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Stay informed of the latest company news, product releases, and musings on education policy and technology by subscribing to the MyloWrites blog.

 

MUST READ– The New York Times: “How Google Took Over the Classroom”

Nicole Abesamis

We wanted to share this timely article with you:

Natasha Singer, technology reporter covering digital learning at the New York Times in her article “How Google Took Over the Classroom” investigates how internet goliath Google transformed public schools across the country with their low cost technology, in only 5 years.

From Chromebooks dominating a previously Microsoft and Apple saturated market to the question of student’s security, Singer paints a detailed image of how edtech is quickly taking center stage in schools.

You can read the article here.


Quotes that stood out to us:

We help to amplify the stories and voices of educators who have lessons learned,” he said, “because it can be challenging for educators to find ways to share with each other.”
- Bram Bout on how Google in the classroom helps develop community and collaborate
‘Education is the great equalizer, and technology breaks down barriers between rich and poor students.’
- Jaime Casap on how technology creates equality in the classroom

Here at MyloWrites, we’ve been witness to the rapid evolution of the classroom as educators, students and parents.

With growing adoption of edtech in schools, the success stories shared in this article remind our team that we are building in the right direction, working amongst the digital revolution invested in giving every student an opportunity for success.


Keep posted in the coming weeks for new updates on how we’re improving MyloWrites to make writing even more simple and effective.

Read more about MyloWrites here, and sign up to get a free 14 day trial of the writing app.

 

 

Equity in Education: Interview with Special Education Teacher Aleah Tarnoviski

Aleah Tarnoviski

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We sat down with MyloWrites’ friend Aleah Tarnoviski, Elementary Special Education teacher at Success Academy Bronx 2 in the Bronx NYC, to chat and learn more about her experiences in the classroom. Click on the soundbites below to listen to Aleah’s passion for her students and what challenges she’s faced as an educator. All audio is transcribed for your convenience!


Aleah, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you currently teach, and what grade?

Audio transcribed:
“Right now, I am a first grade teacher at Success Academy Bronx 2. It is a public charter school in the Bronx. I am in a first grade special education classroom, as well as support in a third grade classroom.”

Can you talk to us a little bit about your journey to becoming a teacher?

I always wanted to be a teacher. I used to teach my stuffed animals. I’d line them up and play school with them using my Sesame Street chalkboard. I always wanted to be a teacher. I grew up idolizing my elementary school teachers, and always wanting that for myself."

“In college, I learned a lot about education reform and the work that a lot of New York City charter schools were doing to reach underserved kids that don’t have access to great schools. That’s how I really got involved with Success Academy.

I view teaching as a form of social justice, and that is what keeps me in it-- it’s my kids and the equality that they deserve as children in America. That’s what I feel really passionate about, and that’s what turned the page for me in college to become a charter school teacher.”


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Can you talk to us about your first teaching job? What was it like?

“I was a first grade substitute [teacher] in Boston. It was after I student taught, and I learned a lot. The teacher went on maternity leave and I had taught with her all year. She left me for the last month of school, and the staff at the school were kind of like, ‘you can do it for the last month.’

“It was really special because I realized, in that brief time, that my relationship with my students was my favorite part of what I did. I had such a special bond with them and what stuck with me is that I loved my kids. I loved watching them become who they were supposed to be in my classroom. That is something that I carried into my first job.

“The first real classroom I had to set up was in New York City when I started working at Bronx 2. I started in a 3rd grade classroom, and it was the same story then, my relationship with my kids is the most special thing for me-- it still is today.

Your students come from a variety backgrounds, yet you have a pretty unique emotional connection to your students. How did that develop and how does that impact the way you teach your students?

I have a deep belief that each kid has a purpose, and I get to play a role in seeing them become who they are meant to be while they’re in my classroom. It’s is so special because it overrides the skills that I need to teach them, and becomes ‘a wholistic thing.’ Them being a part of my life and me being a part of their lives is transformative in them becoming the people that they need to be. If I’m not giving them all the opportunities they deserve, as  5 year olds or as 8 year olds, they’re actually missing out on things that can make them better. I think I have always had that perspective with my kids, and it’s the thing that gets me up at 5 in the morning, and gets me through our long days.

