Technology Conversations

Our district technology committee met this morning for three hours of hard work.  It all began last spring when we surveyed our staff and then took the time to review the survey seeking strengths, struggles, needs, patterns and trends.  Today our task was to finalize a format for our next Superintendent’s Conference Day and to begin to develop needed sessions based on the survey and other data at hand.

Our committee is made up of teachers K-12, a Board of Education member, a teacher’s aide, our technology director, a teacher assistant and technicians.  I think that this group is amazing, and it gave me great pleasure to see so many committed people at work.  The brainstorming was powerful, and we left our meeting with a format in mind, session development begun and home “play” (vs. home work).

I can’t wait to see how the next steps play out.  I am charged with taking the sessions and getting them into a published format for the committee to review.  We are seeking students to assist in video, presentations and work in the Cyber Cafe.  The committee members are planning what the opening session can bring as we highlight the neat stuff that our teachers and students are generating daily! Pretty fun stuff!

Athletic Handbook Committee

Our Athletic Handbook Committee met for the first time last night. This committee is made up of 14 people representing various stakeholders in our community and district – administrators, parents, representatives from the sports boosters, community members, coaches, athletic managers and support staff.  It is being facilitated by the High School Principal, High School Assistant Principal and me. 

Our mission is to review and update our handbook which has not been reviewed for many years.  Task #1:  Each person received a copy of the Alden Handbook and one other handbook from an area school. (Thanks to all the schools who were willing to share their work.)  The purpose of reviewing other handbooks is twofold.  One – we want to see what other schools are doing and tap into their good ideas.  Two – we want to make sure that if there are pitfalls in other handbooks, that we avoid them. That is how we learn. We don’t know what we don’t know. By reviewing other work and ideas, it will only help us to learn and grow as a committee.

Because we are splitting the work, it makes the work more tolerable because as you know this is work that has to be done on our time in the midst of family time, our regular jobs and other items that fill our days.  We are in groups of 2-3 people all whom have the same task.  My group is reading a handbook from a neighboring district, and we become experts in that handbook knowing it in and out, so when working on Alden’s Handbook, we can pull ideas from our “homework” and reference it when working as a group. Other groups have different handbooks and will do the same.

Next time  we will meet in small groups and discuss what we see are strengths and areas in need of improvement in each handbook and then come together to look for patterns and trends. This will help us set the priorities for our revision work.

Thanks to our community members.  I am so proud of the group already, and I can tell that we will make some great gains!  They were there and committed and ready to work. Again, the community steps up to benefit our school. Wonderful!!

I Just Looked at the Calendar!

Holy Cow!  It is October next week, and I just can’t believe it.  I have been on full speed ahead since July, and September has flown by. So, let’s share the news!

The PEP Grant has been amazing. Although I am the first to admit that I am very frustrated at times, who can complain when we are buying oodles of equipment and games for kids to improve their fitness and lifelong health habits?  Who can complain when students are going to learn some very cool things about self-defense, yoga and nutrition?  NOT ME!  I have learned a ton about bidding, ordering requirements and federal audit laws.  AND that is okay. I get a kick out of learning how to abide by the system and keep things moving forward.

Besides the PEP, we are gearing up for our curriculum work.  We have a Curriculum Review Cycle that helps us focus on curriculum so that we have targeted our thinking and our expenditures. We have set dates for our technology integrators to review their roles, curriculum expectations and more!  I believe this is going to be just the beginning of conversations with these folks. They are integral for our work in not only technology, but with the immersion of 21st Century Learning Skills.  English teachers in grades 6-12 and our School Library Media Specialists will be meeting in the spring to review their curriculum and work towards better alignment, integration of 21stCentury Learning Skills and a closer look at the literacies that students need to navigate through web 2.0. Our Physical Education Department is also going to work on their curriculum.  They start with the elementary curriculum in just a few weeks!  Tie that with the PEP Grant data collection and the PE Department is going to busier than ever.

Other exciting things to come include our Literacy Council and RtI Committee. Embedded into the Curriculum Review Cycle is the review of Reading K-5.  We are going to try to run things simultaneously with a K-5 group studying the art, science and research about reading instruction.  We also will have an RtI Committee that will be begin to expand the AIS Plan into an umbrella plan called RtI.  Good stuff and hard work for everyone involved.

