue, Liz Malone, and Cooper Hilton led the staff in exploring the ideas behind Global Competency and what it could mean for our learning community.  This interest originally stemmed from their attendance at the Learning Forward National Conference.  After exploring how promoting Global Competency aligns with who we are as a campus, they decided to begin a conversation with the staff. 

Check out the basics of their presentation at Global Competency.

Here are a few of the questions we began exploring-

  • How could promoting Global Competency impact our learners and our learning community?
  • What does Global Competency look like at the elementary level?
  • How does this align with our campus vision and Transformation Plan, and why does it matter?
  • What could Global Competency look like within the context of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model?

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Big Opportunity!

In a previous post, we featured the experience of a few Austin educators who attended the National Learning Forward Conference in Boston, MA. Liz Malone (GT Facilitator and SEM Coordinator), Kara Cadue (4th grade), and Cooper Hilton (Assistant Principal) had an amazing experience at this national conference learning from the best in the field! 

We will have an opportunity to attend this conference once again, as this coming year's National Learning Forward Conference will be held in DFW.  Aside from sending additional educators this coming year, we were inspired to submit a proposal to present and lead a session for other educators from around the world.  We have received notice from the organization that our proposal ("Navigating The Winding Road of School Transformation") has been accepted!  Given our imperative to transform our current educational practices, we chose to focus on our transformation within the context of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model.  The following is an excerpt from our session description:

Experience an actual case study of one school's transformation from a culture of remediation to a school of enrichment where educators are driven to unlock the passion and cultivate the uniqueness inherent in every learner. Gain insight into their successes and roadblocks.  Learn to create conditions and capacities conducive for educators and learners to perform at high levels.

We are excited (and slightly nervous) for this opportunity to share our experiences! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

An Exciting Showcase

This past Friday, our 2nd/3rd grade learners had the opportunity to showcase their learning at their Enrichment Cluster Showcase!  You could feel the excitement in the building.  Our learners had just about every topic covered: electricity, magic, CSI, medical response, etc. 

We were thrilled to have several visitors come and enjoy the day with us!  Several CISD board members, Dr. Turner (Superintendent), and several other central office administrators came and took part in the learning.  Also, two guests from Laurel Mountain Elementary came to witness our progress on our journey towards implementation of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model.  We are extremely grateful for their help and time as we have gone through the process!

Check out this brief video of the Showcase from Liz Malone, GT Facilitator.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Parent Course #2 (Schoolwide Enrichment Model)

Professional Learning at Austin is not just limited to our educators.  Through the transformation currently underway, we also realize an obligation to share these professional learning experiences with our  parents.  With this in mind, we are hosting four Parent Courses this school year.  Our first course (see earlier blog post) focused on CISD's Operation Transformation and what that looks like at Austin.

This past week, we were honored to host the second of our four sessions, this one featuring Austin's implementation of the Renzulli Schoolwide Enrichment Model.  If you were unable to attend or would like to review the presentation, please access it here-  Parent Course #2 (SEM).

If you have further questions regarding the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, please contact Liz Malone at  Also, we invite you to join us one Friday morning to see SEM in action!  Please RSVP at E-Time Tour/Visit.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Big Success...

If you've been following us for very long, you know that we are in the process of fully implementing Dr. Joe Renzulli's Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM).  It is an integral part of our Operation Transformation as we challenge ourselves to create a more meaningful and engaging 21st century learning environment.  

One of our biggest hurdles this year in the implementation of SEM was conducting our first round of enrichment clusters and the subsequent enrichment cluster showcase.  It was a big undertaking for both our educators AND learners as we took much of the structure and ideas behind E-Time and dug deeper, but we couldn't be more proud of how it went! 

Below are a couple of resources for you to check out if you're curious about our SEM journey and want to know more about how our first cluster showcase turned out.

-Explore our Schoolwide Enrichment Model blog Lifelong Learning Made SEMple!.  It includes a video with footage/photos from the 4th/5th grade Showcase.

-Check out the following video- The Video Production Company  This 4th/5th grade cluster saw a real world problem (declining participation in our school bank Mustang Mutual) and used their talents and passions to address it.  Check it out!

As always, we welcome your feedback and input!