Value in Serving

The 9th graders have had the opportunity to help prepare and serve the hot lunch now for three weeks. This has been our first attempt to introduce some service learning as part of their experience. I recall that the students were a bit hesitant to volunteer for the first hot lunch Friday, but this week, they volunteered quite quickly and eagerly. Each time following their service, they return to their classroom room with giddy excitement for having the opportunity to interact with all the students. I think that the younger students enjoy being served by their older peers and it has helped draw together the k-9 community a bit more. There is, indeed, some value in encouraging the students to serve.

Students need S-P-A-C-E to learn

I was recently introduced to Challenge Success, which is an organization that works with schools to help create balance and academic fulfillment for students. One of their cornerstones is based on the notion that students need SPACE to learn. SPACE is an acronym for five practices that can help change a student’s experience of school:

S – Students’ use of time

P – Project-based learning

A – Alternative and authentic assessments

C – Climate of care

E – Educate parents, students and faculty

It is worth viewing the recommended SPACE policies and ideas that can positively influence a student’s experience of high school.

Interestingly, we have been advocating for these same principles (minus the fancy acronym!) and planning for many of the recommendations for our new high school. It is rewarding to see how our efforts are aligning with recommendations from the research base for school success.

Of particular interest is focus “C” on developing a caring community for students in which they feel safe and appropriately challenged to learn. This is so central to our plans for Monroe Christian High School, as it is in a Christian community-based learning environment that discipleship and student development can occur. Our high school students need community and a caring advising system in which teachers will get to know their students in order to help them succeed academically  We don’t believe that a fully online, virtual high school will lead to the type of academic and personal growth that we desire for our high school graduates. We remain committed to the deliberate blending of on-campus learning experiences and positive relationships with the best that online learning options may offer for high school studies.

Resource:

Barseghian, T. – Why kids need schools to change

Needed: A focus on teaching and learning

The success of any 1-1 implementation lies less in the choice of computing device, but more in the difference that it can contribute to the overall teaching and learning that is taking place in the classroom. This is so important to remember, especially as more and more schools follow through with an “iPad initiative.”

While the selection of educational apps is vast (the Apple in Education website currently reads “Thousands of apps. Endless potential.”), I have come to understand that teachers shouldn’t focus only on the apps that can help with learning (intriguing as they may be). The key is to expand student thinking, not restrict it by working only within a choice selection of apps.

Appropriate instructional decisions are needed in order to take student learning to the next level. How are teachers challenging student thinking and inviting them to use their device in productive ways that will help them learn better? To what extent are students using the technology to curate their knowledge, collaborate with others, and create their own content? These are two important questions to keep in mind before deciding on an “app for that.”

Teens hate Twitter, don’t like talking on the phone, and think email is passé

These were among the findings of a recent Business Week report “The secret lives of teenagers online.” Their research observed that:

  • While few teens (13-17 years old) own tablet computers such as an iPad, teens remain very connected through cell phones and other, smaller gadgets such as an iPod Touch.
  • More than 95% of teens own a cell phone and their data usage has increased over 250% since 2010.
  • 68% of teens prefer to text each other as a means of communication. (They don’t really enjoy using their phones for talking.)
  • Teens like to spend time checking social media sites during the day. Top teen activities on Facebook include looking at people’s profiles and commenting on them.
  • Teens don’t read the news online.

In addition, the authors were surprised to note that “teens are way sneakier using the Internet and gadgets than their parents imagine.”  In fact, a good percentage of teenagers “take serious measures to cover their tracks online, and [their] parents have no idea.”

I found this report quite interesting, as it provided a snapshot of Internet use that focuses on teenagers. It is clear that teenagers are incredibly connected. How can we use this knowledge to foster a positive culture of learning that leverages technology and access to the Internet? Are there implications for encouraging positive digital citizenship? Do we need to pay  special attention to policy development with regards to device usage on campus? These are just a few questions that I found myself asking as we consider ways to engage teenagers and their devices in high school. Hmm … I wonder how other successful schools are addressing issues such as these.

A important lesson from last June

Summer is coming to an end and I realize that I haven’t provided an update on the new high school during the past few months. I want to share a bit about a meeting that I held with last year’s group of 7th graders during the final days of classes in June.

Since this class will serve as the inaugural freshmen class for the new high school, I wanted to meet with them and begin to honor their voice in the planning process. I spent a bit of time sharing some key aspects that we had been considering for the new high school and then answered their questions. I also wanted to learn what interested them as we continued our planning.

The significant insight that I took away from my hour with the students was acknowledging their interest over student life activities. They weren’t overly concerned about the range of courses that they will take or the type of instructional format for their classes (although they were excited about using either a personal laptop or tablet!). No, they wanted some reassurance that high school would include opportunities for clubs, sports and activities outside of regular class time.

