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Harvard researcher to document Liggett educator’s work

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 18, 2015

 University Liggett School kindergarteners Iris Wimmer, of Detroit, and Sonya Jayakar, of Grosse Pointe Woods, with a robot, are students of Lower School Technology Integrator Michael Medvinsky, who will be featured in an upcoming Harvard University documentary.

University Liggett School kindergarteners Iris Wimmer, of Detroit, and Sonya Jayakar, of Grosse Pointe Woods, with a robot, are students of Lower School Technology Integrator Michael Medvinsky, who will be featured in an upcoming Harvard University documentary.

Photo provided by University Liggett School staff

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — A well-known researcher will document the teaching methods that University Liggett School Lower School technology integrator Michael Medvinsky uses with his students.

Ron Ritchhart, of Project Zero, an educational research group from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, was expected to visit Liggett Nov. 18 to document Medvinsky’s work with Upper School music production students. In addition, a video crew was set to document Medvinsky and the students on the following day, Nov. 19. 

The music production students have been working collectively on an original music composition in TJ Wolfgram’s class. The students rotate roles during every class to work as lyricists, instrumentalists and producers, which Ritchhart will document. The composition will be recorded digitally using Logic Pro X — professional-level recording software — in the classroom and then mastered in Liggett’s state-of-the-art Boll Mac Lab. The music production class, which the students lead, intends to make students think about every aspect of a song and think through the entire process. 

Medvinsky plans to have the class compose an entire album, which will be sold on iTunes. Profits from the iTunes sales will be donated to an organization of their choosing. The artists currently are researching different organizations to present to the class for consideration. The idea is that their message doesn’t stop at the music they create and share, but supports something bigger. 

Medvinsky is featured in Ritchhart’s newest book, “Creating Cultures of Thinking.” 

“The chapter is focused on classroom culture and students engaging in their own thinking,” Medvinsky said. 

Medvinsky and Ritchhart met prior to the educator coming to Liggett four months ago. In “Creating Cultures of Thinking,” Ritchhart writes about the ways that Medvinsky worked with fourth- and fifth-graders while at his previous school. Medvinsky is doing similar work with Liggett’s Upper School music production students. 

In addition to his work with the Upper School music composition class, Medvinsky serves as the Lower School’s instructional technology integrator. Lower School teachers plan inquiry projects and learning experiences for their students with Medvinsky. 

“Together we co-create opportunities for our learners,” Medvinsky said. 

Ritchhart is scheduled to visit third-grade classes in the Lower School, where students are gathering information and making claims while on a digital quest that Medvinsky created. During this digital quest, they are using technology to connect with experts worldwide to solicit feedback about their claims regarding where Amelia Earhart’s plane went down.

Medvinsky described his classroom as “a collective experience” where “individual thinking is valued and is promoted.” 

“I don’t teach technology. Technology is a tool for them to foster inquiry and dig deep into the questions they have made themselves,” Medvinsky said. 

Medvinsky is integrating “visible thinking routines” into his technology lessons in the Lower School. Recently, Liggett Lower School Head Peggy Dettlinger observed a third-grade class participating in a “Zoom-In” routine. The Zoom-In thinking routine required learners to pay close attention to detail and make inferences. 

“This is a routine designed for students to look closely at a picture and share observations and insights, and then give rationale to support their thinking,” Dettlinger said in a prepared statement. “The students were very engaged in the lesson, and their claims demonstrated that they were connecting their prior knowledge with new information they were seeing and wondering about.” 

Medvinsky used an interactive whiteboard to show students a portion of one picture at a time. The students shared their thinking, and as more of the picture was revealed, they changed their thinking and gave supporting claims as to why their initial observations had changed.