Villalta and Kikuchi Recipients of BHS First Annual Innovation Awards

From The BHS Principal’s Blog:

BHS Principal Mark Sullivan (left) and Robert Buckley (right) present the First Annual BHS Innovation Awards to Jessica Villalta and Walter Kickuchi. 

Congratulations to BHS Class of 2012 graduates Jessica Villalta and Walter Kikuchi who were the first recipients of the BHS Innovation Awards sponsored by Riemer and Braunstein. Jessica, who is headed to Bryn Mawr, and Walter, who is headed to Brown, each received $4,000.00 for this honor.

 The criteria which applicants were judge on are below:

  •  A demonstrated commitment to understanding and addressing difficult social issues
  • Leadership and a dedication to community action
  • Leading other students to new approaches to old problems
  • business plans for fundraising
  • Innovative community service
  • after-school activities
  • uses of communications tools such as chat, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc

Please check out their video submissions below!

We are proud of Jessica and Walter for achieving this honor! Thanks go out to Robert Buckley, a Senior Partner at Riemer and Braunstein, for his support of this award and his commitment to continue the award next year!

We can’t wait to who off more of the amazing work of our BHS students!

More Thinking About Balance And When To Unplug

Having played a big part in the fact that there are over 1,000 students in Burlington walking around with web-enabled devices, I do spend a great deal of time thinking about how to continue the important conversation of maintaining balance with regards to the use these devices. I wrote a post on this a little while back in reference to my own device use, which I admit is sometimes imbalanced.

Adding to my anxiety on the topic is the fact that there are articles with misleading headlines like this one – Many Teens Tell Survey They Are Addicted To Social Media, Texting – which recently appeared in the Washington Post.  While the headline is a bit disconcerting, the content of the article makes it clear that this there is a lot more here that we need to discuss. Check out a few of the excerpts I think we need to focus more on and decide or yourself whether the negatives really outweighing the positive.

“Two-thirds of respondents said they text every day and half said they visit social networking sites daily. One-quarter of teens use at least two different types of social media a day.”

“Three out of 10 teens said social networks made them feel more outgoing, compared to 5 percent who said they felt more introverted.”

“Still, half of all respondents said real-life communication is the most fun and fruitful for their relationships. Only 4 percent prefer to talk on the phone.”

As I see my own tweens spending more and more time using their devices to interact with their friends, I can’t help but think of the quote below by Danah Boyd. Is it really the devices and the social media platforms that they are addicted to or is it the communication with their friends? 

It brings me back to Clay Shirky’s thoughts on this topic from his book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity And Generosity In A Connected Age.  I agree with Shirky on the following:

 “when we talk about the effects of the web or text messages, it’s easy to make a milkshake mistake and focus on the tools themselves…But the use of of social technology is much less determined by the tool itself: when we use a network, the most important asset we get is access to one another.” 

I think the thing that our children need help with is learning when disconnecting is necessary to refocus and refresh. In addition, we need to be sure that they are getting plenty of technology-free opportunities for the rich face-to-face interactions and experiences that are so beneficial. This point is clearly articulated in a recent post by John Spencer titled What We’re Missing In Acceptable Use.

What we need to understand is that our children are connecting and collaborating in ways that we were never capable of.  Or as Shirky puts it:

“Although so much of what kids are doing online may look trivial and frivolous, what they are doing is building the capacity to connect, to communicate, and ultimately, to mobilize…The old idea that media is a domain relatively separate from the ‘real world’ no longer applies…”

The bottom line here is that we are never going to be in a comfortable spot with our children if we do not continue to have discussions on this topic. We need to encourage our children to use these  resources wisely and have balance, but we also have to understand that the way they communicate with one another not going to look like the same as how we communicated with our friends back in the day…and that’s OK!

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Some Thoughts On Changes We Need To Make In Education

One of my favorite speakers on the topic of change in schools is Will Richardson.  His ISTE Ignite session below is well worth the five minutes to get you thinking about some of the ways we need to transform so many of our practices in public education.  

Thinking About Balance…Am I That Guy?

I had the opportunity to present at ISTE in San Diego last week with my good friend George Couros, an administrator in Canada who I have learned so much from over the past few years. As we developed our presentation for our session, George shared the video above with me from a recent Louis C.K. appearance on Conan. While I was laughing at the scenario Louis C.K. shared of individuals glued to the screens of their devices, I was also well aware that I can be one of these people sometimes who missed out on the real-time occurrence in an attempt to get a picture or send out a message.

