Carrie Watkins: At the Atlas Conference in April, we talked with Jennifer Moore, an instructional designer at the Bolles School, about what it means to be a guide for students and faculty, as well as the energy that education needs right now. With all the advances of the past few years about how we approach classroom education, Jennifer talks about how it's hard not to be excited about the future of education.
Welcome to the MBS Strike Podcast, where we talk with some of our partners who are doing interesting things with content and education. I'm Carrie Watkins, the senior digital consultant with MBS Direct, and today we are talking with Jennifer Moore from the Bolles School. Thank you for joining us, Jennifer.
Jennifer Moore: Oh, thank you for having me.
Carrie Watkins: So Jennifer, what is your role at the Bolles School?
Jennifer Moore: I am an instructional designer, and I work with students K-12 helping teachers and students integrate technology and curriculum together.
Carrie Watkins: So what does that mean, integrate technology?
Jennifer Moore: Well we take the tools that are available today, and try to figure out a way that we can integrate them using the curriculum that our teachers are doing. Trying to make education more exciting, more interactive, more diverse for our students, and allowing our teachers to, kind of experiment and reach out.
Carrie Watkins: Can you provide, maybe an example of something that has made the curriculum a little bit more fun, a little bit more engaging?
Jennifer Moore: Well right now we're busy trying to implement a new LMS, and get our LMS up and running. It just allows teachers to reach the students in a one on one environment, but also real time environment, so their lessons, their resources, are all there for them 24 hours, 365 days a year. The kids can reach out and talk to the teacher, or back and forth.
Carrie Watkins: So you provide a lot more collaboration, not only between the student and the content, but the student and the instructor as well?
Jennifer Moore: It does. It does provide a lot more collaboration. It also allows the students to monitor their progress, to be able to know where things are. It allows parents to have a look inside the portal. It also allows parents and students to share fun moments that go along in school. Resources that otherwise the students would be losing or misplacing. It's just a good way to help students organize, but also be innovative at the same time.
Carrie Watkins: Right. You guys had an LMS before, so you're transitioning to something new. What are some of the things that you were looking for in a new LMS?
Jennifer Moore: Something that provided digital content. It was an easy place to warehouse all of our digital content. It was a good place for students to be able to communicate back and forth through discussion boards, and online environments. A good place to store resources, a good place ... it does do a lot of our grading for our teachers, so it's a very good resource for our teachers to be able to have their material, but also helps their jobs a little bit. A place where students can respond to what's going on in our school environment. We have pages that just are about what's going on in the school itself. So it gives the students a really good snapshot into their day, and into their life at this school.
Carrie Watkins: Mm-hmm, great. How long have you been in the education industry?
Jennifer Moore: I have been working in some kind of education field probably for almost 25, 30 years.
Carrie Watkins: How has your role or your take on education maybe transitioned a little bit?
Jennifer Moore: Well I started out as a teacher. For very many years I taught in lower school elementary. I have watched education change over the years. The elementary schools much different than it used to be. I mean my first grade level was kindergarten, and we were coloring and painting. They're not coloring and painting anymore in kindergarten, they're learning to read. The expectations for school, and the expectations for the quality of work, and what is expected of students has changed dramatically ever since I started. I transitioned out of teaching into a teacher coach, to help teachers be able to meet all these needs, and all these expectations. Now I help design curriculum, and help manage ... but I also train the teachers to be coaches. Which is something we didn't have access to many many years ago when I started.
Carrie Watkins: So how did you get tapped to become a coach from a teacher?
Jennifer Moore: It was just sheer chance, luck. I have always been somebody that doesn't like to do the same thing over and over again, I get bored very easily, so I'm not one of these people that have, as I call "the filing cabinet." I can't stand to have my June plans and my August plans and everything over and over again, I change every year. So when technology became readily available in the classroom, it allowed my to change what I'm doing and I became good at it. I liked it, and I'd experimented, I'm willing to try and I'm willing to fail, which is one of the big things that's hard for most people. I don't mind messing up. So I messed up a lot and I just found a way, and then people said, "Well, you don't mind messing up, so come train the teachers to mess up." So that's how I got into it.
Carrie Watkins: What brought you to education in general?
Jennifer Moore: It's really about meeting the needs of the student. Making a difference. I didn't like school that much as a student. I was bored, and I got A's and B's with not doing anything. There's nothing worse than sitting in a classroom when you're not being challenged and I just realized that we're not challenging our students the way they should be and I wanted to make a difference and do something about that.
