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Can a simple classroom redesign inspire student achievement?

E-School News – Dr. Juli Marshall

“Imagine a 5th grade classroom in the middle of a lesson. What do you see: charts, letters, and drawings on the wall? A teacher writing notes on a large chalk or white board at the front of the room? Rows of desks and chairs, which face a single direction? Maybe you imagined small bookshelves, an American flag, or other supplies. It’s likely we formed the same, all too familiar image in our mind. This has been the traditional classroom for decades. Any generation could walk into a room and immediately identify it as a classroom. At South Carolina’s Saluda Trail Middle School, my room has evolved from this stagnant design to one of innovation. It’s flexible. It’s colorful. It’s engaging.”(more)

STEAM education is a collaborative experience

The Daniel Island News – Kate Maas

“In schools across the country, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) is the exciting new approach to classroom learning. Replacing STEM, STEAM acknowledges the importance of art (and design) in fostering creative problem solving and risk-taking. The introduction of STEAM opened exciting new instructional possibilities, good news for educators who favor creative, hands-on approaches to learning in place of textbook based lessons. Educators like Daniel Island School’s Jason McDermott. Although he’s technically the sixth grade social studies teacher, by most accounts, he’s an experienced time-travel guide who leads his students on fascinating journeys through world history.”(more)

Star Wars 101: How 3 Teachers Are Using The Force to Teach Politics, Myths and Monsters

The 74 Million – Mark Keierleber

“In order to amp up student engagement in their classrooms, these teachers aren’t using any Jedi mind tricks. But they are using The Force. When Thomas Riddle and Wes Dodgens were both teachers at Mauldin High School in Greenville, S.C., the duo discovered they had a shared passion for Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies. So they built websites highlighting how to integrate a transdisciplinary approach to teaching around the films — launching “Adventures in Learning with Indiana Jones” in 2007 and “Star Wars in the Classroom” in 2012. “Wes and I both believe in hands-on learning experiences, not so much traditional sit-and-get,” said Riddle, who is now an assistant director at Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville. “Pop culture is a great hook to bring kids into learning — whatever subject you’re trying to teach them.” With the website, they took some advice from Yoda: “Always pass on what you have learned.” Incorporating a professional learning network called “The Rogues,” to share Star Wars-themed lesson plans, Riddle and Dodgens quickly learned a whole galaxy of similarly obsessed teachers wasn’t so far, far away.”(more)

Students in Charleston Learn Math While Exercising

Care2 – Judy Molland

“Across the U.S., the amount of time devoted to physical education and to recess has been declining sharply. Educators at Charleston County Schools, in South Carolina, want to change this approach. They know that more movement and exercise makes kids better learners…Numerous studies have shown that exercise can play a major role in learning. This makes perfect sense: at the most obvious level, exercise results in an increased blood flow, and an increase in oxygen levels…But while this should be obvious, there has been an alarming downturn in the amount of physical education and recess that children get.”(more)

The schools where they never say ‘sit still’

The Guardian – Rick Maese

“David Spurlock is 63, a former baseball and football coach with a bum shoulder and bad back and right now he’s busy planning a jailbreak. He has spent a lifetime walking the hallways, classrooms and athletic fields all across Charleston, South Carolina, his home town. Those classic images of school-aged children sitting still in desks organised into neat rows? Spurlock calls it “educational incarceration”. “We put kids in a two by two cell and dare them to move: ‘Keep your feet on the floor and hands up where I can see them,’” says Spurlock, the coordinator of health, wellness and physical education for the Charleston County school district. “That sounds like being incarcerated to me.” The educational model is broken, Spurlock says, and the key to fixing it is applying some of the most basic principles of sport and exercise. Students in some Charleston area schools sit on desks that double as exercise equipment, they enrol in “advanced PE”, receive regular yoga instruction and visit specially equipped learning labs each week where the line between education and physical education disappears entirely.”(more)

Is there too much technology in our classrooms?

Moultrie News – Charleston Teacher Alliance

“Recently I visited two Charleston County schools where the district is experimenting with “personalized learning.” In this method, students use technology to complete digital activities at their own pace until they master the desired concepts. Proponents of the technique proclaim its effectiveness, but the process is fraught with risks. One of the most concerning for many educators is that it demands heavy use of “screen time” – the continual use of iPads or similar devices. In its commitment to personalized learning, CCSD has spent millions of dollars on 1:1 implementation (one iPad for every student) and plans to spend millions more…A growing body of research suggests an increase in 1:1 screen interactivity may have long-term consequences…Diving headstrong into the murky waters of technology saturation has the potential to cripple our budget, imperil the education of an entire generation and negatively alter the development of the very minds we seek to improve. We should proceed with extreme caution.”(more)