With this in mind, I headed to the Portsmouth Air Show over the weekend and decided to leave my devices at home. I have fond memories of seeing the Navy’s Blue Angels flying squad as a young boy with my dad. At first, I was thinking of bringing my iPad with me to get some clips of the Blue Angels on video. But as I thought back to the above clip, I realized that there are plenty of clips of the Blue Angels online that are much better than I could shoot and that I should just stand back and take the whole thing in with my own eyes. (Check out the great Blue Angels Promo video below)

When it was over, I was pleased with my decision, having seen a lot more with my eyes on on the sky and not focused on the device. Not to mention the fact that I probably would have dropped my device when one of the jets flew about 50 feet directly over my head and I caused me to block my ears to save my ear drums.  (See below)

.@patrickmlarkin and @wwollaeger watching the Blue Angels at ... on Twitpic

Anyway, my main point in this post is that we need to continue to think about having a balanced approach to utilizing all of the great technology that is available to us. There are many times in our lives where the best choice for technology is to leave it out of the equation so that we can fully immerse ourselves in the moment. As always, I feel fortunate to work in a school district that allows students to utilize technological resources because I do not think we could have authentic discussions about balance if our first inclination was to deny access.  

So the next time you go to grab your phone, iPad, or camera, take a moment to think whether or not you will really miss something without it or whether you are missing the bigger picture with it…

Classroom 2.0 Book – Another Great Free Resource from Classroom 2.0!

The Classroom 2.0 Book went live yesterday and I am proud to have a chapter (“Setting the Stage for 1:1”) in this free e-book that was created as part of Classroom 2.0’s 5th Anniversary Project (You can check it out below).  As of now, 16 chapters have been uploaded and more are to follow in the days ahead.

A few of the chapters currently available include the following topics:

Curation for Professional Learning – by Kristen Swanson
Keeping Students Engaged in a 1:1 Environment – Ann Michaelsen
TPACK – Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge – by Steven Anderson
The Flipped Classroom Model – By Jackie Gerstein
Digital Writers Workshop – By Erin Klein

Thanks to Steve Hargadon, Richard Byrne, and Chris Dawson for their efforts in pulling this project together!

Patrick Larkin – Setting the Stage for 1:1 – The School That Launched 1,000 iPads

What Would A "Mockumentary" on Schools Look Like?

There was a little bit of conversation on Twitter a few weeks back when this video was first aired by The Onion.  It is amazing to think at how quickly the video store industry became obsolete. While technology continues to change the way we do so many things outside of schools, what practices inside our schools could be the subject of this type of “mockumentary?” 
As we continue to rethink what learning can look like in this day and age, it is so important to ask ourselves what practices we see in schools that will be (or should be) considered outdated? 

My First Post On My New Blog – Let The Learning Continue

It seems like yesterday that I was introduced as the new Principal at BHS, but the reality of it is that five years have passed.  I have been doing a lot of reflecting on what has transpired over the last five years (both personally and professionally).

While five years seems like a very small amount of time, it is quite significant when I look at it with  the lens of a parent. (I have photos to prove it.)
My kids who were 1, 6, and 9 are now 6, 11, and 14. Even scarier is the fact that my oldest will be entering high school next year.

My Three Kids In 2007 
My Three Kids Now

Finishing my thoughts on my own kids is where my personal and professional thinking starts to collide. While five years is a short time for me at this point, it is a huge amount of time for my children (or anyone else’s). The growth I have seen physically, emotionally, and intellectually has been amazing to witness. With this thought in mind, I am clearer than ever that we cannot afford to have this valuable time be wasted on meaningless activities. What my kids (and everyone else’s) needs is different than what was needed in the past and it is more important than ever that we change the way we define learning in our schools.

Having said this, I am very excited to continue the discussions on learning in my new role as the Assistant Superintendent for Learning.  It is such a great time to be an educator and I couldn’t be happier about the fact that I am continuing my career in Burlington.  I feel blessed to have found such a wonderfully supportive community to work in.   This is such a positive place to work as an educator thanks to the support that the town gives its schools and the wonderful students and staff that occupy our classrooms each day.  It is refreshing to be involved in daily discussions surrounding how we can improve learning environments for students and not sin our wheels with distracting discussions that take our focus away from students and learning.

So I am excited to continue my blogging at this new space, which I will use as a space to chronicle my own learning journey and also share the wonderful learning that is taking place throughout our school district. 
Here we go…