Meanwhile, each department has set department goals.  We are writing more grants –one in the Arts (with a community connection) and one with Science that, if granted, would include new equipment and possibly our teacher publishing a lab in a well-known high school lab manual. I am also seeking a small grant to support the purchase of books for our Battle of the Books Club hosted in the Middle School.

Mentors meet in a week to review how the school year is going for them as mentors.  We have 6 teachers being mentored, and we have the best mentors one can imagine.  Out Tech committee meets next week to craft the schedule for our next Superintendent’s Conference Day.  It will be an immersion in personal learning around web 2.0, the computer basics and expansion of one’s craft using technology!  More to come!

Our Board of Education Goals

Our Board of Education really is a great Board of Education.  I am not just saying that because I like who they are as people and because I appreciate the hours of their time they give to our school. They go beyond that.  They are learners.  They are caring about our students, and they are appreciative of our school administrators and their efforts each day.

Last week, our Board of Education set their yearly goals.

  1. They want to be sure to try to maintain the staff that we have in our district as we go through our next budget season.  We had to make some deep cuts last year, and that was so hard on every person in our district.  I appreciate that they are striving to provide the best possible education for our students and to provide for each student and their needs accordingly.
  2. They want more information on 21st Century Learning Skills (Tony Wagner) and the work of Daniel Pink. They are proud of our student assessment scores, and they also want to support our teachers and administrators as we strive to go beyond just the test scores.
  3. They also want to learn more about our administrative work. They are going to come to Board of Ed meetings half hour early over the next year and meet one-on-one with our administrative team members.  I am very excited because this is the time for us to delve a bit deeper into our work and share our projects, day-to-day work and our vision for next steps in each of our positions.  How cool is that?

Thank you to our Board of Education for learning and growing with us and being dedicated to our school district!

…and We Are Rolling Along Already – It is Business Today

It is our 4th day of school!  We had our first Administrative Cabinet meeting of the year today, and my head is swirling.  There are so many things we must be thinking about:  H1N1, our Safety Plan, our planning calendar for the year and more.  So much of our time is spent on business, and although it is not always my favorite meeting each month, I certainly bring away a whole lot of something new every time we meet.

Today, we talked about our Community Coalition.  Our High School Principal gave us an overview of the group’s mission, membership and plan.  He is bringing this to us because when we met over the summer at our retreat, we realized that our Administrative Team did not have a working knowledge of this group and its very important efforts.

This group has been involved in Project Sticker Shock.  It is a project that reminds our community about the dangers of providing alcohol to underage drinkers.  The group also was integral in bringing Rachel’s Challenge to our Middle and High School students.  Our High School now has a “Friends of Rachel” club, and our vision is to carry this across all four buildings.  Safe Homes is another key initiative through our Community Coalition.  The goal of the SAFE HOMES is to develop a community-wide coalition of parents and other adults working together to implement a network of community members that has a mission to keep our students drug-free and safe.  Click here to read more.

It really got me thinking about how to continue to support positive youth development throughout our community and am wondering what steps we will take to grow this group and continue to nurture its efforts.  More conversation is to come from this, and I look forward to telling you that we have made great strides this school year.

Will Richardson Presented Today

Will Richardson presented at our district today.  Here my initial thoughts in “listy” form.

  • Will mentioned a shift in calling social networks to calling them learning networks.  I agree with that so much.  I learn a great deal even from those sources that I can consider more social than professional.  On Facebook, which I use mostly for social reasons, I can put out a question, and because of the variety of backgrounds and resources from others, I get answers and assistance right away. 

 

  • He shared his resources on his wikispace. I just shared his wikispace and blog with my colleagues at school because many were asking for it.  I just read his most recent blog post.  He referenced one of our teachers.  That is cool. (I am thinking he is writing in the airport.) He referenced his frustration with progress.  I think we all feel the frustration of the slow pace of progress.   We have to get the infrastructure in place to make more happen.  Infrastructure – check.  Teachers have to have access to the tools to learn and grow. Open access for teachers – check.  Now we can continue to talk pedagogy and get deeper in our conversations.  Let us all be a part of the solution to continue to prepare our students for a future we can’t even imagine.

