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The Impact of Advanced AI on the Teaching and Learning of Foreign Languages

Authored by Daniel Shabasson, Spanish teacher

Aritificial intelligence (AI) is getting more powerful year after year. Although it will have some positive and some negative effects on foreign language teaching and learning, I believe they will be predominantly positive. Starting with the potential downsides, students already have easy access to translation tools like Google Translate. This poses a challenge for teachers, who cannot easily determine whether a student’s work is their own. If writing is to happen at all, it must be under the teacher’s supervision in the classroom.  Additionally, some students may question the need for acquiring a second language, arguing that machine translation of written language and machine interpretation of spoken language can adequately facilitate communication with non-English speakers. To motivate students, teachers must emphasize the cultural and cognitive benefits of learning a second language: it promotes cultural understanding, enhances cognitive abilities, and makes you more articulate...read more

Topics: foreign language, artificial intelligence, teaching, learning, Daniel Shabasson

Travel Across the Curriculum

Authored by Jason Watkins, English teacher

There are many traditions that surround the start of a new school year: new shoes, new clothes, first-day-of-school pictures. For teachers, there are fresh bulletin boards, class lists, and, for some, an inbox full of email promotions from travel companies. And often that means planning not for the current school year, but for the year after. Travel can be an important part of a school’s programming. It can be applied across the curriculum to explore history at historical landmarks, the visual arts at art museums, or environmental studies at national parks. I, personally, have fond memories of Broadway shows and amusement parks from my high school days in Pennsylvania. These were extracurricular activities that made high school a richer experience. Travel is good for more than fun times or intellectual stimulation. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness... Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by...read more

Topics: travel, English, Jason Watkins

Gamification in Foreign Language Learning

Authored by Daniel Shabasson, Spanish teacher

Gamification, in plain English, means turning learning into a game. Take the popular foreign language learning app Duolingo for example. Duolingo makes language learning fun, turning it into a sort of video game. When students do well, they win virtual prizes (gems). They compete against other users of the app and get ranked based on their performance. They can make it into the “obsidian league” if they rock the game, or even into the “diamond league” if they’re one of the best that day. Virtual characters cheer for them if they get a perfect score on a round or are promoted to the next level of difficulty. Users get a little dopamine hit every time they get an answer correct. I find Duolingo to be an exciting, fun, efficient, and even addictive way to strengthen skills, and I encourage my students to use it. In short, gamification motivates and engages adolescent (and adult) learners of foreign languages in its own wonderful way. Obviously, an app like Duolingo cannot replace a...read more

Topics: Spanish, Daniel Shabasson

What Goes Into the Classroom?

Authored by Ian Rusten, History teacher

Many of us are looking for a school with classrooms where students and adults seek the truth, expand their minds by embracing challenging ideas, and build empathy by seeking to understand the ideas of others.  As a result of my over twenty years of experience as a history, government, and economics teacher, I have come to believe that students should believe the material they learn matters and that their education has a purpose. They should also recognize that knowledge is a great power – the power to become critical thinkers who learn new ideas and perspectives, who listen deeply and thoughtfully respond.  I believe that schools should provide an opportunity to learn through the exchange of ideas and dialogues, because this is how classrooms thrive. To achieve this, I believe classrooms must be rooted in trust and encourage participation & cooperative learning, as well as high expectations. When students play an active role in their learning, they are more inclined to learn and...read more

Topics: high school, diversity

Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee: Time to Take a Look Back

Authored by Gabriella Skwara, history teacher

As a World History teacher at The Beekman School, I love introducing students to British History and the colorful rulers that people its pages. In part, my fascination stems from the way in which tradition and novelty are continually interwoven within the traditions of the British monarchy. We got to witness a glimpse of this as the United Kingdom celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee during a four-day bank holiday weekend that began this past Thursday. Elizabeth II has now reigned for 70 years, and as such is “the Queen” whom the world immediately equates with Britain. In many ways, the verses that the poet Philip Larkin penned on the occasion of her Silver Jubilee in 1977 ring more true than ever: In times when nothing stoodBut worsened, or grew strange,There was one constant good:She did not change. While the Queen’s health kept her from fully participating in the events surrounding the weekend, she was the same universally recognizable woman when she appeared on the...read more

