Tips for Videoconferencing with Professional Learning Communities

School Reform Initiative (SRI) protocols within Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) have more impact when they are facilitated face-to-face by a skilled facilitator.

Being a member of the professional development team here at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, I personally support about 10 school network or district clients nationally, which means there are times when I can’t be with them in person. Such face-to-face meetings are important, and I try to arrange these more personal consultations when possible.

But for those times when that’s not possible, I’ve facilitated such gatherings using Zoom’s video and web conferencing platform — a simple to use online tool that allows me to increase the amount of support I can offer clients sandwiched between in-person consulting visits to their local context.

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If you’re unfamiliar with them, School Reform Initiative protocols offer structured processes to support focused and productive conversations, build collective understanding, and drive school improvement. Thoughtful use of these protocols is an integral part of building resilient professional learning communities.

In recent months, I’ve gathered up and written down a number of tips I believe can greatly increase efficacy of such gatherings online. These tips, which I’ll offer here as suggestions, include: Continue reading…

Our Latest Class Offerings Span From Robots to Sex-Ed

We’re comfortably squeezing in an abundance of learning between this week — which heralds the beginning of the second half of the fall trimester — and Dec. 9, which is the last day of classes before Winter Break.

From robotics to woodwork, from astronomy to sex-ed, this 70th trimester in the history of Eagle Rock School includes classes that are both challenging and potentially life changing to participating students.

Late last month we listed the first batch of new classes (see Eagle Rock 70 Classes Underway — And Here’s What’s Being Offered). Below is a list of other classroom offerings for the trimester, along with a description of each class:

Robotics
In the past decade, we have seen the rise of smartphones and drones, along with the first computer to beat a world-ranked Go player. With this growing sector around computer technology come job opportunities galore, not to mention the enjoyment of toying with robots, solving tricky problems, software coding and the intricacies of electronic circuitry. In this class, students demonstrate what they’ve learned in teams, each designing, creating, testing and redesigning a robot to meet specific challenges.

Human Sexuality
In this class students are exploring sex and sexual health from a number of perspectives. However, this isn’t your father’s sex-ed class. Instead, participants are looking at sexuality through different newspapers, magazines, websites, documentaries, films, fiction and non-fiction. The focus is on stories and experiences from around the world that can be used to better understand sexuality and healthy relationships. Digital recording and podcasts are also being used to share stories and information.

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Theater Tech
Theatre Tech is designed to provide Eagle Rock School students with a basic understanding and practice of Continue reading…

Eagle Rock 70 Classes Underway — And Here’s What’s Being Offered

Classroom instruction began a month ago for the 70th semester of Eagle Rock School, with returning students participating in many of the classes listed below.

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Meanwhile, incoming ER 70 students set off on Sept. 26 for what serves as an initiation process here at Eagle Rock — our signature New Student Wilderness Orientation Program. These new students have since returned from that 24-day experience, and are busily preparing their Wilderness Program presentations of learning (POLs) that will be presented Saturday, Oct. 29.

Other activities on the immediate horizon include Explore Week — which takes place Oct. 31 through Nov.4 — and the beginning of the second half of the trimester beginning Nov. 7. The last day of classes before winter break is Dec. 9.

Below is a partial list of class offerings for the trimester, along with a description of the courses:

Harlem Renaissance

In this class, students are transported back to Harlem, New York between 1919 and 1935, seeing the neighborhood through the eyes of some of the brightest minds of the 20th century. A renaissance is a rebirth, and theirs — preempted by freedom — is expressed through bold colors, strong voices, and passion that launched a culture and was the foundation for the Continue reading…

From Farm to Table to Deviance & Social Control — Eagle Rock School’s Diverse Class Offerings: Part Deux

Here at Eagle Rock School, we have always added new meaning to the term unique class offerings, and in fact, we’re fairly well known nationwide for the progressiveness of our classroom topics.

For example, not many high schools offer a class in on-the-job training to be a park ranger. In fact, some of our students will even be on the payroll of the Rocky Mountain National Park during the upcoming summer break as a direct result of taking this class.

Eagle Rock School Learning Resource Center

Below, we present the second of a pair of blog posts describing the unique classes offered during this, the second half of ER 69 (the 69th trimester since our founding in the fall of 1993):

Farm To Table: In this class, Eagle Rock School students are studying the methods and effects of different food production systems around the world. By planting, harvesting and tending the Eagle Rock garden, our “farmers” are growing and producing food for our own school cafeteria. A primary outcome of this class is to transform the Continue reading…

69 Trimesters Later, Eagle Rock is Still Offering Diverse Courses

One of the many things at Eagle Rock School for which we’re recognized is the diversity of our classroom offerings. For instance, you won’t find many traditional high schools that offer a class in the politics of music. Or how about a class that explores the notion that our educational system is inequitable, and then empowers students to do something about it.

ER Blog Post Image June 2

Below, we present the first of two blog posts listing and describing the unique class offerings for the first half of ER 69 — the 69th trimester since Eagle Rock’s founding in the early 1990s:

Deeper Learning & Equity

Our educational system is inequitable, and there are numerous structures and tools that people use to address that fact. In this class, Eagle Rock School students are looking closely at these structures. That includes those “No Excuses” schools that are exceptionally strict and teach a traditional curriculum, as well as the “Deeper Learning” concept — where students study topics in depth and often do projects to make a change in their communities. Students plan and facilitate a retreat for educators who want to improve equity in their schools, and our students have the opportunity to support those schools next year through the work of our own Professional Development Center. The retreat will take place during the second five weeks of the summer, so students will have responsibilities after the five-week course ends. But it’s a window to making a real difference in education and gain amazing real-world skills.

Music Politics

How does Beyonce fit in the succession of powerful Black divas that preceded her? What does it mean that Justin Timberlake is producing a country album? In this class students are learning the history, economics, politics and cultural context of the music we all listen to. Popular music is more than just beats and lyrics. It is one of the best ways to understand the values, prejudices and fantasies of our culture. Students listen, analyze and discuss songs, thinking critically about race, gender, genre, technology, money and the stories of the artists behind the music. Each student is expected to create an Continue reading…