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.

And now for something completely different …

Have you ever thought how your email ends up in my inbox? Here is an interesting virtual journey of what happens when you click “send”. Google Green offers a visual explanation of the process. Along the way there are interesting video, image and explanations of all that happens almost instantaneously.

The Story of Send.

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.

A class’ prayer

I received a pleasant and encouraging email earlier today. It was from the 7th grade teacher at MCS who wanted to share her class’ prayer request with me. Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer, and as the various classes moved through prayer stations in the building, they wanted to have a special time of prayer for a new high school. The prayer included the petition that the a new high school would be ready for them when they graduated a year from now. I was encouraged by this.

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 3

“Let’s not leave the developing world behind.”

This message resonated deeply with me today during our third day together. Cellular and Internet connectivity is worldwide, and as Christian schools work to prepare our students for the world they will face, it shouldn’t be too difficult for us to partner with missions and/or local schools in the developing world. They have access to the connection; they need to be provided with the opportunity to interact more together.

Imagine a learning partnership where our children are interacting with less-advantaged children in the world via the world wide web. Imagine how these children may be reached with the Gospel by our Christian school students demonstrating their beliefs as they learn together. We may be able to teach them through our interactions, but, more importantly, imagine how much our students can learn from them as we partner together.

Today’s ‘a-ha’ for me was that it shouldn’t be too difficult for each and every Christian school to have a ‘sister school’ in the developing world. As I think about some of the mission partnerships with my home church alone, I realize that at least two of them are with missionaries in their local school systems. Why couldn’t the new Monroe Christian High School partner with these schools, especially if we consider offering (for example) English as a Second Language tutorials online, service learning opportunities to benefit these sites, or mission-related study trips?