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Remembering Digital Learning Day With NMHS Principal Eric Sheninger

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March 01, 2012 04:23 pm


One month ago today, on February 1, thirty-nine states, 19,000 teachers, and 1.7 million students participated in the first-ever Digital Learning Day, a national awareness campaign spearheaded by the Alliance for Excellent Education showcasing how technology can take learning in the United States to a much higher level and provide all students with experiences that allow them to graduate from high school prepared for college and a career.

Over the last month, the Alliance has received videos and emails from teachers and students across the country describing how they observed Digital Learning Day. If you have a Digital Learning Day story you want to share, email us at

On this one-month anniversary, we wanted to share how teachers at New Milford High School (NMHS) in New Jersey spent Digital Learning Day. The following comes courtesy of Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford High School and a member of the Digital Learning Day Educator Working Group. And be sure to watch the video at the bottom of his post showcasing the NMHS Social Studies Department and some of the common digital learning activities they integrate.

New Milford High School proudly participated in the inaugural Digital Learning Day. This day, however, was not really much different than any other day at NMHS as we have made a commitment to integrate digital learning into school culture for some time now.

As Principal I am proud to state that many of the pedagogical techniques, learning activities, and tools described in the rest of this post are consistently in use on a daily basis across all content areas. The reason for this is that we have put a premium on creating a teaching and learning culture that better meets the needs of our learners while enhancing essential skills such as collaboration, communication, creativity, media literacy, and global awareness. Below is a sampling of some of the pre-planned activities that my teachers planned and had their students engaged in on Digital Learning Day.

In Ms. Levy’s U.S. History class, students learned about the rise of Jacksonian Democracy and had to determine if Jackson was a highly successful president or a corrupt leader. Students were broken up into groups of 5-6 students. Each student went online and looked at one source from Ms. Levy’s website. They then had to use their “Origin Perspective Value Limitation” handout to answer and dissect the source in classic IB format. Once they had evaluated the source for these 4 elements, they wrote down their answers in a group created Google Doc. Finally, they came together as a group to decide their perspective on Andrew Jackson’s presidency. After students decided as a group, they voted individually as a class about their opinion on the source with “Poll Everywhere,” using their cell phones.

In Mrs. Morel’s art class, students embarked on a QR Code scavenger art hunt around the school. This activity began with an introduction to QR Codes: what they are, how they are used in the marketing world, how we are going to use them, and best of all, how they (students) could use them in their lives. Students also reviewed artists’ work and tried out a few QR codes in class. For the lesson, students were paired up with a partner and utilized their Smartphone, iPod, etc. to search for clues that led them to QR Codes. The QR Codes contained various artists’ work and clue information. Mrs. Morel wrapped up the activity with a summary of the findings and then transitioned into having the students create their own QR codes with links to their artwork and websites. These were then posted in school for our school community to scan.

Mrs. Vicari’s business classes utilized YouTube, a variety of video sites, and websites to preview Superbowl commercials as an introduction to the semester Marketing/Advertising course. Students discussed the definitions of marketing and advertising and how they are different. They used a series of thought-provoking questions, while viewing the various commercials, to identify different areas of marketing and advertising that will be discussed in this course throughout the semester.

Students in Mr. Tusa’s history class investigated the history of Europe through painting (1500-1800). He challenged students to think of a painting as an essay – in the sense that it captures not in words, as an essay does, but through a visual image, some aspect(s) of the life, history, and culture of a particular historical period from the point of view not of a writer but of an artist. Students were given a list of paintings/engravings produced in the period 1500-1800. Working with partners, they had to choose one painting from each category, study it by paying particular attention to the political, economic, religious, social, industrial, and/or artistic way in which it captures/criticizes some aspect(s) of the period 1500-1800, and record their impressions accordingly. He reminded students to “read” the painting as they would read an essay and record their view/impression of what historical themes, ideas, person or people, the painting is portraying/criticizing. Using Mac Books: one student recorded and shared their comments on a Google Doc while the other searched for and viewed the paintings. Links were also provided for students to locate and view paintings.

In math, Mrs. Chellani began the lesson with mobile learning devices and Poll Everywhere to review prior learning. She then utilized a variety of virtual manipulatives (using the SMART tablet) from the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. These virtual games/math problems are a fantastic way to further embed the Smart tablet into daily instruction, help foster the students’ development of higher-order thinking skills, and make the learning experience more challenging and enjoyable.

History teacher Ms. Millan collaborated with Mrs. Keesing, our media specialist, on a QR code assignment. Students used their cellphones to download an app to both create and read QR codes. To tie in with their study of the English monarchy in the Elizabethan-Stuart era, they researched websites to find quality information on selected, relevant topics. They then created QR codes for those websites. Students printed the codes and affixed them to some of the school library’s books — some of which greatly benefited from the updated information the students located.

Later in the day, Mrs. Keesing again collaborated with a colleague, this time in science. With Ms. Chowdhury’s honors physics class, students used Edmodo as a means of collaborating on a new topic. They shared their observations with their pre-set groups and uploaded images that they had created to further examine the concepts they were learning about and applying.

Students in Ms. Perna’s US History I class created Wordles to review information studied prior to their midterm. In order to review prior learning, students worked in pairs to create Wordles related to the presidencies of Washington and Adams, up until the election of 1800. This allowed students to work collaboratively using technology (computers) while reviewing prior learning. As a class, they viewed and discussed the Wordles created in order for students to see what their peers had created while reviewing together as a large group before moving on with the curriculum.

Mr. Andolino had his Applied Music Theory students create a music commercial using software. Finished products were posted to Pure Volume. Prior to Digital Learning Day an original vocal rap and live performance was recorded with a portable recorder and uploaded online.

Ms. Millian’s math students utilized an Avermedia document camera to display work. Poll Everywhere was used in class to express opinions and check for understanding by completing problems and texting answers in. As you can see, NMHS has made a commitment to digital learning, not just on one day, but everyday. Below is a video we produced leading up to Digital Learning Day showcasing our Social Studies Department and some of the common digital learning activities they integrate.

Check out some of my links below to resources that will assist you in your journey to incorporate digital learning at your school:

Eric Sheninger is principal of New Milford High School in New Jersey and a member of the Digital Learning Day Educator Working Group, which provides leadership on the Digital Learning Day toolkits and outreach development for teachers and administrators across the country. To learn more about Digital Learning Day, visit the Digital Learning Day website.


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