Carrie Watkins: Maybe reach some of those students who you saw a little bit of yourself in.
Jennifer Moore: Exactly. I remember reading, I spent--I'm an avid reader, I spent more time reading under the desk than above the desk, and I work with a lot of students now who do the same thing. So if the content's not challenging you enough to read above the desk, then we need to do something about that.
Carrie Watkins: We talked a little bit about what's kept you in education, being about to make a difference and reach those students. Obviously the technology side is where you are now, so how has that affected you and your desire to stay in education?
Jennifer Moore: I have worked with a lot of underprivileged children over the years, and I can vividly remember one student who would not write. He was not a writer. And I put a piece of technology into his hands and I went from a child who would write two sentences to a child who would write books. To see the difference I can make in a child like that, and give them a voice, has always been a huge impact for me. But giving children a voice and allowing them to learn and allowing them to have a choice in what they're learning is very important to me, and technology helps me do that, so that's why I've kept staying with it.
Carrie Watkins: Mm-hmm. They talk a lot about technology not being just ... or technology's a tool. And it sounds like that's what you-
Jennifer Moore: It's definitely a tool. You cannot use it if you don't treat it as just a tool. You have to know what you're doing and have objectives and know what you're trying to teach. What you want the students to learn, you have to know how you want them to learn it, with technology, it can ... it can make it stranger, it can engage the student, it's something you have to ... it allows you to get your goal across.
Carrie Watkins: Mm-hmm. So you've seen technology impact education, you've seen education change. What do you think education needs right now?
Jennifer Moore: It needs some energy. It does need a change. It can't be status quo anymore, or grade driven, or standards driven. And there's a time and a purpose for all that, I think assessment's great when used appropriately. But we need to put energy back into our education system. We need to have students who want to come and learn, not because they have to learn what's in the textbook, but because they want to learn about what's going on in the world. It needs to be global. We really need to give some oomph to our education system.
Carrie Watkins: Mm-hmm. So how do you think that needs to happen?
Jennifer Moore: Energy. We really need to put some energy into our education. Our education system's a little, I think, stale. It's standards based, it's grade based, it needs to change. We need to make it learning based. Make it project driven. We need to make it student driven. We need to give our teachers power to teach. Most people who really want to teach are perfectly capable of doing so much more than we give them credit for. We need to give them the freedom to do that. And teach them them the skills they're gonna need for the 21st century, or the future. And I know that's like a buzz word right now, but what I mean is we need to re-look where our education system is going.
Carrie Watkins: What are some of those skills that you think teachers really need in order to be successful for their students?
Jennifer Moore: They need to learn that it's okay to change, they need to learn how to differentiate the education for their students and for themselves, they need to ... I think the biggest thing is to not be afraid. They need to have ... we need to empower them to be able to take chances, to be risk takers, to pass it on to the kids and let the students be risk takers too. In the real world you have to go out and you have to be on your own, you have to do a job, and you have to be a risk taker when you're doing it. And we need to have teachers be able to teach our students to do that from K up.
Carrie Watkins: You mentioned differentiation, and I know that's kind of a buzz word right now, but I do think it's important as well. What do you think differentiation really should be?
Jennifer Moore: I think you meet the need of each child individually. Now, that's not to say that students don't need to learn to work as a group and cooperate, because that's something that's really big in the real world. They do need to learn to cooperate and they do need to work well together. But that being said, you need to as a teacher be aware that one student learns differently than the other. One group might work differently together as the other, and you need to meet that need and know how to facilitate that.
Carrie Watkins: Do you have any examples, of maybe how that's happening at Bolles right now?
Jennifer Moore: Even going back to our LMS or some of the e-books we use, some students work better with a book in a hand. Some students work better with an e-book. Some students work better writing it all down or listening to it through audio. You have to be aware of what that's doing and we're allowing our teachers to make those decisions, we're allowing them to pick platforms so that each child can have what they need.
Carrie Watkins: So Bolles' is a one to one school.
Jennifer Moore: We are one to one K-5, 6 to 12 we are going to go BYOD, so each child brings their own device. So we've put the computers in the hands of the students we manage it for the lower school, just to take that stress off of them, but the older students are bringing their own devices and managing it themselves.
Carrie Watkins: So why did you decide to go BYODs?
Jennifer Moore: It was a hard choice, it's much easier I think to be one to one, but we decided to go BYOD to empower the students, to give them choice. To allow them to learn to manage their own system, and to learn to manage what they need to be successful.
