The 2015 NJEA Conference in Atlantic City featured keynote presentations, professional development sessions, and of course, aisles and aisles of ground-breaking exhibits, the hottest classroom tech, educational field trip destinations and inspirational fundraising ideas that will help teachers and the entire school community. The NJ Teachers Magazine Team walked the hall to identify the latest and greatest innovations in and out of the classroom and presented the Best of the NJEA Expo Special Section in the December issue.
Write Brain Books
Teachers attending the NJEA Expo in November that stopped to check out the groundbreaking, game-changing learning opportunity on display at Write Brain World couldn’t fight back tears of oh boy. The feeling oozing from this World that somebody, finally, gets the disconnect in reading and writing curriculum had NJ Teachers overcome with you-gotta-see-this excitement and bringing colleagues back to the exhibit two, three and four times.
At the center of this World is a Barbara Streisand disciple, complete with the hair, the fast-talking New York vernacular and the star power. This funny girl is Meredith Scott Lynn. You might know her better as Anne Milbauer, the character she has played on the daytime drama “Days of Our Lives” since 2012. Or from a myriad of movie and TV credits that range from “Legally Blonde,” “Forces of Nature ” and “A Night at the Roxbury” to “American Horror Story,’ “CSI,” “Weeds,” “Desperate Housewives” and “How I Met Your Mother.”
Lynn’s latest gig provides an ELA curriculum aligned with core standards that enables students to write and publish their own hardcover children’s books. Write Brain Books comes in classroom and after-school options and is designed to promote writing, handwriting, project-based literacy, flexible thinking, perspective and get students form primary grades through high school to invest in a process they usually find to be a chore.
Teachers’ Insurance Plan of NJ
Teachers looking for a way to fund that Earth Day Garden project or to purchase that reading program or support the creation of an after-school robotics club might want to seek out some Fast Cash.
“The easiest fundraiser ever” can provide up to $1,100 in one week. Or faster. The easiest fundraiser ever is Fast Cash from Plymouth Rock Assurance which offers the Teachers’ Insurance Plan of NJ.
“Fast Cash is a way to empower the teacher who puts a lot of passion behind a specific initiative,” explains Chris West, Product Manager, Marketing and Business and Development for Teachers’ Insurance who helped conceived the program. “We’ve done a lot with principals and superintendents, but this is for something other than raising money for a new playground or a similar substantive, perhaps long-term project. Maybe there’s a smaller project, and really any teacher can just run with it.”
Educators at the NJEA Convention went bananas for Spirit Monkey, a company that embroiders spirit sticks to reward and provide incentives to students for schoolwork and behavior.
“That is the reaction we get everywhere we go,” admitted Spirit Monkey co-founder Luis deBonoPaula.
Lisa deBonoPaula, Luis’ wife, started stitching together spirit sticks as a PTA mom in San Antonio in 2009. The idea took off in 2011, when teachers and school administrators in the area expressed interest in having spirit sticks in their own schools.
Spirit Monkey now distributes to 46 states and five countries.
So, what is causing this monkey business to be such a success?
Teachers in schools across the country are making a push for healthier lifestyles for their students and spirit sticks have become a replacement for candy and junk food as reward and incentives.
What began as a recording service for blind soldiers returning from war and blossomed into the world’s largest library of human-narrated audiobooks is increasingly speaking to a new audience – students.
“Youth services is Learning Ally’s new frontier,” announced Doug Sprei, National Director of Public Relations and Communications for the Princeton-based non-profit founded in 1948 as Recording for the Blind. The organization now serves adults and students with all reading disabilities including dyslexia, blindness and other visual impairments.
Through innovative programs for educators, students and parents, Learning Ally helps youngsters read at grade-level, even if they’ve previously lagged behind.
Though Benjamin Franklin didn’t dream up curbside delivery, the staff of Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute is employing that strategy in bringing STEM lessons directly to elementary and middle school students through Traveling Science shows that seem the perfect illustration of Franklin’s adage, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
“The museum is a special destination and we want every student to make the field trip to the institute, but we’re realists – we know not every school can do that. We know that’s a special treat,” said The Franklin Institute’s Director of Science Content and Learning Technologies Karen Elinich. “That’s why we send out our traveling scientists to inspire future STEM professionals and get them excited about science.”
“What do students know?” and “How can I gather data?”
In an effort to streamline this assessment process, MasteryConnect – a cloud-based software company focused on mastery learning in K-12 education – was born.
The software provides sharing platforms for educational resources and assessments tied to the Common Core as well as tools for teachers to track student performance against those standards.
Trenton Goble, the Chief Learning Officer for MasteryConnect, emphasized that the main focus of the platform is to provide teachers with a clear visual as to where their students are in regard to meeting those standards.
Since its debut a year ago, Lexia Learning’s Reading Core5 program has helped thousands of students nationwide tackle Core Content and PAARC with greater confidence. This year, it assumes a more cosmopolitan air thanks to a focus on English Language Learners (ELL) with the addition of tongues from all corners of the globe.
Native Vietnamese, Arabic, Mandarin, Haitian Creole and Portuguese speakers can now join others in building English proficiencies through expanded picture glossaries, activity guides and thematic flash cards, all artfully woven into Core5’s multilayered educational strategy.
A blended-learning approach, which melds the best of classroom and online tutelage, increases student engagement, oral language development and reading comprehension. It’s like a passport to the faraway.
Liberty Science Center
If you attended the NJEA Conference but didn’t look up, you might have missed a drone circling the rafters of the Atlantic City Convention Center showcasing an element of Liberty Science Center’s new traveling science assembly — The Forces of Flight.
The Forces of Flight will make its official debut after the New Year, but teachers got a sneak peak in November.
The program uses new technology, like the drone, to explain the four forces behind flight: lift, thrust, drag and weight.
“Drones and that type of technology are really coming to a forefront everywhere today,” said Liberty Science Center’s STEM Education Director Steve Roberts. “Flight is always around us. It’s just something that is always around and not very well discussed.”
If you didn’t take NJM Insurance’s driving simulator out for a spin at the NJEA Convention, you missed an opportunity hundreds of New Jersey high school students are experiencing.
The simulators provide hands-on experience with challenging driving conditions intended to allow new drivers – teenagers in particular – to practice their reactions in a controlled environment.
NJM Insurance partnered with The Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey in 2011 after learning about the Champion Schools Program, a peer-to-peer program which challenges teams of high school students statewide to create safe driving campaigns to promote throughout their schools and communities.
NJM Insurance designed the $17,000 simulator to be distributed as the grand prize to schools participating in the program.
“Yearbooks have been around for 100 years and we believe we’re in the middle of a yearbook evolution,” surmised Entourage Yearbooks Co-founder and CEO Elias Jo. “A large change is what yearbooks are and what they mean to schools.”
Part of that evolution is using yearbooks as an educational platform. Not only does a yearbook adviser receive software that includes templates, fonts and clip art but they get a curriculum that acts like a blueprint on how to teach a yearbook or journalism class.