The following was submitted by Foxboro assistant superintendent Amy Berdos and is part of the Teaching and Learning Highlight Series.
“Bookstache” kicked off Monday night’s Teaching and Learning Highlight at this week’s School Committee meeting. What is Bookstache you may ask? It is one example of how professional development, what teachers learn when not in school or their classroom, impacts their teaching and ultimately comes alive for students. Elementary teachers Mr. Drew Gentile (grade 4 teacher at Taylor Elementary), Ms. Karen Washburn (grade 3 teacher at Burrell Elementary) and library assistant at Burrell Elementary, Ms. Darisa St.Germain were present to share how they have brought what they learned over the summer at the Massachusetts New Literacies Institute from the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center back to Foxborough.
The week long institute originally grew out of collaboration between the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) and the Institute for Research and Innovative Education (IRIE) through the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative (LPVEC). The institute focused on helping Massachusetts educators prepare students for the online literacy skills required in the 21st century and an online bookclub called Bookstache is the result of this experience.
Ms. Washburn explained that the focus of the institute was on developing expertise in teaching online collaborative inquiry, online content construction, and online reading comprehension as they relate to the Massachusetts English Language Arts Literacy Standards. The trio had to create a project which incorporated the 4 C’s for 21st century skills; collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. Their goal was to enhance their grade level curriculum through the use of technology and importantly engage students to be creative, collaborate with their peers, think critically, and communicate their thinking. Ms. Washburn described the institute as some of the best professional development she has ever had and the others agreed.
They clearly met their goal as evidenced Monday night when sharing Bookstache. The educator created website which houses the online book club provides students a place to collaborate through blogging about the books they are reading, create their own book reviews, and even create trailers to recommend and advertise book selections. However, discussions of the books do not end with the students, but even reach to the authors! For example, after students read and discussed Mona Kerby’s book “Owney, the Mail-Pouch Pooch” (a book based on a true story about a dog who rode the rails on a mail train in the 1800s) they Skyped the author to further their discussion and ask questions. Students continue to blog with their buddies in class and across schools about the books they have read and hope more classes will join them. Check out their website at https://sites.google.com/site/foxboroughbookclub/ to learn more about what they are reading!