Dear Blake Families:
Hopefully this update finds everyone well. Our family enjoyed a lovely weekend in the Berkshires, visiting with cousins and relatives. Many laughs were shared and I was reminded once again how important it is to change one's environment and routine to get a fresh perspective. Getting the kids and dog packed and ready to go is an ordeal, for sure, but the get-away was much needed and worthwhile!
This past week was a busy one - placement letters going home, finishing up MCAS, preparing for PARCC, planning technology initiatives, etc. As I have shared before, the 'to do' lists for all of us are ever-growing and never seem to end. I also recognize that ideas, planning, and initiatives that I bring to the table each week/month (and, at times, more often) can add to the stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Unfortunately, it is only natural for frustration and cynicism to seep into our thoughts. With this in mind, I am sharing a couple of posts that I found to be particularly helpful in redirecting my thinking and establishing productive mindsets...
5 Ways to be a Skeptic in Today's 'Reformy' Educational World
post by John Robinson
This brief post by educator John Robinson references Guy Harrison's book, 'Think: Why You Should Question Everything', and emphasizes the role that healthy skepticism can play in schools (Ask questions, Observe, Research, Experiment, Share ideas and conclusions with others). This is exactly the type of thinking and questioning we want for our students and should be fostering in class: "In an age when new reforms and approaches are being flung in our direction at light speed, skepticism should definitely be in our leadership toolbox. We owe to ourselves and our students to subject all claims to reason and thinking."
Get Back Up Again
post by Tom Whitford (@twhitford)
Tom Whitford's blog post resonated with me as we often talk as a staff about our roles as learners in tandem with our students and parents. For all of us, learning is a messy process that never ends, and I have found that mindset to be one that liberates and brings hope to our day-to-day work.
"That is not to say that they don't have things to work on. We all do. I know I do. As soon as we see ourselves as not needing to grow, then I think we need to take on the new job of improving our golf game or lawn care techniques, and the best time to do that is in retirement. And the wonderful thing is, my staff has embraced that concept already. They are learners. "
"We will develop resilience in ourselves so that we can develop it in our students. We will try things and fail. But, we will learn from them, get back up, and become even better. We will not fear the failure. We will not fear the mistakes, the things we don't know yet, the effort of learning or the courage of getting back up again. Because when you get right down to it, that is what learning is for kids every day, and I won't ask it of them if we don't ask it of ourselves."
Our theme of creativity this year has direct implications for learning, for it is how we look at the challenges that are in front of us that will help us to tap into the resources we have and those that we need. Along similar lines, I am also sharing two posts below as resources and perspectives to keep in mind - both relate to technology and our students, but with different intents in mind.
Teens and Social Networking - It Might Actually Be Good for Them
post by Clive Thompson in The Guardian
Thompson's post is one I found to be interesting as it challenges some traditional thinking and emphasizes the importance of 'connection'. Social networking is certainly not everything and the connections that it can foster are not always healthy and productive, but many of the byproducts are indeed important. We should not blindly ignore the pitfalls and problems that can be encountered, and responsible use should be at the heart of our message. What I liked most was the identification and recognition that this is 'their' world, but moderation and modeling are essential. As a parent and educator, I am trying to keep this mindset (modeling and moderation) at the core of my thinking.
5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads (And How to Correct Them)
post by Tom Daccord (@thomasdaccord) in Edudemic, September 2012
"While iPads are engaging, technology needs to be — above everything else — in the service of learning...Increasingly a 21st century education is less about place and more about space. And the iPad has become the leading device in which students can navigate and create exciting new worlds...With more schools opting for 1:1 student-to-iPad access, there exists a tremendous opportunity for a transformative shift in classrooms where students are empowered to navigate their own learning."
Daccord's post from September of 2012 is one that I had read before and was fortunate to come across again last week. I immediately shared it with the content specialists. Tom clearly and succinctly articulates a mindset for technology integration, specifically with iPads and the mistakes that schools have made or could make (Focusing on content apps, Lack of teacher preparation in classroom management of iPads, Treating the iPad as a computer and expecting it to serve as a laptop, Treating iPads like multi-user devices, Failure to communicate a compelling answer to 'Why iPads'). It is this last point that we must communicate to ourselves, one another, students, and parents over and over again - why iPads? At the end of the day, I think Tom puts it nicely: "School administrators should be explaining to their constituents that the iPad supports essential skill areas — complex communication, new media literacy, creativity, and self-directed learning. Instead of focusing on the convenience of ebooks, they should instead be emphasizing the incredibly immersive and active learning environment the iPad engenders and the unprecedented opportunities to develop personalized, student-centered learning. They should highlight some of the beneficial consumption, curation, and creativity activities the iPad facilitates — as well as the student empowerment it inspires."
As you can read the weekend away has provided a nice opportunity for reflection, a core value we hold here at Blake. I look forward to the week ahead.
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