Should We Ban Technology In Classrooms and Meetings?


Last Tuesday’s New York Times had an article on the downside of taking notes on a laptop.  The piece, Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meetingwas written by University of Michigan Professor Susan Dynarski who bans electronic devices in her classroom.  Dynarski cites research from Princeton, UCLA and a few other schools where students who were allowed to take notes electronically performed worse than students who took notes with a pen and paper.

A follow-up post on The Verge yesterday gave a great summary of the article. I especially liked the conclusion:

Writing things by hand is becoming less common as gadgets and speech recognition software continue to replace pen and paper, but it’s long proven that handwriting improves motor skills, memory, and creativity. So even though note taking with a laptop might be faster, you might want to think about how much information you’re retaining.

My final thoughts on this center around the idea that we need to take away the opportunity for the individual to make the choice on which method works best.  As students get to the later stages of high school and move on to college, shouldn’t they have the chance to choose the tool that works best for them?  If people become aware that their productivity drops when they take notes on a device, will they still choose to work in the same manner? Isn’t the process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t a critical part of the learning process?

I can’t help thinking about the Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment developed by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).  This framework includes “students’ self-evaluation and reflection on process and product integrated into the learning process and contributing to students’ continued growth.”

In short, we need to be careful that banning is not our default reaction. We will teach students a great deal if we help them be more introspective about what works best for them.


There Can Be No Innovation Without Empathy #IMMOOC

My favorite quote from Part I of The Innovator’s Mindset is highlighted below:


I was involved in a conversation with a group of educators recently about best practices and what school leaders and school districts can do to create greater equity in regards to access of technological resources. One of the points of view was that the school cannot do it all and at some point we have to put the responsibility on others (i.e. local businesses or parents) to find the solution. One person stated, “at what point does it end”? in talking about the lengths that schools and school leaders should go to for things like providing WiFi at home.

My feeling is that when we choose to work as public educators and take on the challenge of supporting ALL STUDENTS, then our responsibility never ends. If our kids are getting less than they need to grow as learners and human beings then our job is to find the resources that they need for them and their families.  For some students, school is the place where they find the greatest level of support from caring adults.   For most students, school is the place where they get more adult interaction than they get anywhere else for at least 180 days out of the year. This is not because adults at home are guilty of neglect, it is a simple math problem. Students spend roughly 6.5 to 7 hours of their days (Monday-Friday) at school and much fewer with their parents. They need to be able to rely on the adults within the walls of the school to build a supportive relationship that revolves around more than supporting subject-area knowledge.  If that means helping them access resources that will allow them to have the same opportunities as other students, then we need to take on that challenge.


What is the value of homework?

One topic that has been coming up during the community forums about the potential of a later start time for Burlington High School next year is homework. With this in mind, I thought I would share a clip from last week’s Innovator’s Mindset episode with Alice Keeler.  Alice is a well-known math teacher and presenter from California who has changed her practice in regards to assigning homework to students.

In the clip, Alice also mentions John Hattie’s research on homework.  Hattie is the Director of the Melbourne Educational Research Institute. His research has gotten a lot of attention since the publication of his Visible Learning meta-study.  I encourage you to watch Alice’s entire interview from last week and also to delve into the research that Hattie has done on the topic of homework.

What do I say to my 11-year old about the Las Vegas shooting?

Driving to school today with my daughter, I had the radio station tuned to the local country music station. Because of last night’s horrific shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, the break between songs focused on the news of over 50 dead and over 400 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in our country’s history.  A few years ago, I would have quickly turned the radio off and changed the subject. But my daughter is in middle school now and she and a lot of her friends like country music and there is a good chance she will hear something about this news somewhere in her travels today.

So I decided to ask her if she heard the news about what happened last night. I explained how the shooting happened and that this was an outside concert with a hotel nearby that overlooked the venue. I reminded her of the security checks that happen at the concerts that we go to and how this would not happen. I also told her that this was the worst shooting in the hundreds of years that our country has been established.

While I know that the conversation between adults on this matter might be a little different. My main goal is to not raise my daughter’s level of concern when it comes to these types of events.  I want her to know she is safe and that she has to worry about. I am not sure I handled it perfectly, but I don’t think to turn off the radio would have been the right thing to do.

