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"Students had a hands-on opportunity to learn that there is more than one way to solve a problem and that they will need stamina and critical thinking to see it through." 

Amoreena Tellaeche
4th - 6th Grade
Virgil Elementary School 
Cortland Enlarged City School District

Congratulations to our December 2015 Featured Teacher Amoreena Tellaeche. Amoreena is a National Board Certified teacher in her 21st year of teaching. She taught Dual Immersion Spanish classes for 11 years in San Diego, California, and has been teaching in Cortland for 10 years. She works with grades 4 through 6 at Virgil Elementary School, where she "loops" with math instruction for three years. She and the students benefit from working closely together because she really gets to know their strengths and areas of growth as well as build relationships with the students and their parents. 

What are some of the innovative ways that Amoreena integrates technology into her curriculum?
Instead of reviewing math concepts with her students for the first weeks of school, Amoreena began the year by collaborating with the CNYRIC's Technology Integration Specialist Jason Clark  to launch a robotics pilot using a variety of hand-held robots and coding applications. The CNYRIC's Critical Thinking Through Coding service provides classrooms with four different robot platforms, iPads, and supporting curriculum that introduces students to the critical thinking skills needed for computer programming. By using a variety of hands-on activities and computer simulations, students experience immediate results. The children were split into four groups and over the course of a month they completed a series of challenges to program each of the robotics platforms. Amoreena used an hour of math time for students to solve increasingly challenging problems through trial and error using the robots. For example, they created a program to move Sphero and record its time and distance. After gathering their data, they created a video with the iPad explaining the results of changing time vs. speed and how it affects the distance it travels. Another activity was using Kibo to observe how to create repeat loops and the importance If/Then blocks to make writing code easier. Once the problem was solved and the skill was mastered, the children were given time to work with Scratch, Lightbot or other similar iPad apps to continue to support problem solving. 

How have students benefited from Amoreena's technology integration initiatives?
Starting the year with coding and problem solving complemented Amoreena's first six weeks of Responsive Classroom.  After the activities, Amoreena and her students reflected about "mindset" and what skills and attitudes are essential to problem solve. After their discussions, more students noticed their increased stamina working through mistakes and their rising comfort level with taking risks. It opened up the discussion about making mistakes as a path to learning and they were more receptive to feedback from both adults and peers. One student commented, "You’re going to fail but just keep trying and when you get it, you will appreciate your mistakes.” At the end of the unit, a student wrote about her experience and shared, “I learned that you have to try a couple of times until you get it right. Now I don’t care if I fail. The next person who tries this should be happy that failure is good to learn from.” Amoreena has seen this attitude and mindset carry over to math and daily problem solving. Students had a hands-on opportunity to learn that there is more than one way to solve a problem and that they will need stamina and critical thinking to see it through. There is no longer the expectation to get to the answer fast. Another student shared with us, “If you know what you are doing, you are not learning.” As a result of their interest, Ms. Charles, the school librarian, partnered with Amoreena to start a Coding Club that meets weekly. They are pleased with the great balance of boys and girls that are interested and  hope to invite guest speakers to offer ideas about possible future careers in Math and Computer Science.  They meet with the students to work with various coding sites and are preparing grants to buy more robots that can be used with the intermediate grades. 

Is This You?
Are you the type of teacher who thinks about technology integration and new ways to enhance instruction, engage students, and make learning fun?  Know someone who fits the profile?  Recommend a "Featured Teacher" so we can recognize and celebrate great work in the area of instructional technology!

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