Being Part of Epic: 21st Century Teaching Can Do That

When you have meaningful, authentic projects using technology, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS. Casey Cox,  one my students from  the very first Flat Classroom project in 2006  is now a college graduate. Take a look at her latest water conservation project and see what this type of education does.

Casey is a young graduate from the University of Florida and has  moved back home. She's becoming an advocate for environmental conservation and water use. She's written a piece for IBM's Smarter Planet Blog: “How Big Data is Helping Seed a Farming Transformation.”

Big Data and Water Conservation

She and some other local leaders are featured in the  YouTube video on the IBM Social Media Site.

In her article, Casey @caseymco says:

My work with the Flint River Partnership focuses on leading outreach initiatives to help farmers implement conservation-oriented agricultural practices to minimize environmental impact and enhance farm efficiency. Working with top agricultural scientists, we’re developing new and innovative farming practices using big data analytics that will ultimately transform agriculture at a global scale and create a more sustainable food supply.

The ultimate goal of our Partnership is to optimize irrigation water management by building new services and tools based on emerging technology, and then assist agricultural producers in using those tools to irrigate more efficiently. IBM’s Deep Thunder is one of these tools.

While Casey deserves the credit for her work, I'd like to think she got her start as she collaborated globally in her tenth grade classroom, as she composed poetry and studied the history of the Flint River, and discussed big data in my classroom eight years a go. (You can see exactly what she did on our class wiki. She was also mentioned by name in Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat along with her partner Cannelle. Doesn't she wish it was her full name now? )


Epic Starts With an Excellent 21st Century Education

There's a direct correlation between what she's doing now and the conversations she had here when she was a student at Westwood Schools.

  • I see a direct impact of our visionary curriculum director Betty Shiver who pushed us to do projects with students that had meaning and relevance in our local community.
  • I see her literature teacher Betsy Caldwell who helped her hone and improve her already strong writing skills.
  • I see her science teacher Pam Dean and her math teacher Azalee Vereen and so many others who poured their life into her.
  • I see studying the World is Flat and the Horizon Report.
  • And yes, I see just the tiniest bit of me.


Casey Cox - 21st century teaching

My student Casey Cox got her start into technology and the Flint River when she was in high school. She is mentioned by name in Thomas Friedman's book the World is Flat.

But mostly I see just Casey– a polished, professional, savvy woman well versed in technology, science, and the history of the area she loves. I see epic. It is awesome to have even a small part of epic.


When you use true 21st Century Teaching and Learning Strategies, that is what you do. You become part of epic, life changing experiences. You help students get on track to their own version of epic.


21st Century Teaching Isn't Just Good Teaching: It's Revolutionary

I love how Casey ends her article

There’s no denying the potential data analytics can have on business, but for agriculture and today’s farmer, only one word can describe its future impact: revolutionary.

Dear Casey,

Casey Cox, your Computer Science teacher is so proud of you. You're making a difference in the world and our community. You're also confirming to me that what we're doing in this classroom works in the long run.

You've given me the gift of seeing all this hard work does make a difference. Because as much as I love teaching, I also love the earth and the agriculture, and the beautiful Flint River we must protect. I love this community and helping you become epic is helping this community I love and this world we must protect.

By helping give you a great education, I've helped give the world a gift: YOU.

Being well educated isn't about science or technology or collaboration or  math in isolation but what understanding those things together can do in the hands of a creative mind. We need help with the hard problems without multiple choice answers.

Now that's revolutionary.


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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Amy Hollingsworth April 26, 2014 - 7:42 am

This is an amazing story! As a Biologist, this gives me great hope for the things my science students can learn to do – take the topics they are most interested in, put the story together in a meaningful way, and then get their message out there. The fact that it’s a cool science story – EVEN BETTER!

I have been thinking about adding pod-casting to my biology lab, so that I can have 640 students create meaningful videos, articles, and connections between their own disciplines, and the one I love. I think it would be so much more authentic in the learning sense, and it would help me document their journey through learning in the laboratory.

I’d love to hear from Casey what video editing software she used, or if she found any resistance to technology from the farmers she worked with?

coolcatteacher April 26, 2014 - 12:16 pm

Amy I will email her and ask her to reply here. While she made film in my class I don’t think she produced this film. Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher

Amy Hollingsworth April 26, 2014 - 5:38 pm

Thanks Vicki! I wasn’t sure if she made it, or it was an IBM production.

Do you have any great video editing software that you’ve found? I’d love to make my videos more than just one take.

coolcatteacher April 26, 2014 - 7:10 pm

We use Pinnacle Studio. We video has cool collaborative features.Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher

Casey April 26, 2014 - 8:13 pm

Hi Amy! Thanks for your comment! I did not produce the video, but I was on site to work with all the farmers who were in the video (and some who were not featured as well). It really depends on the individual as to whether they are willing to embrace something new and technological, but many of the farmers in my area are open-minded and innovative. They want to make their practices as efficient as possible, so they are willing to try new technologies and methods of doing so with more curiosity than resistance. This is not the case with every producer in our area of course, but I have worked with some very open farmers.

Amy Hollingsworth April 27, 2014 - 10:38 am

I think that “embracing technology” is something that a lot of people have trouble with – myself included, sometimes. I’m glad the farmers you work with are willing to try innovative techniques.

I work with science teachers, lab manual publishers, grad students, and non-majors students – and even some of them are apprehensive about technology. For me, I can’t imagine any other way of life than collaboration and sharing. I guess that just fits my personality.

Well, Casey, I applaud you! I think what you’re doing is innovative and exciting. I can’t wait to hear more good things from you in the future. Rock the technology, sister!

coolcatteacher April 27, 2014 - 11:56 am

Thank you Casey for modeling the art if online conversation as it shows even more about you than just the masterful piece of writing. You can tell you care about our area and agriculture both from upbringing from two amazing parents but also a first rate high school and college education! I am so proud of you!!Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher

Casey April 26, 2014 - 8:20 pm

Mrs. Vicki,

Thank you so much for such an encouraging and positive response! You and the other teachers at Westwood were instrumental in teaching me so many valuable lessons that I still carry with me. One thing that you taught me that impacted me more than you know is that you can do big things in Camilla, Georgia. The internet and technology have created wonderful opportunities for people in rural areas, and seeing what we achieved together with the Flat Classroom project opened my mind to all the incredible things that can be done from anywhere in the world. I am so appreciative of your openness and passion. You taught me to think globally – I will always be grateful for such a valuable lesson at a young age.

coolcatteacher April 27, 2014 - 11:59 am

Casey! As if your writing wasn’t gift enough, I am printing and keeping these words!  You have impacted me as well. As I remember it you helped me name this blog and said do many things that shaped my views of what collaboration can be. Thank you for being a living breathing example of all of these things I talk about here on my blog. Your words are some I will treasure.Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere