On Monday, March 3rd, three BCC representatives volunteered to read to students at Stearns Elementary School in Pittsfield as part of the 17th annual Read Across America Day. Celebrated on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Read Across America Day is a nationwide reading event sponsored by the National Education Association that connects community members with schools to share the joy of reading with young students.
All students at Stearns took a “reading pledge” committing to read every day to learn new things and build healthy brains. We loved seeing Principal Dean and teachers wearing Seuss’s signature hat — from the “Cat in the Hat.” Some students even made their own red and white striped hats! See if you can find them below.
From “Making the Grade 2014: Working together for the future” featured in The Berkshire Eagle
By John Sakata, Berkshire Eagle Staff
PITTSFIELD — It didn’t take long for Erin Breen to land a job in which she could give back to her community.
Thanks to Berkshire Community College’s Service Learning program, the 23-year-old Adams resident was helping Berkshire United Way increase literacy among elementary school children before she’s even received her associate degree this fall.
Breen volunteered at the Berkshire United Way in the fall of 2012, landed an internship, and turned that volunteer work into a full-time job as a resource development assistant.
“I really enjoy going into the community and working and putting my knowledge to use,” Breen said.
BCC and other colleges aren’t wishfully hoping students give back to their communities — rather they’re incorporating community service in the educational curriculum.
At Berkshire Community College, pending faculty approval, the students can substitute coursework with community service through the college’s Service Learning program. There have been as many as 100 students who have taken up the option, according to BCC’s Service Learning Coordinator Mary Parkman.
They can receive a grade on their work, which can range from 10 percent to 25 percent of their grade, she said.
Students majoring in business communication have created PowerPoint presentations for nonprofits, while engineering students have taught elementary students to build and control robots.
First-year students at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, the early liberal arts college that accepts students in the 10th and 11th grades, has students participate in a program that emphasizes community service.
Through the Active Community Engagement program, the college’s 160 students are required to choose one of three classes, including a class centered around participation and service. Bard College students have volunteered at the Medical Reserve Corps, Special Olympics, and campus and community cleanups.
“It’s an important shift that’s happening in the state and BCC and we are focusing our service on civic engagement and developing projects that are focused on civic engagement,” Parkman said.
For students to sign up for a community service project in their Service-Learning course.
Thursday, 1/30 (12:15-1:15 PM)
Wed, 2/5 (11-12 PM) Snow day
Thursday 2/6 (12:15-1:15 PM)
Monday, 2/10 (4:15-5:15 PM)
Wednesday, 2/12 (11am-12pm)
BCC, Field Administration Building
2nd floor, Room 202 (computer lab)
*Please bring a government issued photo ID. (For CORI check)
|A big thank you to Amanda Schuler, BCC’s MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA, for her year and a half of community service to Berkshire Community College and the greater Pittsfield community. Amanda leverages college and community resources to increase educational opportunities, academic achievement and awareness of higher education in Pittsfield.
Continuing to Fight the War on Poverty
Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on what would turn out to be one of our nation’s most formidable opponents—poverty.
“The richest nation on earth can afford to win it,” Johnson told Congress as he proposed a series of initiatives to assist in the cause. VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) was among these ground-breaking programs.
A half-century later, our mission remains unchanged. Thousands of AmeriCorps VISTA members are working with communities every day to create economic opportunities that help individuals overcome poverty.
To see how it all began, please watch the video below:
Yours in service,
The Service-Learning office had received an email from the Massachusetts Campus Compact AmeriCorps program, reaching out to their fellow college partners around the state, to find out what evaluation and assessment tools they were using to create a successful program. They chose ten of the twenty-five colleges they are partnered with to interview, and BCC was one that stood out to them as having a valuable and successful impact on their campus.
On Wednesday December 4th, MACC travelled out from Boston to interview us on the evaluation and assessment tools we use to collect, track, and get results from our students, faculty, and community partners on community impact, and the work the VISTA contributes to.
We walked them through our recruitment and new paperless online sign up process, our presentation to each service-learning class, our database system created prior to VISTA, and the Service-Learning blog containing information on projects, classes, and updates.