With this in mind, I decided to do a quick Google search on talking to kids about mass shootings and found a good article from Psychology Today on the topic.  I encourage parents to read the entire article, but here are a few highlights:

“…many experts recommend no news viewing until age 11 or so, and after that age, minimized viewing together with adults who reassure them and help them process information from a calm, accurate, adult perspective.Reassure them that shootings and attacks are very unlikely to happen to them, their friends, or family…Ask if they have any questions (it’s okay not to have all the answers) and say you’d like to talk again whenever they want. Say it’s good to talk about concerns…”

Dealing with Destructive Discourse #IMMOOC (Week 1 Prompt)


There have been a number of situations over the years where I have been surprised by the way people have reacted to proposed changes.  To be clear, I am not surprised when people push back on changes with a clear opposing point of view (i.e. homework, later school start for teens, master schedule, 1:1 devices, etc.). When we have done things a certain way for a long time in education and most students have been successful, I can understand stakeholders questioning the need for change.

However, the one thing that still surprises me is when people lash out and make personal attacks and bring up issues that have nothing to do with the actual change itself.  I know this is the result of fear and what it does to people that are fearful of change. I would also like to say that I always handle these situations deftly, but that would be inaccurate.

So, I am writing this a reminder to myself and hoping it might help others avoid getting caught up in the negative undercurrents that are always part of the change process.  One way that I have found defuses some situations is to allow for a time where people can list all of their fears/concerns about a particular change.  Once the list of fear and concerns is finalized, ask people to go through and cross off all of the things that we do not have control over. My experience is that many of the things on the list get wiped off and you end up left with a list of manageable items that you can work on to help facilitate the change you seek.


Burlington Board of Health Providing Free Flu Vaccines for Children in October

During October the Burlington Board of Health will be providing influenza vaccinations for children ages 6 months – 18 years by appointment only. Flu injection is available for ages 6 months to 18 years. All children are eligible for free vaccine regardless of insurance status and must be accompanied by a parent/guardian. To schedule an appointment, […]

via Burlington Board of Health Providing Free Flu Vaccines for Children in October — Burlington Superintendent’s Blog

More Positive Reports On Later Start Times for Teenagers

 A recent study by the Rand Corporation indicates that a later school start time could lead to a significant impact on the U.S. economy.  The key findings from the study are as follows:

  • The study suggested that delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m. is a cost-effective, population-level strategy which could have a significant impact on public health and the U.S. economy.
  • The study suggested that the benefits of later start times far out-weigh the immediate costs. Even after just two years, the study projects an economic gain of $8.6 billion to the U.S. economy, which would already outweigh the costs per student from delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m.
  • After a decade, the study showed that delaying schools start times would contribute $83 billion to the U.S. economy, with this increasing to $140 billion after 15 years. During the 15 year period examined by the study, the average annual gain to the U.S. economy would about $9.3 billion each year.
  • Throughout the study’s cost-benefit projections, a conservative approach was undertaken which did not include other effects from insufficient sleep, such as higher suicide rates, increased obesity and mental health issues — all of which are difficult to quantify precisely. Therefore, it is likely that the reported economic benefits from delaying school start times could be even higher across many U.S. states.

An additional article from Business Insider cited sources that show the benefits occurring in schools that have already made the change to a later school start time.

“Following a survey issued at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, (Dobles Ferry School District Superintendent Lisa Brady told Business Insider ‘”it was clear from both the parents and the kids, overwhelmingly, that the mornings were just less stressful.”‘

A math teacher from New Hope, Pennsylvania also had positive things to say about his school’s switch to a later start time a year ago.”

“…students are less stressed and performing just as well if not better in their classes. A survey he issued schoolwide showed students and teachers are widely in favor of the policy.”


Hopes For A New School Year


One of the best things about starting a new school year is the opportunity for a reset. Whether you are a teacher, a student, or a parent, a new school year allows you an opportunity to set aside old habits and routines that were counterproductive and to begin with a clean slate. These new routines could be school/work related, health related or connected to your personal life.

My new routine involves a new journal to help script things for me and hold myself a bit more accountable to both short and long-term goals.  I am also hoping that the daily journaling will help me gain insight into the habits that lead to more productive days.  One of the things that I like most about the new journal is the hourly time log which needs to be filled in ahead of time. I think that outlining the day ahead will be a deterrent for getting caught off-task and not finishing priority items.  A major obstacle for me in the past has been falling for the misconception that I am good at multitasking.

So my New (school) Year Resolution is to start a task and stay on it until the conclusion and not give in to the temptation to jump to something else that I think will only occupy me momentarily.  The problem for me is that these momentary distractions are seldom brief and many times I do not get back to the original task I was working on.  We’ll see how it goes…