Topics: history, Gabriella Skwara

Working with 2e Students

Authored by Robin Mishell, Director of Learning Support

The Beekman School faculty recently completed a 3-part professional development workshop given by The Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education. The focus was on twice-exceptional (2e) students. What is 2e, you may be wondering? Some children are highly gifted in areas such as writing, math, or music. Others have learning challenges such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyscalculia, or memory, processing, and executive functioning concerns. 2e kids fit into both categories. They have exceptional ability and disability. They excel in one area, but they face learning or developmental challenges as well. These kids can be tough to understand and motivate. Kids may use their strengths to cover their struggles, or their challenges may mask exceptional abilities. Identifying 2e kids can be tricky. There is no universal standard for “giftedness.” It is often up to individual schools to determine if kids are gifted and challenged at the same time. If a child is extremely...read more

Topics: 2e, twice exceptional, teaching, Robin Mishell

Summertime Fun for History Buffs

Authored by Ian Rusten, History teacher

The end of the school year is upon us again! I have been eagerly making plans for my summer adventures and slowly gathering a stack of books that is getting taller and taller. As I have said before, summer reading does not have to be a compensatory list of books that students dread reading and save for the last possible second.  Summer can (and should be!) a time to really dig deep into a topic of interest. I highly recommend choosing one topic (say, the rising polarization of politics in America) and reading and watching many different texts on the topic. Since, in the fall, we will be racing toward the midterm elections, I wanted to think of a question to drive my thinking, reading, and listening this summer that might connect to the elections. The question that really came to mind is: How did American politics become so polarized? I compiled a few readings, videos, and podcasts on this topic. If you choose to dig into this topic with me, let me know what you think!     “What It’s...read more

Topics: Summer, history, Ian Rusten

Choosing Texts for a Psychology Class

Authored by Daniel Shabasson, Psychology teacher

So you’re going to teach psychology to high school students. The first step in planning your course is to select the text or texts to be used. There are two ways you can go. The first is to use a good textbook as the primary reading material. You will need to decide what sections of book to cover. Psychology is a vast topic and you cannot cover everything in depth. You can decide for the students what you will cover, or you can leave it up to the students. You find out what interests the students and let that guide you. I find the latter to be preferable. Unless you are teaching an AP class and there are specific topics you must cover, an introductory class should be aligned to student interests. Otherwise, the students will not relate to the material. Some students will be more interested in topics that address the concerns they have about their own psychological well-being and allow them to gain insight into their personal struggles. Others may be interested in psychological...read more

Topics: psychology, Daniel Shabasson

Learning to File Taxes in High School

Authored by Linli Chin, math teacher

April 15th*. Tax Day. Just the mention of this date evokes the same feeling in most adults; stress, fear, anger, and frustration. According to research conducted by The Pew Research Center in 2013, the majority of adults (56%) feel either hate or dislike doing their taxes. *April 18th this year because of Good Friday/Passover For those in that group (31%), the main reason for hating or disliking it was that it was “complicated or involved too much paperwork,” while 24% find it inconvenient and time-consuming. As Benjamin Franklin wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” In 2019, over 250 million people filed federal taxes. Seeing as how almost every working adult is required to file their personal income taxes, high schools should teach students to complete their taxes as part of the curriculum before...read more

Topics: Linli Chin, taxes

The Importance of Receiving a "Bad" Grade

Authored by Derek Barnett, STEM teacher

We’ve all been there. We stayed up late studying the night or two before an important exam. We worked on all the assigned practice problems, studied with friends, and finished up our last few flashcards. Only to receive the exam covered in red ink, as if Jackson Pollock graded the assessment.    As a student and high school teacher, I have a unique advantage at seeing both sides to these bad grades. I argue that many students and parents fail to see the value or opportunity in one of these “GPA destroying” exam grades. Hopefully, this article will help change the perception of these grades and provide a framework to improve.    I received my first earth-shattering grade while in organic chemistry at college. At this point in my academic career, I felt that I mastered my studying strategy; cram the night before and memorize everything. The 48% I received told me otherwise. At first, I denied it was my grade. I thought the professor must have mixed my grade up with another student....read more

Topics: grades, GPA, college, Derek Barnett