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CMS teachers take summer school with a tech twist

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    • CMS summer institute: http://cmssummerinstitute.org. Workshops are open to educators who do not work for CMS, and keynote speeches are open to anyone. Registration remains open through June 28.

    • Next Vista for Learning: www.nextvista.org. Free library of educational videos made by teachers and students, with ongoing contests for new submissions. Includes links to other digital resources.


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    From Rushton Hurley

    • “How often do we ask kids questions simply to see if they have the right answer, rather than to see if they have a great answer?”

    • “One of the best ways to measure the effectiveness of a class may be to count the number of times a student goes, ‘Whoa!’ “

    • “We all have the headache kids. Those are the kids who are waiting, waiting for an avenue to show what they can do.”

    • “There are a lot of people who wonder whether their work, their lives, matter. We never do.”



As dozens of teachers watched Google’s “Zeitgeist 2012” video Wednesday morning, they live-chatted about their reactions.

The video, which lasted less than three minutes, flashed images that ranged from Psy and Barack Obama to the London Olympics and Arab spring.

Rushton Hurley, a former teacher who has created a free library of educational videos, asked for a show of hands: Who remembered something they’d forgotten? Who felt an emotional connection? Hands shot up.

“We are talking about the power of images,” said Hurley, executive director of Next Vista for Learning. His message: Digital learning done well unleashes creativity and fosters connections, sometimes between teachers and their “headache kids.”

That’s a theme that permeates the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools summer teacher institute, which started Wednesday and runs through June 28. More than 1,600 teachers from CMS have signed up, more than double last summer’s enrollment. Educators from surrounding counties, private and charter schools are invited to join them.

CMS’ chief technology officer, Valerie Truesdale, moved the summer classes from the traditional high school setting to Central Piedmont Community College’s uptown campus in hopes of drawing bigger crowds. The roster of speakers includes national technology innovators such as Hurley and Travis Allen, a college student who created the nonprofit iSchool Initiative to help teachers become digital learners.

As teachers entered CPCC’s Halton Theater they were peppered with messages about downloading the summer institute app (CMSSI13), tweeting about the sessions and checking the institute’s Facebook page (CMSlearns), featuring real-time photos from the sessions.

Many of the workshops focus on traditional academics, including the move toward national Common Core standards. But even that push is entwined with online learning and testing. Other workshops include instructions on classroom technology, demonstrations of digital textbooks and advice on creating classroom web pages.

Hurley offered practical advice on software, resources and ways to make sure teachers don’t violate copyrights when they use images and music. He also told stories from the classroom, including one about a perpetually angry student who finally warmed up when Hurley brought photos of his cat to demonstrate a program that turns photos into video.

“Why is technology important? Many reasons,” he said. “One of the big reasons is that it allows us to share those pieces of our lives that connect us.”

He showed an illustration of a mechanical lion, created by a student using Blender and Photoshop. The student submitted a 13-page paper about how he created the image – not because it was required, Hurley said, but because he wanted to.

Hurley also showed 90-second videos created by students and teachers to illustrate concepts ranging from cause and effect to quadratic graphs.

And he left them with his mantra: “May you inspire and be inspired daily.”

Helms: 704-358-5033 Twitter: @anndosshelms
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