Carrie Watkins: So we've talked about a number of things happening in education. In your opinion, what do you think is the most interesting in education right now?
Jennifer Moore: There's so much going on. It's hard for me, to pinpoint one thing, I've been in both public and private situations. I hate to use the word innovative because it is a buzz word, and I don't ... but I would think just the fact we have so much change going on and there's so much awareness of how students learn and so many tools being developed, it's such a rapid pace that it's exciting to me that so many students will have so many opportunities as they get older, and coming up. The next five years are going to just be, awesome.
Carrie Watkins: Why do you think that?
Jennifer Moore: I just think when I started teaching so many years ago, we didn't have anything. And the changes that have been made in the short amount of time that I've been working with students and especially just in the last five years, I can think of when I began we were doing reel to reel cassette tapes. What's changed in the last three years with social media, and communication, and a student's ability to take all their notes digitally and to read an e-book, I just ... it's amazing to me what's gonna change, what the next five years will bring. I mean can you imagine if a student could take their whole school online, I mean they can now, but just imagine the possibilities in the next five years.
Carrie Watkins: And I think the interesting thing happening around adaptive features where their experiences with content, their experience with the actual material is adjusted to their preferences. And I think good teachers do that anyway, but I think technology really opens up the door a little bit.
Jennifer Moore: And I think we're more aware of it because of that, and I think it's made it so much more prevalent in order to be a good teacher you need to continue to do it. In the past you could get away with not doing it, but because it's so out in the open now and there's so much available, you have to do it in order to stay ... the kids need.
Carrie Watkins: So what is a tool or a project, maybe, that one of your faculty are doing that you think really encapsulates or excites the students?
Jennifer Moore: I have a wonderful science teacher who I work with constantly, and we just finished a project up, same old little butterflies. You know, you glow the butterflies and they hatch, and whatever and you let them go. We are making butterflies that actually move by using batteries and circuits, and these are little guys. These are little third and fourth graders who are actually engineering. We're doing children's engineering, who are actually engineering their butterflies and trying to figure out how the wings work, and how they fly, and the same teacher's using robotics and she's making her students plan a trip to the solar system. Their little robots are actually going through the solar system and searching things out, so here you've taken two easy concepts that have been taught since the day I started teaching Kindergarten but they're interactive and they're fun, and the students are really learning the concepts and really really ... and they're building. And they're using engineering skills which talks about creative engineering skills that allows them to pre-plan, and to finish up and have a finished product.
Carrie Watkins: We've talked about before, those computer science skills, when you're coupled with actual subject knowledge, you're not just learning robotics, you're learning problem solving. You're learning creative thinking, and that's applicable across all other subjects.
Jennifer Moore: Oh definitely. And we've started to work a little bit with the design thinking, and I think that's going to be a powerful tool as it keeps going forward.
Carrie Watkins: Are you guys doing much with design thinking right now?
Jennifer Moore: We're just working on it. Just started it, and some of my teachers are investigating with the design thinking theory. It makes sense. It makes a lot of sense, and how to teach students and how to teach them that process, I think it's a wave of the future. Children's engineering, design thinking. Like you said, it could all be buzz words, but it's still the same thing, you're teaching students how to think, you're teaching them how to problem solve. You're teaching them to ask questions, which to me is the most important thing, is to question and then to solve that question yourself. I don't need to give you the answer. You need to figure it out on your own. I'm just there to guide, I'm a guide. And that's what teachers need to be, I think, is a guide. You're there to guide, and you need to let them work it out on their own.
Carrie Watkins: Absolutely. Well I appreciate your time. How can people learn more about what you do, and about the Bolles School?
Jennifer Moore: We have a website, it's Bolles.org, they can always visit our website to find out about the Bolles School. And if somebody wants to contact, I'd be more than happy to have them contact me, through my email. It's firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd be more than interested or happy to talk to anybody that has any information.
Carrie Watkins: Great. Thank you so much, Jennifer.
Jennifer Moore: Thank you so much.
Carrie Watkins: Hey guys, thanks for listening. For more information on any of the topics discussed in this podcast, or any other questions you have about digital content options, contact your account manager, or, you can reach out to me, Carrie Watkins, Senior Digital Consultant, on Twitter @carriejwatkins.
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For more information on any of the topics discussed in this podcast or any other questions you have about digital content options, contact your account manager or you can reach out to me, Carrie Watkins, senior digital consultant, on Twitter @CarrieJWatkins.