Excitement, enthusiasm and equipment are being effectively combined at Morse School. Second grade students are now “Podcasting,” a concept unfamiliar to many adults.
Podcasting is a term coined in 2004 when people began downloading audio or video content from the Internet and listening on devices such as iPods or personal computers. Podcasting is essentially about creating content for an audience that “wants to listen when they want, where they want, and how they want,” according to Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia.
What does this have to do with Morse School?
District Director of Technology John Krouskoff recognizes that keeping students engaged is always a challenge. Aware that students seemingly inhale new technology and rapidly master new ways of communicating, Krouskoff reasoned, why not try to incorporate new technologies into the academic setting as a means of capturing students’ attention. Krouskoff charged staff members to think of ways to bring new technology effectively into the classroom. John Calvert, a technology teacher at Morse School, and Christine McCabe, a second grade teacher, decided to meet the challenge.
They devised a writing project that fit into the language arts curriculum. Students would continue their classroom writing efforts, then record what they wrote into an iPod. Calvert created a website where students’ audio recordings would reside. Meanwhile, back in the classroom, students were busy creating mastheads and competing to name the new site, now entitled Students in the Write: Ms. McCabe’s Magical Menagerie on Magical Mountain. (Ms. McCabe’s classroom is on the third floor, a long haul for small 8 year olds, for whom climbing the stairs is sometimes affectionately likened to climbing a mountain.)
According to both teachers, the project has inspired children to write, to be more conscientious about their efforts, and to write more frequently. They are eager to have their work published on the Internet, where they — and their parents — can listen to them read what they have created. Parents and others can easily go on to the district’s website at www.tufsd.org, follow the prompts for Morse School, and see what students have been doing. Since students must read and record their efforts, the pilot project also encourages students to read more fluently and clearly, another language arts curriculum objective. “More students are developing a positive attitude about their academic progress as a result of this project,” said Ms. McCabe.
The students have been eager to expand the site, which includes a featured writer section, poems, picture books Calvert helped students create using StoryWeaver software, and a section entitled, “A Great Day in Ms. McCabe’s class.” In addition, there is information about the pilot project, the masthead development, and naming contest. There are also sections for parents and educators, and a place for community input and responses.
The project has already garnered attention for educators around the country. Officials in Palo Alto, California have contacted Morse School for guidance in creating their own Podcasting projects.
Other Morse news:
A team of students representing Morse School recently won highest honors in the WordMaster Challenge — a national language arts competition entered by over 225,000 students annually, consisting of three separate meets held at intervals during the school year. Under the direction of Judith Hyman, Morse students tied for first place in the first meet, which was entered by 199 schools.
Morse School was recently awarded a matching grant from the Westchester Arts Council’s Arts Partners Challenge Grants program for a month-long dance residency conducted by the Tappan Zee Dance Group. A dance educator works with students during their physical education classes on different aspects of dance. The residency addresses moving rhythmically, fostering creativity and motor skill development and providing new ways to have fun while engaging in physical activity. The residency is part of the district’s elementary arts plan, funded in part by the district, EPTA and The Foundation for the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns.
On February 1, parents, students, teachers and administrators gathered for the 18th annual Cultural Celebration Dinner. Each family brings food from their, or another, country. Participants get to try foods from around the world while socializing. This event celebrates the district’s diversity of cultures and provides the opportunity for parents, children and teachers to meet and mingle in a school setting.
Alison Paul works as a grant writer for the Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns