Using Technology to Teach Components of Plot

My life has a superb cast but I can’t figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

The sixth grade English teacher here combined plasticine, digital cameras, QuickTime Pro and the five phases of plot to create a dynamic and interesting lesson that few of her students will ever forget.

Ms. Culligan a new teacher here at CMS approached me a little with some steps to a project that she wanted to try.  She obviously wasn’t entirely comfortable with the process or technology involved and i love it when teachers do this to themselves.  We ran with the project got some help from Bill Farren a middle school technology facilitator … y voila!

Here are some goals and reflections from the teacher on the project:

  1. That students would create a story map, applying the five phases of plot that we had discussed in class  (Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falliing Action, and Resolution), and would then tell that story by building a 3D clay model and photographing a sequence for a claymation movie.
    They accomplished this goal in the sense that their written plans for the stories showed all the steps of plot; but in the actual movies those steps are really hard to distinguish.
  2. That after the project, at least 90% of the kids would get an A on a quiz where they had to identify and explain the steps of plot.
    They accomplished this, so I think the project was effective that way.
  3. That they would work together, fulfill the expectations of their jobs, make compromises, and generally be good contributors to their group; consistently adhering to the Tribes agreements.
    This worked out really well actually, for most groups, even with kids who often have a difficult time working in groups. There were two groups out of 28 or so that didn’t finish their movies, but at least they got the chance to do self/peer reflections to decide what went wrong. I did hear a lot of Spanish being spoken during the process of making the movies, because it was difficult for me to monitor with all the activity, so that was a downside of the group work.
  4. That the kids would have fun.
    Most said it was their favorite thing we’ve done this year, so I know they enjoyed it.

If you would like a copy of the steps involved in this please contact me.

Great job Ms. Culligan!
Thanks for pushing yourself and your students

4th Grade Bloggers

“Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.”


Today one of our fourth grade classes entered into the Blogosphere.  The teacher was a little hesitant but i am extremely proud of her bravery.  Luckily she is supported not just by her technology facilitators and me but also by a great group of teachers from all over the world – her classes BlogPals.  This is something that Kim Cofino invited us to from Thailand; we had one teacher leap onboard initially but I am sure we will have many more classes involved in projects like this as this takes off.  Kim’s blog is full of resources on blogging at the elementary level and this post is a great starting point for anyone helping a new elementary class to enter the world of blogging.

Blogging has been at the forefront of my mind recently as i finalize a presentation that i will be giving in San Jose, Costa Rica next week.  In reflection, I proposed the project to the Tri-Association more than two years ago now and the difference in the world of educational blogging between then and now is nothing short of phenomenal.  I don’t know what i would have said two years ago but it sure would have been a great deal different then what i will be saying next week (more on that a little later).

fat tax forum…

What if nothing exists and we’re all in somebody’s dream? Or what’s worse, what if only that fat guy in the third row exists?
– Woody Allen

Moodle and the potential benefits that it offers students, teachers, schools and parents are no secret in the EduBlogging community.  It is also not a new phenomenon; but it is new at CMS and truth be told we are only in a trial period – teachers who have volunteered.  It is major goal of mine; as it supports my position representing the Tri-Association on the World Virtual Schools project.  I have thus monitored this launch pretty closely and will continue to so.  I am hearing things that really make me feel motivated:  “why can’t all of our classes be like this,” “this class is so cool,” and “i didn’t know chatting could be be part of school”.   Words that make the work so worthwhile.
Yes there are great teachers piloting the project, yes their classes would be “cool” without this online environment because of the way the set up their questioning with real world problems that uncover the  curriculum, but it is no less great to hear.  Recognizing that this is still just the start of the school year (when motivation is at its highest) i want you to take a second and read the posts in the AP Economics Forum.  I was really impressed with the level of thinking going on so early in the course.  As Mr. McCollough says in his final post students addressed the social concerns while staying focused on the economic issues.  Great stuff!  If you make it that far also look at the incentives program in the course – quite original and the students LOVE it!
Kind of the same simple equation i have been discussing here:
real problem+real questions+real discussion/real people (aka students) = real learning and understanding

a physical facelift to mirror a pedagogical shift…

Never, never, never believe any war <construction project> will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.
Sir Winston Churchill

Incredible progress was made on our new media center over the summer and going into hurricane season we are on schedule (and budget).  This is an amazing feat anywhere these days and on an island famous for “island time” and its laid back atmosphere this success is a testament to our school engineer Rafael Piña.  Of course there are an incredulous amount of people working on this project at all level who equally deserve our thanks – gracias.

Of course schools are not about buildings and never should be.  This construction is well timed as it is accompanying our community’s better understanding of the role of technology in every aspect of education.  There can be no question that the pedagogical face lift that is being constructed in classrooms, labs, moodle rooms, staff meetings and in the teachers’ lounge is the most important aspect and the central focus of the technology department – but we won’t object to a state of the art new facility to call home.

Construction continues:

the real is the deal…

Nothing is as certain as that the vices of leisure are gotten rid of by being busy.
– Seneca (5 BC – 65 AD)

If Seneca was right, i have no need to worry about the vices of leisure these days.  I am not sure if it is the second child (pictured) Ellaor just trying to make too many changes in the school at once, but i am slammed down here (I fit right in as we appear to be in full hurricane season and i am not the only one getting slammed on the island).  I have a post-it note full of ideas for posts and just can’t seem to find the time to write them…  Well here goes a short one, to give me a little room on the post-it for today’s excitement…

The nuts and bolts of this one is that after a tonne of hard work by some great people here at CMS we have officially launched our Problem Based Learning experiences (PBLe) in 6th, 7th and 8th grade.  The launch session was a huge success; it was collaboratively created by Bill Farren, Mark Richards and myself.  We were a little nervous of how it would go over, we were saying some pretty powerful things with some wide ranging implications; we had no need to worry, some great conversations were started yesterday we will work to ensure that these continue – all to the betterment of middle school education here.
We are thankful to have the support, understanding, and flexibility of our administration – in the project and are confident that as our community witnesses what comes out of these units we will continue to gain speed in our move towards uncovering curriculum instead of covering it.
We modeled GoogleDocs (a future post) in the work and you can see our slideshow here:

We tried to emphasize that this isn’t anything terribly new, our school is already beginning to face this direction with its commitment to the Senior Extended Essay, its comprehensive benchmark re-writing, its adoption of the principles outlined in Understanding by Design, and our push for more video conferencing (collaborating as part of a larger global community) – to name only a few.  So we have been working towards this for quite some time…this is merely a small step in a great journey.

– stay tuned

a letter to the parents of the class of 2012…

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.
– Ken Olsen, President, Digital Equipment, 1977

The Carol Morgan School believes that technology improves student learning. This belief does not lay dormant in the school’s mission statement; but instead is expressed and reemphasized constantly in our actions. Over the past five years CMS has introduced, built, improved, and widened its wireless network – a process that continues. The power of a “wired” student (wired meaning: connected to the internet, their teacher, students in their classroom and those collaborating from all over the world) can not be overstated. When teachers are trained and design lessons to maximize this potential and students are given the tools to realize it – the entire learning process is enriched. Furthermore as our world continues to change with incredible speed laptops allow learning opportunities that respond at this speed. The Carol Morgan School is the most technologically advanced school in the region and spends a great deal of resources to ensure it keeps this distinction. We believe that laptops have a place in education and that they present students with learning opportunities previously unimaginable – with this in mind we are focusing a great deal of our professional development to ensure that teachers are getting the most out of student laptops in their room.

In summary, although not required, we believe that high school students will achieve greater success by integrating laptops into their learning process. It is with this belief in mind that we are offering you the parents of the class of 2012 the following offer:

Dell Latitude D630 – $1448 (plus shipping and handling)
Intel® Core 2Duo (2.50 GHz)
Windows® XP Professional
14.1 Wide Screen WXGA
120GB Hard Drive
8x DVD+/-RW
128MB NVIDIA® Quadro NVS
Wireless LAN
Touchpad with Fingerprint Reader
90W A/C Adapter
Dell USB Optical Mouse with Scroll
3 Year Limited Warranty

I want to be clear, this is not the only laptop that will assist your child, it is simply one that has been identified by CMS as a good student computer. If your child already has a computer they are comfortable with or prefers another model these will equally help them take full advantage of the opportunities presented to them in their high school career at CMS.
Orders will be accepted until the end of May.
Questions or to place and order please contact Mark Picketts at 809.947.1069 or by email

[1]These machines are fully covered by Dell’s warranty; NOT through CMS


May 9, 2008


img thanks to Osiris

WOW or is it WAO?

“what drives an artist is that you believe that the future is gonna have some use for what you are working on now.”
-Junot Diaz

The opportunity given to CMS students and staff yesterday was one that i will never forget. Junot Diaz is an incredible writer, an absolute genius, a humanitarian, a champion of justice, and a phenomenal teacher. So many incredible gems and sound bytes that didn’t stop from the moment he arrived until the moment that he left -and i would know…he had a magnetic quality to him that kept me a my video camera chasing him all day.

All of these pieces come attached with a mature language warning.

High School Assembly (Reading & Q&A Session)
coming to YouTube soon…

Workshop#1 – the sound quality is audible but low
click here
Workshop #2- the sound quality is audible but low
click here

Parent/Teacher Reading and Q&A Session
mp3 recording of talk
coming to YouTube soon…


mens’ bookclub with Junot

img thanks to Scarlett

a little catching up…

“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.”
– Leo J. Burke

First and foremost Ella is wonderful and her sleeping and her incredible mother really don’t have me as sleep deprived as the above quote may lead you to believe (personal blog).

Staff appreciation week kicked off today, i feel extremely lucky to work with so many talented, kind, professional and caring people. I found this video very powerful so i thought i would share it with everyone who puts up with me here at work:

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Ok i do need to do a little catch up:

HeartCare Dominicana
It makes be incredibly proud to work at CMS when the school smashes the headmasters challenge of raising enough money to provide 4 children with surgeries and medication (320,000 pesos) in raising 410,219 pesos! More then 5 children will literally be given life thanks to your generosity.
Huge thanks to Annikke Olson and the entire team responsible in putting on a great week of activities for a great cause (wiki site).

Construction – marching forward (4/18/2008)

Junot Diaz – the pulitzer prize winner is going to be here on the 30th and you can watch his presentations through a combination of the Carol Morgan School channels on and YouTube. Don’t miss the chance to hear Junot speak and watch him work with Carol Morgan high school students. I will be giving more details about times and happenings on this blog sometime this week.  (Junot at Google – language advisory)

Junot Diaz, Pulitzers, Heart Care Dominicana & Construction…

“In some ways I think that this book waited for me to become a better person before it wrote itself”
– Junot Diaz on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

It isn’t everyday you get the opportunity to meet a Pulitzer prize winner, it also isn’t everyday that he comes to do a workshop at your school. This novel was bounced around in Junot Diaz’s head for more then a decade and last night the jurors confirmed what anyone who has read the novel already knew – that the time spent polishing and perfecting was all for the betterment of the readers’ experience. A couple of months ago we reached an agreement with Junot Diaz to come as our artist in residence. Last night he was awarded the Pulitzer for Fiction. What an opportunity for the students! Something tells me the students who get to work closely with Junot will have the opportunity to learn about patience, revision and not settling for anything but their absolute best. Pending approval from Mr. Diaz we will look to broadcast some of his time on Ustream and on CMS Radio so stay tuned – i will put more details up here. (New York Times article, Slate interview).
On a personal note not only am i happy to see this award going to a Dominican but also my book club read this book in December and the discussion was one of the best that we have had.  When i asked one of the more well read members of the group to comment (for this blog) on the committee’s selection of Oscar, he responded with this:

The choice of Oscar Wao for the Pulitzer for fiction evinces a sensitivity for the peculiar by the Pulitzer nominating committee at Columbia (they chose Middlesex, too!). Oscar’s skewed narrative structure, delightfully esoteric pop-culture references, and hipper-than-thou wordplay cast it as a somewhat unlikely recipient for what will now assuredly be even wider appeal than it has achieved up to this point. The book’s increasing success is a great endorsement of the level of literary appreciation in the states right now. 

If you have yet to read it, go out and get it.

As for this week we have kicked off Heart Care Dominicana week. Last year we raised just less then 300,000 pesos this year we have a school-wide goal of 320,000 enough to provide 4 lifesaving surgeries to children in need. Our high school students have a wonderful service based relationship volunteering at the hospital but this annual even literally saves lives and is the stuff that makes a school community proud of its students. This student created video was shown at the launch assembly yesterday:

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follow our progress through this page on our HighSchool Wiki

Wow lots going on here…and all the while construction of our new media center continues:

April 7, 2008

img from:

back at it…

The shortest distance between two points is under construction.
– Noelie Altito

Spring break is over, it was fantastic; relaxing, sharing time with family, unplugging and the week was really marked by some pretty massive waves and some good wind (despite being off-season) – in short everybody wins!

When is the last time you truly unplugged? For how long? I had this discussion with a number of seniors last week and the results kinda scared me. Then i looked inward to see the time that i am spending looking at a screen every day – yikes. After a full week away i must say that the screen break was nice and needs to be scheduled more regularly.

Well we were off on the north coast relaxing the school engineer was overseeing the real beginning of our new media center’s construction. It is pretty exciting stuff to see the footprint start to take shape. It is going to be a tangible expression of the link we at CMS see between library and technology and the fact that the new building will be located at the physical heart of the campus couldn’t be scripted any better. So with construction back underway i return to a weekly image to share our progress with you:

March 27, 2008

So as i slowly work through a weeks worth of posts to get caught up on i found these two particularly thought provoking and thought that you might too:

Diligence on the School of EverythingEveryone has something to learn, everyone has something to teach
Education 4 Well Being
‘s recent video on fear, original music, great quotes and the slick finish that is becoming synonymous with ED4WB’s postings.

Huge News!
Our Artist in residence program for 2008 is confirmed. It is one that is not going to be forgotten any time soon, Junot Diaz author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) and Drown (1996) will be working with our students and staff on April 30th. The opportunity for our high school students to work with a writer of Junot’s caliber is nothing short of incredible. The hard work of deputy head Ernest Peterson to bring Mr. Diaz to Carol Morgan while the “buzz” surrounding him and his recent work is peaking is nothing short of incredible! It is work that will pay off ten fold in providing students (and their teachers) with a learning experience far beyond anything they could ever imagine. I am looking forward to seeing him at work and attending the evening teacher/parent session. If you haven’t read Oscar yet, i highly recommend it (goodreads).

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