Archive for January, 2017

January 10, 2017 #WhatsUpAtGRACE

Happy Snow Day (day 2)! We hope that you are warm and safe and we sincerely hope that we will see everyone back at school tomorrow. We will make that decision later today.  That means you have plenty of time to read the January 10, 2017 #WhatsUpAtGRACE “snow edition” newsletter. In this week’s edition you will find

  • Snow Day pictures sent in from the GRACE community
  • An exciting announcement about a special teacher event to take place during this year’s Play4Kay/Hoops for Hope event
  • Information about GRACE’s Drivers Education Class
  • A request for tech (and non tech) donations for our IT Department
  • An update on Play4Kay/Hoops for Hope ticket sales (spoiler alert: you can still purchase tickets although all the event t-shirts have been claimed)
  • A save the date notice for the 2017 Celebrate GRACE event (under the heading Instant Replay)
  • Links to past newsletter articles (under the heading Instant Replay)

Don’t forget to keep up with GRACE News and the GRACE Calendar for up-to-date information about all GRACE events.  If you don’t want to wait, Subscribe to GRACE News and learn about events at GRACE as they are posted to the website.

Important Weather Information

GRACE Family, Please know we are actively watching the weather forecast concerning the approaching storm. At this point, we will close both campuses and all on-site GRACE activities at 5:00 pm on Friday January 6th.  After care will remain open according to the regular schedule, but we ask that you pick up your student as early as you can so that our staff can get safely home as well.

Both campuses will remain closed until Monday morning. We will communicate all plans for Monday’s school schedule by 8:00pm on Sunday evening.

This notification will be sent as a phone call and/or text via our Parent Alert system, will be posted on the GRACE website (in GRACE News), on the GRACE Facebook page, on the GRACE twitter account and on WRAL (TV Channel 5).

  • Snow days will be made up if the administration feels that the instructional time has been compromised due to excessive missed days of school.
  • 7th – 12th grade students will be responsible for all pre-assigned work and for online submissions.
  • AP students will communicate with and may meet for online classes with teachers.

Please note that we do not necessarily follow the decisions made by the Wake County Public School System. 

January 3, 2017 #WhatsUpAtGRACE

Happy New Year! We hope that you had a peace-filled and joy-filled Christmas break and are ready for our second semester. Read the January 3, 2017 #WhatsUpAtGRACE newsletter and find:

  • A link to purchase Play4Kay/Hoops for Hope tickets and a reminder that you mush purchase tickets by Friday, January 6th to receive an event t-shirt.
  • A save the date notice for the 2017 Celebrate GRACE event
  • A reminder of this Friday’s Donuts for Dads event
  • Pictures from a special birthday celebration
  • Links to past newsletter articles

Don’t forget to keep up with GRACE News and the GRACE Calendar for up-to-date information about all GRACE events. If you don’t want to wait, Subscribe to GRACE News and learn about events at GRACE as they are posted to the website.

Diversity & Educational Technology

As we begin the second semester, I thought you might be interested in reading about one of the many ways our team seeks to use technology as a tool to teach our students. Quite often, the most important lessons taught in the classroom relate to those life skills that go beyond the lesson at hand: collaboration, respect for others, analytical skills, etc. Please continue reading to see how GRACE’s use of educational technology can help students better appreciate the value of diversity.

This post is written by Laura Warmke, our 7th-12th grade Technology Coach and originally appeared in the 21st Century GRACE blog.

Ok, that title is bit misleading because this is not a blog post about the usual educational technology (edtech) diversity topic: how we need more girls and minorities in computer science (although of course we do). This is a post about how diversity–in race, in gender, in socioeconomic class–is valuable and what edtech can do about it.

I just finished reading this fabulous article: How Diversity Makes Us Smarter. Katherine W. Phillips presents fascinating research showing not only correlation but causation between diverse groups and innovation. One study found that “being with similar others leads us to think we all hold the same information and share the same perspective. This perspective…is what hinders creativity and innovation.” Diversity shakes our assumptions that others think like us, which makes us work harder and more creatively to come up with solutions. That, in turn, leads to more innovation and better problem-solving.

At GRACE, we are moving towards doing more and more open learning (e.g. 20% time, design thinking, project-based learning) where student innovation is a major goal. So how does this research affect us?

There are many non-tech ways to answer that question, but considering that I’m the Technology Coach, I’m going to think about it from an edtech perspective:

  • Random groups: If students are left to themselves to choose their own groups, they most likely will choose people who are like them and minimize diversity. Perhaps teachers should consider doing more projects with truly random groups. It’s hard to be completely random, so using something like an online random group generator could help.
  • Brainstorming: Making groups diverse does no good if certain group members’ ideas are always shot down. This can be fixed by good brainstorming rules, but it can also be helped by edtech tools. Dotstorming allows anonymous group voting on ideas. This way students feel more comfortable voting on the best idea, not just the one presented by the most popular student.
  • Mentors, part I: Educational technology can be wonderful for getting mentors’ diverse perspectives into the classroom. Even if it’s just having sophomores mentored by seniors, that’s increasing diversity (age diversity) in a project and should lead to greater innovation. However, it’s hard to get a senior and a sophomore physically together, so that’s where technology comes in. Perhaps mentors build a Padlet or Google Doc to document their interactions.
  • Mentors, part II: This is a strong argument for collaborating with other classrooms outside GRACE.  The best place I’ve found for finding people who want to collaborate is the Google+ Connected Classrooms group. It’s an all grades, all subjects group where people seek out U.S. or worldwide connections. [Hint: If you join, you can turn off the notifications if you want so you aren’t overwhelmed by then.  It can be a bit much.] Then, of course, you’ll run your collaboration through edtech: emails, Skype/Google Hangouts, Google Drive, Kahoot, Popplet, Twitter, Stormboard, Voicethread.  The important things here is not the edtech tool you use; it’s exposing your students to people who are different than them.
  • Blogs: If you have access to a computer and the internet, you have access to an astonishing number of people who post their opinions online. For free. Sometimes those opinions are derogatory, hateful, or wrong, but other times they are just different or (I’m going there) diverse. One way to get students the benefits of diversity without having to set up a connection with another classroom is to have students read blogs and leave helpful comments on a post. Hopefully, this process of interacting with people who don’t think like them forces students to think more and results in more creativity.
  • Real-world exhibitions and launches: a major part of project-based learning is exhibiting your work, whether that work is a drawing, a presentation, or a digital artifact. If there is some way to do this where students anticipate a diverse audience reacting their product–say, if the artwork is going to be displayed in NC State’s art department–this should prompt students to consider more deeply their product’s design and execution. Bonus points for allowing viewers to leave feedback for students (perhaps via Twitter?) and then having students take those into account on the next iteration of their product.

A final note: actively seeking out diversity in the classroom probably won’t be easy, on you or your students. As Phillips notes, there are positives and negatives to diversity: “people work harder in diverse environments both cognitively and socially. They might not like it, but the hard work can lead to better outcomes.” Be prepared for some push back from students who find it easier to be with others who think like them. But also be prepared for diversity to push students to new ideas they never would have developed before.