Innovative Technology and Teaching Leads to Visit From NBA Legend, Oscar Winner and “Punies” Creator Kobe Bryant
The students of Oxford Prepartory Academy, a network of charter schools authorized by the Capistrano Unified School District and the Orange County Office of Education, received the surprise of a lifetime when they arrived at school on Wednesday, December 19 thanks to the innovative efforts of 4th grade teacher, Andrew Ntzouras. Instead of their usual early morning routine, the class was asked to head outside to the blacktop to meet a special visitor.
There, they were met by the legendary NBA champion and Academy Award winner Kobe Bryant. His passion and commitment to always being the best at what you do set the discussion for an inspirational message to the entire student body. However, Bryant wasn't visiting Ntzouras' class as a future Hall of Fame basketball player, he was visiting in his role of creator and director of the “Punies,” a podcast created for the whole family by Bryant's Granity Studios.
Ntzouras has been utilizing Punies with his group of fourth graders this year and the class spent time with Bryant and the Punies team collaborating during Wednesday morning's lesson. The Punies team was there to get a firsthand look at how Ntzouras was using the podcast as part of the curriculum.
With a focus on listening and writing standards, Ntzouras asked students to first listen to an episode while taking notes, and then use their notes to write essays summarizing the main idea of each episode. Additionally, students were tasked with creating interactive projects to demonstrate understanding of the material and showcase their learning. This methodology aligns with the theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI), that differentiates intelligence into different modalities of learning, creating an environment where students can demonstrate learning in multiple, unique ways.
“My students become more familiar with the California Common Core State Standards using The Punies podcast,” said Ntzouras. “The Punies podcast is a great way to get kids excited about writing because the episodes contain relevant and meaningful topics to them. The excitement for learning the Punies brings each week is contagious. The episodes highlight themes of good sportsmanship, integrity of character, and working as a team, to help children see the value in being responsible citizens in their communities and our world. I am excited for the upcoming season two of the Punies podcast, to continue using it to inspire students to love learning.”
How schools use technology in the classroom is one of the most talked about issues in education today. More than simply integrating smart boards or laptops into existing curriculum, teachers like Ntzouras and schools like Oxford Preparatory Academy (OPA) are stepping out front and taking the lead in making the technology itself a focal point of the classroom instruction.
“The gap in how students gather and retain information outside the classroom compared to the way school typically delivers information is wide and growing,” said OPA-South Orange County Chancellor Amy Kernan. “As a charter school, it's important we use our ability to be nimble and flexible to come up with proven solutions that narrow this gap and improve student learning.”
In addition to the Punies being part of the curriculum for Ntzouras' class, the school is exploring several other partnerships and opportunities to make the way students learn more relevant and interesting for students. As part of their continued focus in driving student learning with technology, OPA is announcing Tech Challenge 2019 for the new year, where students will develop podcasts that teach their peers valuable lessons. Requirements include both MI and technology to drive student learning and involvement, while also encouraging peer to peer sharing so students know they are not alone in their experiences. Addressing all needs of students, including emotional/behavioral, are critical to developing well rounded leaders of tomorrow.
“With the rapid advancement in technologies like virtual reality and access to nearly unlimited content from around the world, it's important that, as educational leaders, we figure out ways to integrate them into our teaching,” continued Kernan. “Mr. Bryant's appearance here today is a great example of how we can break down traditional walls that often keep our students from accessing relevant and interesting material. I look forward to OPA being able to showcase more of these kinds of opportunities.”