Friday, February 10, 2017

New Digital Music Lab at RAMS

This fall, Adams Middle School was able to outfit a brand new state of the art music lab consisting of 15 iMac computers, midi keyboards, microphones, and headsets. Mr. Grina has been bringing groups of excited students to the lab all year and told us a bit more about how students are using the lab.

He explained, "All electronic activities take place through the iMacs (except the occasional extra use of Chromebooks when they need to create documents, for example). For web-based learning activities/games, videos, etc., we use Safari. 

The MIDI keyboards need to go through a software on the computer to work, for which we use GarageBand. We are wrapping up our piano-focus unit where we just worked on keyboard skills, now we are moving on to our first recording project using GarageBand's recording features. Later this year we will also be exploring the use of multi-track recording and combining pre-made and custom loops."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

#HollistonTechPD Day Focuses on Digital Learning

On Friday, January 13, 2017, Holliston Public Schools hosted its Fourth Annual #HollistonTech PD day!  While the title highlights technology, the main focus of the day revolved around advancing students’ digital learning in meaningful ways.

The day began at 8:00 AM at the Robert Adams Auditorium with guest speaker, Kerry Gallagher.  Ms. Gallagher, an award winning digital learning specialist at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts, presented a keynote speech that demonstrated meaningful ways to engage students by first asking a compelling question, and then leveraging technological tools where students can conduct research, collaborate, problem-solve, and communicate their answers to a broader audience.  She provided educators with both inspirational remarks and tangible examples pertinent across developmental levels.

Educators then headed to breakout sessions; educators chose among a multitude of offerings during three breakout sessions held through the rest of the day.  Each breakout session was delivered by a Holliston educator with a specific expertise to share with colleagues across the district.  We even had Holliston High “PIT Crew” students share their knowledge of Chromebooks with faculty!  Some examples of topics included:
  • Students applying coding skills in projects across the content areas.
  • Student and teacher use of Screencastify to record audio/video over text.
  • Providing greater access through Augmentative-Alternative Communication.
  • Student applications of 3D Printing and Makerspaces across the curriculum.
  • Teachers ability to leverage online Professional Development resources across a multitude of topics.
  • Students accessing embedded rubrics when writing within Google Docs.
  • Online formative assessment applications in use in the classroom to broadly gauge student learning in the moment.
  • Student use of tablets in elementary classrooms during learning centers.

It was a great day of professional learning and we look forward to additional opportunities where these new skills will be applied in classrooms through the rest of 2016-2017.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A NASA Scientist Visited Mrs. Doire's Class for the Hour of Code

Last week at RAMS, Mrs. Doire arranged for a presentation by, Kimberly Arcand, a scientist for the Chandra Space Telescope and NASA.  One of Kim's responsibilities is to intercept binary code from the telescope and then create color to give meaning to what we see in space, which was a perfect companion to the international celebration of the Hour of Code.

Kim began by talking with the students about NASA and her professional background.She then gave a brief overview of the spectrum of light so that kids understood the coding activities that followed. The kids then moved from simple coding activities where they change the color of a box, to a complicated a coding activity where they color exploding and newly born stars in the galaxy. 

This visit was so valuable because Kim helped to give the students context for the coding activities that they were doing. In addition, the students were very interested to know that what we see with our own eyes is so limited and it takes a scientist and computer programming to interpret data from a telescope!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


By Brenda Maurao, Assistant Principal at Miller Elementary School

This fall, Miller students and staff had the opportunity to participate in a global program that brings students around the globe together to discuss a common book. During a six week period, from October 3 through November 11,  classroom teachers read aloud to students and engaged in discussions through a variety of online platforms about a common book.  

Teachers selected between two books to read to students during the Global Read Aloud:  Pax by Sara Pennypacker or The BFG by Roald Dahl.

The idea of the Global Read Aloud is for students to make connections with people around the world based on the shared love of reading. During and after reading the book together in class, students  engaged in online discussions with other students using a platform such as Edmodo, Google Hangouts, Twitter or Skype. Pinterest and Facebook were great resources for teachers, too.   Each teacher participated at a pace and format that meshed with regular classroom activities.  