“It’s made more special because my classroom is filled with so many diverse backgrounds. My kids are different from me, so I have to go the extra mile, so often, to get to know them. I don’t live in their community, so I have to really be intentional about my relationships with their families, and their siblings, and knowing them in a way that has gone beyond my classroom. I have been a part of my school for years so, that has allowed me to make relationships with families, even with kids I’m not teaching. As a result, when they come to my classroom I know them a little bit. Also, It’s nice that even though my kids are all from different backgrounds they have our school in common. It’s like everything evens out, and we’re all learning together.

“I try to value who they are as much as possible, and make it a part of their story. I make it clear that everyone is bringing something different to the table, and our classroom. We’re one big blended family with tons of different backgrounds. I have kids from Jamaica. I have kids from Mali. I have kids from Nigeria. I have kids whose families have been in the Bronx for years, and years. I try to tell them that it’s special what we have here-- it’s special where you come from. I try to get them to value that, and that has allowed us to grow together as a class.



What have you learned from other teachers?

“I can definitely think of my fourth grade teacher. I don’t know why I was obsessed with her, but I can still remember the way that she taught us long division. I think I was just obsessed with her because I specifically remember her letting us into her life. She told us stories of when she was in college, and how she met her husband, and why she wanted to be a teacher. I think she stuck in my head because she was a teacher who was real with us. I saw the real her, whereas with other teachers I noticed that they were nice to us, they would do nice things for us, but I didn’t really know them.

“I just want my kids to know the real me, and I think that’s something that I bring to my classroom. My students think, ‘I know Ms. T, I listen to Ms.T, I respect Ms. T, Ms.T doesn’t play around with this, or Ms. T loves this.’ I let them into my life a lot … probably more than some other teachers would. I think it’s really important, because I know everything about them, so I want them to know about me, too. I try to bring my family into my classroom. I try to bring my friends into my classroom. I’m in their world, so I want them to be a part of mine. I think the more that they see me and their families see me as a real person it makes what we are doing in the classroom more meaningful. It’s not just a teacher student relationship, it is a real community within the classroom. When I think back to my fourth grade classroom, I immediately think about real community. That’s what I strive to build and achieve in my classroom each day.”

What is the future of the classroom, specifically considering technology and innovation?

“I was around when technology got introduced into schools. I’ve seen it done well in classrooms, and I’ve seen it done terribly in classrooms. I think our school is in the learning stages. All of our learning happens outside of technology, but we use technology to enrich our library of resources. It’s important for teachers to teach and show kids how to use technology for learning, and not just for entertainment. I am excited to learn more about how to use technology to enrich the lives of my special needs kids, and to give them opportunities to do things that they wouldn’t be able to do in a regular classroom. I think that is what excites me most about the future of technology, and the future of tech in education.”

Are there any specific resources, blogs, or outlets that you like to check out?

I live on Pinterest! I have been linked to so many amazing teacher blogs. I’m really big on learning from authentic teacher experiences, so I use Pinterest as a way to see what other teachers are doing. There are definitely amazing kid resources online, as well. One of my favorites is Epic Books. It’s free for teachers, and it gives kids access to thousands of books online, and we use it all the time when we do research projects. When my students use Epic Books they can access and read the books they need immediately on iPads or Chromebooks. There is also a listening option, which is useful for my English Language learners. It’s just a really awesome resource for everyday learning, and specifically for nonfiction books.”

What challenges have you overcome in teaching?

“One of the biggest challenges for me has been involving families in what happens in the classroom. I think it’s really easy for me to say, ‘well this is what happens in my classroom from 8-4PM, and this is what I control.’ But I really had to learn that it has to be a team effort in order for a kid to be successful. Their parents know them best and their parents fight for them in a different way than I might fight for them, and we have to work together in order for them be successful. My students have to know that I will hold them to the same expectation as their parents and vice versa. I love when I hear my students say things like, ‘Ms.T won’t let me get away with work that isn’t my best, and I know my mom won’t accept it either.’ I love when they know we are on the same team."