We then discussed our pre-service student trainings designed by the VISTA in collaboration with our community partners specifically for students who tutor in the public schools or interview community assets for Pittsfield Promise. The VISTA also created post-training surveys to collect feedback to further improve the training experience.
When looking into the community impact being made and how BCC Service-Learning assesses that impact, it is through different assessment tools created by the Service-Learning Coordinator and the VISTA. Evaluations created by the first VISTA and a Service-Learning faculty member laid the foundation for finding out how BCC tutors impacted academic improvement and knowledge of educational resources for students in the Pittsfield Public Schools. This tool was revised and edited by the present VISTA and school partners to align with common public school language to therefore improve the quality and reliability of data collected.
Another tool used to measure community impact is through the Pittsfield Promise project. The VISTA tracks the number of interviews recorded in the Berkshire United Way database by BCC students. Out of the data collected, the VISTA created a categorized resource list to map the assets collected. The VISTA also tracks the number of participants at Pittsfield Promise community literacy events.
Other forms of evaluations that are done are end of the semester surveys to get feedback from the perspective of the students, faculty, and community site supervisors that evaluate the BCC student that volunteered with them. The Service-Learning office also tracks the number of hours through paper log sheets and a new online submission tool. The VISTA also makes site visits to Service-Learning students working with her main partners: Pittsfield Public Schools and Pittsfield Promise.
After sharing with MACC all that the BCC Service-Learning office uses when assessing the Service-Learning program, they were so pleased with all that we had to share with them, not only our materials, but our results. By sitting down and discussing all that we do in the Service-Learning office, it opened our minds to all the positive impact and success that has happened over the past few years. It was rewarding to be seen as a resource for the MACC office and the other campuses that are part of the Campus Compact. It was also great to be able to receive feedback from MACC on ways that we could improve on our program and our data collection. When saying that this interview was a success, it really was, in how much we were able to help out our MACC partners and it let us stop and reflect on the work we have been doing to remind us that we really are doing great work.
We welcome back Amanda Schuler for her second year with BCC as the Massachusetts Campus Compact AmeriCorps *VISTA. Over the past few months Amanda has been working hard in the Service-Learning office with the Berkshire United Way and in the Pittsfield Public Schools to strengthen these community partnerships, expand on projects she began last year, and encourage and support students who are participating in Service-Learning through their classes.
Building on her work with the Pittsfield Public Schools and Crosby Elementary in particular, Amanda collaborated with stakeholders to revise BCC’s Tutor Training to better prepare students tutoring in the schools. At the start of the semester, the fate of The Crosby Afterschool Robotics program was uncertain. Crosby did not receive the expected grant funds to support it this year. After a three year partnership, we were committed to continuing this program. Amanda, Mary Parkman, John Tatro, and BCC student Nick Kuni all met with the Crosby School Coordinator to strategize how to continue the program. Crosby was able to advocate for funding and the program started on October 23. Amanda recruited a student leader to mentor the three new SL students allowing her to step back and let the students take the lead. Another great accomplishment from last year to this year is that Amanda achieved her goal of successfully expanding our tutoring and mentoring program to Williams Elementary this semester. Two students are serving as tutors and mentors in Math and Afterschool Homework help there.
Amanda also built on her work from last year helping The Berkshire Immigrant Center. She set up a new Service-Learning project for Spanish students to practice language skills by implementing the survey she created to help track clients’ citizenship status. Another great accomplishment is The Berkshire Immigrant Center video Amanda had created that is being used to outreach and teach the community about this population ended up winning her an award through Pittsfield Community Television.
This year Amanda has been partnering and working with the Berkshire United Way on the early childhood literacy initiative called Pittsfield Promise. She has helped recruit and train students to interview organizations using the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Strategy. She also has attended Third Thursdays and Pajama Night at the Berkshire Museum to conduct outreach for the initiative, Parent Power events to talk with parents from the community about literacy and issues, and steps towards solutions to positively impact our community.
Thank you to all who serve!