Fifth graders who read Pax ended the Global Read Aloud with a SKYPE presentation and question/answer session (highlighted in the tweet below)!
Screenshot 2016-11-22 at 3.47.29 PM.png

Informal discussions have begun as Miller teachers begin reflecting on this year’s experience with the Global Read Aloud.  We look forward to submitting possible book titles for next year, along with having school-wide discussions to plan the event next year.  Here are the reflections of fifth grade teachers Ashley DeRoy and Sara Peters: Video Interview with Ashley DeRoy and Sara Peters

For more information on The Global Read Aloud, please click on the presentation below!  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Technology Is Helping to Meet the Needs of All Students at RAMS

The one to one Chromebook program at Adams Middle School has enabled students to customize their device to meet their own needs. In some cases, this is directed toward personal preferences, but students also frequently install apps and extensions that allow the Chromebook to more closely match up with their learning needs. Mrs. Ondrasek's students recently explored three of these apps Read & Write for Google, Google Docs voice typing, and Readability.

ExtensionRead & Write for Google is a Chrome text to speech extension that allows a student to quickly have documents and websites read to them using a customizable voice. A premium version of the extension, which is free for teachers, also produces picture and visual dictionaries and highlighting tools.

Image result for google docs voice typingGoogle Docs voice typing is a built-in speech to text capability in Google Docs. Because the school Chromebooks have a built-in microphone, students are able to type using their own voice. This is an excellent choice for students who are struggling with typing or prefer to compose aloud.

Finally, the Readability extension removes all the clutter from web pages, which tends to be an issue in particular when visit news websites such as CNN. The extension also enlarges and brightens text for easier reading.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mme Picard's students explored Massachusetts with Buncee

Mme. Picard’s students recently used an online presentation tool called Buncee to organize and present information about a Massachusetts city or town. Buncee is similar to Powerpoint, but has animation capability so that objects and text can move around each slide. Students chose a person who lives in Massachusetts (but not Holliston) and wrote that person a letter asking them to share a postcard from his/her city or town. The students then used the website - to find information about their town (county, area, population, year of origin, famous people from the town and interesting facts) and record it on a Google Drive chart.

Finally, the students used their information to produce the Buncee presentation. Students chose fitting images and added animation to bring their presentation to life.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Year Ahead -- A Preview!

It’s an exciting start to the 2016-2017 school year! We are off and running with innovative and modern instructional strategies within classrooms as we work towards developing Digital Learners!

Today’s Digital Learners need to be:
  • Empowered learners
  • Digital citizens
  • Knowledge constructors
  • Innovative designers
  • Computational thinkers
  • Creative communicators
  • Global collaborators

Does this sound familiar?  Well, these are the new, 2016 ISTE Standards for Students, released this summer. In Holliston, we have been using the previous standards to guide our work. We are excited about the new focus areas including global education, computational thinking, and design. We are working toward incorporating the 2016 standards in our curriculum, which is connected to one of our 2016-2017 district goals.

This year, Placentino and Miller students are experiencing further technology integration of the Nexus 7 and Google Chromebooks within their classrooms. Teachers are actively incorporating these devices into whole class and small group instruction.

On the tablets, apps such as The Foos, Kids Math Place Value, and Prodigy allow students to experience learning in a personalized way. The environment is very game-like, but one that is designed to help students learn!  The tactile experience for our youngest children is perfect developmentally! Older students are using the Chromebooks and are exploring Google Apps for Education and using the platform for communicating and collaborating, including through research projects. Through classroom use and computer class, students are also developing important skills for digital citizenship; students also experience typing instruction.

At the middle school, students are continuing to experience learning in the 1:1 Chromebook environment. Learning in a digital environment is becoming integral to how they learn -- from where they gather information (online resources and digital texts) to how they convey their learning (through creative projects). Some examples include:

  • Google Classroom for collaboration, formative assessment, and organization of student work
  • Kahoot -- a game show-like platform to gauge student understanding
  • WeVideo -- creation of student videos

1:1 Chromebooks has launched for grades 9 and 10 at Holliston High School.  Early feedback has been very positive. With students on the same platform, teachers can reliably use technology to enhance their lessons and students can use it to demonstrate their understanding. Also this year at the high school, the PIT crew (Panthers Instructional Technology) is in full swing. This student group provides technical support to students and teachers through a technology Help Desk located in the library. Additionally, they provide support to the high school’s Makerspace…drumroll please...

Makerspaces are here! A Makerspace has been installed in the Holliston High School library. This expands upon opportunities students have to engage in “the making movement” at Miller and Adams. Students are exploring elements of design-thinking through the use of tools such as vinyl cutters and 3-D printers. These are exciting opportunities for students to tinker and stretch their creative side to design and create!

Stay tuned to our blog to learn of many more examples of digital learning in Holliston throughout the year.