Dear Blake Families,
After a rainy start to the weekend, I hope that everyone was able to get outside and enjoy some of this beautiful weather. The 7th/8th grade dance was a success - it's always great to see the students in a different light and having a good time. I want to thank and recognize the staff who chaperoned the dance (Eileen, Deb, Brian, Travis, Connie, Kelly C., and Maura) - I so appreciate the cross-section of volunteers who helped to provide a safe and positive experience for our students. This weekend was a great one for us - attending the kids' sports events, getting out for a run on the Holliston rail trail, watching the Preakness, and we spent Sunday afternoon at my sister's in Newburyport for my nephew and niece's combined birthday party.
Today we are departing on our trip to Washington, D.C. with the 8th grade students, and this excursion is one of the experiences at Blake signifying the end of the year is approaching. A few weeks ago I shared a post by Angela Watson, 5 Reasons Why I Stopped the Summer Break Countdown, encouraging all of us to make a concerted effort to slow our heads down and make the most of the time we have with our students. As one who greatly enjoys down time, summer, and time at the beach with family, I recognize this is certainly easier said than done. That said, I do believe it is a worthy goal. The practice of reflection is at the core of my belief system in regards to learning, progress, and education, and the end of the year provides many opportunities for this to take place - through interviews, evaluation meetings with staff, assessments of students, end of year recognition and celebration, scheduling, and planning for the upcoming year. I am highlighting three posts below that I hope can provide some strategies for ending the year in a forward-thinking, productive, and purposeful frame of mind.
End of Year Burnout: How to Finish the Marathon in Stride
by Maurice Elias in Edutopia
"Perhaps unlike a marathon, we don't have the option to quit before the finish line. And we can't make the terrain any easier. But we can spend the time in ways that will actually lighten our stride and allow us to cover more ground -- in this case, time -- without it feeling quite so burdensome."
Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Improves Performance
Executive Summary from Harvard Business School Working Paper
by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats
This brief post highlights the work of Di Stefano, Gino, Pisano, and Staats, echoing the thoughts of John Dewey - "We do not learn from experience ... we learn from reflecting on experience." The full 'white paper' is worth the read (link is embedded within), but set aside some time for it.
"They argue that learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection—that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience."
"Key concepts include...
- Learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection-that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.
- Reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive.
- Reflection builds one's confidence in the ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn translates into higher rates of learning."
Let it Marinate: The Importance of Reflection and Closing
by Joshua Block in Edutopia
Block's post underlines the importance of finding to time to reflect and 'close', and that the benefits are mutual for students and adults.
"...the time when a large piece of work is submitted is an important opportunity for students to articulate their own learning and self-evaluate in order to improve learning and the quality of their work for the future."
"School is generally not structured in a way that easily accommodates ambiguity and differentiation. While this presents a challenge, the strategic integration of meaningful closings and reflection into classroom practice gives students multiple avenues for engaging with complex ideas and allows more students to find broader meaning in their work. Additionally, these activities help teachers to more deeply understand and adapt to the intellectual processes of our students."
We will certainly be taking some time as a staff to reflect upon the year at upcoming meetings, but I encourage families to find time to do this with your students as well. It is important to recognize our successes and equally important to acknowledge our challenges and weaknesses. It is a collective goal that will serve our community well.
On a separate note I am also highlighting a wonderful post about technology integration and, in particular, the need to maintain a focused vision on skills beyond a particular device. As we look ahead to the reality of a 1:1 environment at Blake next year, I aim to continue centering our conversation on the process of learning and broader intent of our educational practices. We need to keep pushing ourselves beyond the 'app proficiency' approach towards one that is aligned with our mission statement. Cohen's assertion that this is more likely when the iPad is 'invisible' is astute and that I fully endorse...
The Invisible iPad: It's Not about the Device
by Michael Cohen in MindShift
"For progressive educators, it isn't enough to change how we use the iPad, but why we use the iPad - or any other device for that matter."
"Technology is not here to make us lazy, or to avoid basic communication skills, but it is here to make us think critically, solve problems, collaborate, communicate, create, and ideate. Unfortunately, these words have far surpassed cliché status in education, as if they are the key to tagging successful learning outcomes, but the truth is that when the iPad is invisible, you really get to see those words in action. As long as our focus is on learning outcomes and the experience it brings."
"The idea of invisible technology is powerful. Its practical application for educators can be challenging, frustrating, and fill even the most confident learning facilitator with doubt. Invisible technology empowers its user to be independent, collaborative, and truly upend learning. How do we measure its success? Is there a definitive technology yardstick to build confidence not only in the student, but in the teacher as well? What are our goals and skills we wish our students to acquire, develop, and reflect upon? If our goal is to create an army of app-savvy iPad aficionados then we have utterly failed."
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