“I’ve also had to learn what it means to hold kids accountable for what they have been taught, and that it’s not mean to do that. I think, especially in special education, we do a disservice to kids because we make things easier than it should be, we think that they can’t accomplish the task at hand. It’s not about them not being able to do it-- it’s about them needing to do it in a different way and taking a different path there."

“I’ve had to learn a lot as a special education teacher. Some of my students need individualized support. For example, writing personal narratives. What does it look like for this student to write his/her personal narrative? How are they going to get there? What support do I need to provide to them, so that they can do it in the most independent way possible making them feel empowered in the process? It’s a giant learning process, and I’m still on the journey, but I feel like I’ve come a long way.”

Read more about MyloWrites here, and sign up to get a free 14 day trial of the writing app.

Traditional School Expectations vs. Theory of Multiple Intelligences: A Student’s Perspective

Stacy Rosenblum

In my work as a learning specialist, I meet many students who are described as “non-traditional” learners, or learning disabled (LD). These are kids whose IQ tests show them demonstrating strengths in areas of intelligence that are not reflected in school performance. In 1983, Howard Gardner, the renowned author and professor at Harvard University, bestowed a wonderful gift upon non-traditional learners when he introduced his Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Gardner confirmed what many students with LDs and their families knew all along: many students have strengths in cognitive areas that are not valued in traditional school settings, but are valued highly in adult life.  Gardner describes seven distinct “intelligences”: logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Of these, only two—linguistic and logical-mathematical—make up the majority of assessment of academic performance in a typical, traditional school setting.  So what are those brilliant spatial-thinking, musically apt, interpersonally-gifted students to do?  How can they demonstrate their strength in schools and classrooms that value only a narrow definition of “intelligence”?
 

In order to explore this question further, I sought out one of the most bright, “non-traditionally gifted” kids I know: 16-year-old Mylo. Mylo is the creator of MyloWrites, a supportive writing technology which helps students learn and master the writing process. Mylo is an incredible kid.  He is an accomplished filmmaker, sculptor, soccer and track star, parkour instructor, technology whiz, popular friend, and excellent math student. Yet, Mylo has struggled mightily since kindergarten with dyslexia and dysgraphia. I knew Mylo would be the perfect student to explore the question of diverse intelligences and school expectations, given his profile of intelligences. I interviewed Mylo in early February this year, midway through his junior year in high school.

Using Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences as a model, how would you describe your areas of strength?

For me, it’s definitely visual-spatial and bodily kinesthetic. I like to build things, use film, and I love sports. I tend to think in pictures and form, instead of using words to describe my ideas. If I can draw or construct something then I can explain it much more clearly than if I can only use words.

So you are a junior in high school.  By now you’ve had many teachers in many subject areas.  What do you think the “intelligences” are that are most highly valued in school?

Linguistic, for sure. We are always being asked to read, and respond in writing or during class discussion.  That’s all linguistic. Also, I think interpersonal intelligence is important in being able to work in groups and interact with teachers. I also think musical intelligence is valued, or at least it is at my school.

Again, considering Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, what do you think are your weaknesses?

I think my main weakness is linguistic. I’m dyslexic, so reading has always been hard for me.  I use audiobooks or readers for most of the school reading that I have to do. Writing has been really difficult for me too, and is definitely not my favorite thing to do. Because my linguistic area is weaker, I also think that another one of my weaker areas is interpersonal because I’m not that outgoing. I’d rather play sports, do parkour, or watch a movie with my friends, instead of having a long conversation.

Have you ever felt like your strengths are a mismatch for what is valued in school?