 

  • Will shared with us a great video created by a young man in Canada.  This You Tube video was so awesome to demonstrate a young person’s use of web 2.0 tools.  He asked the “whole world” for help. How cool is that? I had no idea that 4.5 years worth of video is published DAILY on You Tube.  Fanfiction continues to amaze me. Can you imagine that over 400,000 people have written about Harry Potter including new chapters and different versions?

 

  • Will suggested Clay Shirky’s book, Here Come Everybody.  I will be sure to add it to my reading list as I am intrigued by the fact that the internet is so powerful when it comes to organizing groups for a common purpose or passion.  This certainly is a cultural change.  AND that is what has to happen in our school systems as well.  Will is right.  This is about culture.  It is about pedagogy.  It is not about technology. There is a literacy that is required to weave through these tools and use them well.  I don’t know about my colleagues, but I certainly have much more to learn about these literacies. 

 

  • Will shared a few sites and videos that I had not seen before.  This You Tube Video is about the power of organizing against a company that was not providing quality service.  This site brings up a whole lot of discussion about copyright internationally!

 

  • I think that the two key vocabulary words for me throughout the presentation were: hyperconnected and hypertransparent.  These are two words that certainly can explain our students now!

 

  • Will shared a goal that he wishes all schools had in place. – Students will create, navigate and grow their own personal learning network in safe, effective and ethical ways.   WOW!  That is a great goal and really makes sense in the context of what Will shared with us about students’ futures and the competitive market.  I loved the idea of assisting students in creating a digital footprint, one to be proud of and to use and grow when they walk out of our district.  Building a digital footprint is something that isn’t easy, but it is certainly something that tells a great story of your work, your beliefs, your passions, and your life.  The phrase that made me smile in this context was “reputation management.”  After story after story of students and young adults making the wrong decisions using web 2.0, I am convinced that “reputation management” is not a bad thing for schools to tackle and embed in the curriculum.  I am not sure any of us realize how transparent we really are on the web.

 

  • One teacher had told Will that he has “thin classroom walls.”  Our walls will get thinner and thinner as we think about the access we have to others around the world!  Many are doing it now.  Access to information is amazing.  Just text Google and get an answer in minutes.  We can create independent learners and not always have students dependent on us for knowledge.

 

 

  • Kids and adults are reading and writing in a linked environment every day.  Where is that in our curriculum?  I think this struck me the most.  I am an avid internet user like most educators.  How do we translate our strategies that work to students so that they are successful learners?  It is not easy to read and write in a linked environment.  It takes time and thinking!  Will referenced etherpad which I know our Intermediate School students have used to write collaboratively.

 

  • Just a few examples were included of how students are publishing.  Flat Classroom Project and Radio WillowWeb (we listened to Ants) are just two examples of the range of work that can be done within a classroom with walls. 

 

  • To steal some words from Will Richardson, we just need a  little bit of imagination and a little courage to assist in creating and changing the world.

Finding the Positive

Okay, so  a few things went wrong today.  I forgot to put out all the sign in sheets.  Some teachers felt frustrated because they had to travel between buildings a few too many times. The CPS test for tomorrow did not go smoothly.

I am struggling to find the light. So many things went right, and yet I find myself focusing a few things that I could have done better.  I promised myself not to sweat the small stuff.  The missing sheets – no big deal, they just signed on a sheet of paper. The travel between buildings – claiming mileage is always an option.  The CPS – I have a back up plan so no big deal with that either.

What went right:

  1. Our SAVE trainer did a superb job!  She was succinct, used video and reminded us of how important it is to be vigilante in our duties to be sure that our colleagues and students have a safe environment in which to work and learn.
  2. Our PE Department met and relished the fact that we won a great deal of grant money to make our PE Program even better for kids!
  3. Our Director of Instructional and Informational Technology provided us an overview of the new things ahead, and I am in awe of all that department accomplished in just two short months.
  4. Department Goal Setting has begun, and goals are being emailed right now. We really have some amazing teachers!!
  5. Our district office had a nice lunch to celebrate someone’s birthday.
  6. Our High School Principal is setting the stage for some work towards 21st Century Learning Skills.

Tomorrow, Will Richardson will be in the house. This is so important to us and our mission for kids.  I am really excited to hear his keynote and tap into the energy from around the world. Gotta love web 2.0.