You can stay up to date on all the issues that matter to you by joining The White House Blog at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog
Sign up for Service-Learning at one of our four orientations in Field Building, room F202:
(Computer labs next to TRIO)
FALL 2013 DATES:
Thurs. Sept. 12th (12:15-1:15pm)
Wed., Sept. 18th (12:15-1:15pm)
Thurs. Sept. 26th (12:15-1:15pm
Mon. Sept. 23rd (4:15-5:15pm)
From The New England Journal of Higher Education
Learning in the Clouds?
by Dan W. Butin
July 16, 2013
Engaged learning—the type that happens outside textbooks and beyond the four walls of the classroom—moves beyond right and wrong answers to grappling with the uncertainties and contradictions of a complex world.
My iPhone backs up to the “cloud.” GoogleDocs is all about “cloud computing.” And Facebook, well, forget the clouds; it’s as ubiquitous as the sky.
But learning? Really? Is learning really going to be in the clouds as well?
I’m referring, of course, to the dramatic rise in online learning. Whether it is the millions upon millions signed up for MOOCs (massive open online courses), the popularity of Khan Academy, or the fact that one in three college students has taken an online course as part of their education, online learning is everywhere.
In some respects, this is to be expected. Technology has driven just about everything to the web, from the way we shop to how we watch movies and plan our parties, there appears to be an app for it all. Education, it appears, will be next.
Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation, for example, recently profiled five key “success stories,” including MOOCs, computerized adaptive testing, and “stealth assessment.” A common thread is that such technology is based upon massively networked, data-driven, and automated systems. Students playing an “adaptive” learning game will find that it changes in difficulty according to responses, offering instantaneous feedback and helpful prompts. Research has shown that such automated real-time feedback, when linked to learning analytics grounded in “big data,” provides opportunities for mastery learning at a much faster pace than in traditional face-to-face classrooms.
Such disruption is no longer at the margins. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is investing in similar technologies for community colleges, which educate almost half of the 18 million undergraduates in postsecondary education. The U.S. Department of Education recently approved Southern New Hampshire University as the first institution in the country to offer a fully online competency-based education (that is, reflecting, “can you actually do the work?” rather than seat time).
So is that our future? If it is, where does it leave traditional bricks-and-mortar institutions?
I run a research center that planned to convene more than 100 scholars and practitioners at Tufts in July to discuss this very question. There are dozens of academic programs—certificates, minors and majors—around the country that focus on community engagement. From questions of civic leadership to community-based asset mapping to theories of social change, we help students develop the habits of mind and repertoires of action to engage with our local and global communities.
So the question of online learning looms large over our programs. Yes, like a big dark cloud. Paul LeBlanc, the president of SNHU, is coming to speak to us. So are the folks from MITx. And we’re going to ask lots of questions and take lots of notes. Because deep learning, it seems to me, can’t all be done with our head in the clouds.
Don’t get me wrong. MOOCs, and online education more broadly, may be wonderful for a certain form of content delivery, one which helps students master certain kinds of knowledge. This is oftentimes referred to as transmissional knowledge, in that we simply transmit a particular body of knowledge. As the Brookings report makes clear, technology is becoming really good at that. So good, in fact, that within a decade, it will change much of how we think about and do teaching and learning.
Such technology, though, has very clear limits. Namely, the knowledge that can be learned through such systems has to be stable, singular and solvable. Put simply, there has to be a right and a wrong answer.
But to be blunt, this is not truly education. Or at least not all of it. Education, ultimately, is transformational in that it helps us grapple with the uncertainties and contradictions of a complex world, pushing us beyond our comfort zones and into moments of genuine reflection. John Dewey suggested that such true learning begins in a “moment of doubt,” what we might call an “aha moment,” of rethinking and reframing what we thought was normal.
So with that goal in mind, I want to suggest that we must keep our feet firmly on the ground at the same time that our heads are up in the clouds. Engaged learning—the type that happens outside of textbook covers and beyond the four walls of the classroom—offers a chance to make learning come alive and bridge theory and practice.
In the end, the ubiquity of the technological cloud that is blanketing higher education may indeed have a silver lining: It will help us to be clear that what we do in our classrooms and communities matters to our students, local stakeholders and the future of higher education.
Dan W. Butin is the founding dean of the School of Education at Merrimack College and the executive director of the Center for Engaged Democracy.