Yes! Especially linguistic, they [the teachers] think I can think in words, but I am dyslexic, so I’m more likely to imagine my ideas in pictures or diagrams. When I read, or listen to books, the setting and character descriptions are really important to me because in my head, I’m making a movie. If I can’t picture the setting in my head, it’s really hard for me to understand what is going on in a book.  Also, when I have to write an essay, it’s hard for me to translate the pictures in my head into written words. I often think, “I know what I want to say, but I don’t know how to say it.” My teachers always say that I need to participate more in class discussions so they can get a better idea of what I understand, but that also involves words and a linguistic intelligence strength.

How do you cope with the mismatch between your strengths and the ways in which you are expected to demonstrate your understanding?  What advice would you give other kids who share this experience?

I would suggest trying to find a middle ground with your teachers. Make an appointment to speak with them and try to express your concerns and explain your weaknesses, as well as your strengths. Make a plan with your teachers to use strengths in order to do better in class. For example, recently in my History class, I was supposed to make a timeline on a piece of paper.  I proposed to teacher that I show the timeline in more visual way that integrated technology. I created bullet points of the important events, and I used stop motion animation to show visually the same information that my classmates had described in writing.

How do you best show your teachers that you understand the material?  What’s your favorite “medium?”

Film!  I merge my knowledge with film to show the same understanding as other students do in writing. First, I identify key points, themes, and ideas. Then I create pictures that came into my mind during my reading and class discussions about the book or topic we are studying.

What is an assignment on which you really surprised a teacher with the depth and quality of your response?

My Industrial Revolution project in 10th grade. I used stop motion Lego animation, created a set of a factory, and animated a typical day in the life of a factory worker who made car wheels. I was able to show living conditions, work conditions, the relationship between the employee and the boss, and the oppression of factory workers in U.K. and U.S. during the Industrial Revolution. My teacher was shocked at what I was able to express using Legos and stop motion animation. It took me such a long time, but I didn’t mind because it was the type of project work that I love doing. My teacher liked it so much, that he ended up using my film as part of his curriculum this year.  He showed it to the whole grade.

Another project that I used film for was a response to The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. The assignment was to identify motifs in the book and explain their significance to the characters and the story. I built the visual scene out of Legos, animated the character interaction and showed the motifs using color, camera angles, and special effects. My English teacher thought it was great and my final grade in the class went up!

What is a project that you feel most proud of?

I’m most proud of MyloWrites, my writing app.  In 7th grade, my English teacher assigned an independent project.  We could do anything we wanted, as long as it related in some way to English.  I had such a hard time writing essays, and had been learning writing strategies to help. So I taught myself a coding program called X-Code and I created an app that taught other kids the strategies that had helped me. My teacher didn’t understand the technology that I used to make the app, but he loved what it did.  Then my parents got really excited about the idea and hired a prototyper and developer to make it available online. It’s called MyloWrites, and it’s being used in schools and by kids all over the world.

Why is it important for teachers to recognize multiple intelligences and allow students to demonstrate knowledge in a range of ways?

If teachers knew more about multiple intelligences, it would give everyone a fair chance to show what they know in a comfortable space. Only a portion of people are able to show their knowledge in a traditional way.  If you allow for everyone to choose how they demonstrate understanding, then you give more kids a chance to succeed.

I’m sure that we all know a student like Mylo, as teachers or parents. While Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences reminds us that student learners are unique and diverse in their learning profiles, catering to a diverse class of students can be a huge challenge for teachers. Mylo’s strategy of establishing an open dialogue with his teachers about the ways in which he is best able to demonstrate his knowledge is a great start. His approach is a huge step forward for students and parents who are experiencing a mismatch between the expectations of the school curriculum and the non-traditional strengths of the student. The real world of adulthood celebrates a wide variety of strengths and successes across all of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, which manifests in our respect for the great orators, actors, sculptors, athletes, scientists, mathematicians, and musicians of each generation. It’s our job as teachers and parents to attend to these future greats during their school years, making sure that their unique gifts are fostered through opportunities to demonstrate their strengths.

Read more about Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences here.

Read more about MyloWrites here, and sign up to get a free 14 day trial of the writing app.