The Luminary Set for Proofing!

It started as an idea I had several years ago, I was teaching AP European History and AP Art History at the same time and I wanted an outlet for my students to extend their ideas and develop their skills at doing academic research. It’s an easy leap – students need to develop the ability to examine evidence and investigate ideas. Consumption of information is critical in the age we are living in and assessing its credibility is vital.

Once I keened in on the need for research, I also wanted to give them an incentive that went beyond the mere grade – I wanted to give them an opportunity to publish their work. This would give them a great experience as well as offer them another way to stand out on their college transcript. More importantly, it would give them a sense of pride and validation for their hard work. Thus was born the idea of a student research journal that would be set aside for students taking AP courses.

Fast forward several years and a few stops later, here I am at Pine Crest and serving as department chair (from 2015-2017). We have several post-AP courses being offered where students can take a deeper dive into the content of those courses. For example, I was able to teach Post-AP Art History, where I took the initial course from a power point presentation heavy senior babysitting job to an introduction to art historical methodology and research. Students learned to examine art through various lenses (Marxism, gender and sexual identities, etc.) while also picking an original idea of their own to research.

I went back to my idea about developing a student research journal. I wanted it to be a vehicle for publishing student research and hopefully, down the road, instilling a culture for doing research whereby students may even turn to previous research and expand upon it. I imagined presentations from these students and ongoing academic debates. It seemed that the research being done in my post AP class would serve as excellent potential content and so, The Luminary was born.

As department chair, I wanted this to be an initiative that went up and down our hallway. We had post AP offerings in Mac/Mic Econ, Psych, Gov/Pol, and even Capstone. This would give us a wide range of content to pull from and the best of it would make excellent material for publication. We got buy-in from the entire department and even formed a faculty advisory board to oversee the creation of the journal. We also had administrative support as they recognized the potential of this project for our community.

That was 2015-2016. I had to give up my post AP Art History class these past few years since I was developing the Latin program and just didn’t have the time to teach the course. That presented a particular challenge as I was depending on that for content as well as potential staff to put the journal together. We had a skeleton crew cobbling together the journal and learning how to structure the staff as well as the product. Now it is ready – we have a very innovative and aesthetically pleasing design and the content remains very good as the submissions were culled by a staff of students who each had the courses and knew the content and could verify, with their teachers, that the works were sound.

It took longer than anticipated, and we had to overcome challenges, but we have  emerged with a finalized document ready for publication. We will get the proof, approve it, and then publish a limited run (100 copies) to distribute to the stakeholders and also publish the journal digitally for archival purposes. We hope that this will create a buzz and get students energized. We will then discuss how to move forward and keep this project sustainable for years to come. It is my hope that we can crank out a second volume this year and then continue to do the same each and every year forward!

I want to credit Ava Goldstone and Pedro Damasceno for their tireless work in making this journal, The Luminary | The Pine Crest Journal for Student Research in Social Sciences and Humanities, a reality! Without them. we certainly aren’t where we are today and we probably never make this vision manifest.

Gamefying Education: Using Minecraft to Reconstruct Ancient Rome

Students love to game. They love to spend hours on end playing video games, usually working towards a goal of some kind such as achievements or maybe just to complete the game or its various tasks.

If only we could get students to do the same with the classes we teach.

Well, I’ve been experimenting with it a bit, actually. I opened up the idea for my students to create a Roman villa of their own – they could either build a model, or use various software to construct a virtual model. I suggested Google Sketchup, Minecraft, or Terraria.

I felt that the software route would be very advantageous as students who were accustomed to plopping down in front of a computer would be excited to do so for class. The goals would remain the same – to construct a model of a Roman villa, thus reflecting their understanding of how the structure worked.

It was very successful. Students who used Minecraft were heavily invested in the success of their project and relished the chance to show off their projects in front of their peers. Now, we have also created another project – to recreate ancient Rome using Minecraft on our very own server.

The students involved in the project are really motivated without any grade-driven award. They are quickly organizing and formulating a plan to gather supplies and set up various roles and tasks for each member. They are engaged in team-building, and have clearly defined several short term and long term goals. All of this in order to construct a virtual model of ancient Rome.

Keep updated on our blog Minecraft Romae. We also have a group forum area where students can create discussion threads and plan out strategies to overcoming various obstacles along the way. Stay tuned!

Creating a Voice for Educational Technology

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
– William Butler Yeats

We’ve all seen this quote tossed around in the field of education. As educators, we have all tried to light that fire in each of our students through various means. In today’s fast-paced information age, society is changing, evolving. As such, so should our methods for educating our students and preparing them for the world of tomorrow. It is at this crossroad that we now stand where the paths of education and technology are converging. It is for this reason that I have officially launched A Fire Kindled to serve as a place for educators to express their opinions on the emergence of technology within the field of education.

A shift is happening right underneath our feet and our students will no longer be engaged by the methods of traditional education. We need to observe what works and find ways to continue to adapt within our changing society to meet not only the needs of our students, but also help to prepare them for a successful future. If you are interested in contributing to the site, please feel free to contact me.

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