For me, this meeting will serve as a reminder to keep the student experience central in all our considerations.

The “flipped” classroom

The notion of a “flipped” classroom has been gaining a lot of attention in the past year or so.

First of all, what is a “flipped” classroom? By most accounts, a flipped classroom is one where the instruction takes place online outside of class hours, thereby freeing classtime for discussion, application and/or homework on the online lesson’s ideas and topics that students have previously viewed.

I have been following the development and interest that it is gaining and wanted to collect a number of links to some valuable resources on the flipped model:

This infographic provides a nice overview of the flipped model.

A collection of 10 reasons to consider flipping a classroom countered with 5 reasons not to flip a classroom.

A balanced commentary on the flipped classroom model for learning.

The flipped class manifest outlines the core tenets of a flipped classroom.

A discussion on how the flipped classroom is radically transforming learning.

The Flipped Class Network is a professional learning community to support teachers as they consider flipping a lesson or even their entire class.

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 2

This was a good first day for the ‘official’ symposium. By the time I was back at the condo, I was both tired and rejuvenated from the interactions of the day. Each session was worth my attention and focus. I think this was why I felt so exhausted by the time I left the discussion center! Rather than address each session directly today, my biggest take-away was the realization we are actually talking about my daughter’s graduating class when we talk about the class of 2025 and whether or not they will be ready and equipped to face their future. This personal perspective hit home for me. I want to help prepare this next generation for academic success and to equip for service in God’s world as ‘salt and light’ (Matt 5:13-16). We are working together here for children like my own.

A reminder for an e-school day

A winter storm arrived last weekend, and it promises to keep schools closed for the better part of this week. I was reminded of my post last April on how a hybrid approach to teaching in the classroom could keep the students learning, even during the days that schools “have” to be closed. Offering an opportunity for a synchronous discussion on a topic, or even a video chat, and then following through on some collaborative work online could keep students engaged, even after they have played in the snow.

Meeting with an admissions counselor

I had the opportunity to meet with a university admissions counselor earlier today. I was interested in getting a sense of what counselors may be considering when they review an application from a student who recently graduated from a new or relatively unknown high school.

I was pleasantly surprised that they were not necessarily looking for the number of honors or AP classes that a student took, per se, but, rather, that applicants could demonstrate that they attempted to challenge themselves in school, especially when considering the various courses that could be taken in the school curriculum. Did the student choose the “easy credits”? Or did the student attempt to engage in a variety of classes throughout the curriculum? Is the student a well-rounded student as a result of the high school experience?

The counselor advised the need to let the university know of the school’s graduation requirements at least a year in advance of the first graduating class. This notification should highlight the minimum graduation requirements and expectations of the school’s students. This was especially important should the school expect the students to participate in service learning, internships or offer other learning opportunities for credit. Based on this provided profile, careful decisions are made regarding admission status.

The counselor didn’t even flinch when we talked about a hybrid high school graduation diploma. To her, this was part of the reality of admitting students in the 21st century.

Overall, I appreciated the opportunity to discuss what a new school needs to consider from a university admissions point of view. Clearly, the need to explicitly express minimum graduation requirements is important. Even more important is to articulate the vision and expectations that a new Christian high school may have for its students as graduates and representatives of the school when they leave to go to college.

Digital textbooks for the classroom

I recall a conversation when I learned that one of the larger annual expenditures for MCS is on textbooks. This can change with access to digital textbooks. They are on average 53% cheaper to develop and print, and this is a savings that can be passed on to the school. Equally important is the stewardship of natural resources that is involved with the publication of these texts. From a student’s immediate perspective, such texts are significantly lighter to carry around and they provide immediate 24/7 access to the materials. This infographic highlights the textbooks of tomorrow.

Virtual texts are becoming more and more interactive, and this is impacting the learning experience for students. An example that I came across was the HMH Fuse interactive text for algebra and geometry. These texts allow students to interact with the material, and include video tutorials, “scratch pads” to actually work out math problems or make notes, animated guidance in error analysis, and hyperlink access to glossaries. Books may embed games as part of the text process and inline quizzes to help students gauge their progress on the material. Texts such as these are immediately accessible and can include syncing features that allow the teachers to access assessment data on student progress from the books. This video highlights the student’s experience with such a text (I admit that this is a promotional video developed by the publisher, but it does suggest how students can take to such an interactive text).

Another version of the virtual text is one that is custom designed and created in-house. When teachers have the time and desire, it is possible to self-publish a text that meets local needs and remains completing aligned to learning standards. This article describes one school in Minnesota that accomplished just this. Their budget crisis served to motivate a group of teachers to develop a text and supporting videos for their subject area.

Reference:

Oseland, C. (2011, Sept. 28). Budget crisis inspires award winning curriculum redesign at Byron Senior High School. THE Journal, accessed Nov. 14, 2011.