Let’s Share and Learn Together on #BPSCHAT

For the past few years we have had a lot of succes in building our high school’s learning network with the hashtag #bhschat. We have communicated both within and beyond our school community  on issues related to our school and broader education topics.  As we continue to move forward as a school district and encourage collaboration and communication from all stakeholders, I hope that people will start to utilize #bpschat as a means for increasing engagement.  
For those of you who are new to Twitter or still unfamiliar with it as a communication and/or learning resource, please check out Getting Started With Twitter from the Burlington New Teachers’ Blog.

Trusting Students (and Staff) – Looking Back At Year 1:1 (with iPads) – Part 8

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BHS staff member Andrew Marcinek, who blogs  regularly for Edutopia, had a great reflective post regarding our first year as a 1:1 school with iPads.  It is extremely helpful for me to see the reflections of staff and students from the past year. One of the major points I take away from Andy’s post is the focus on trusting students.

Trust students.

“One of the best decisions we made before we deployed 1000+ iPads to our student body was to create a student-run genius bar. With this decision, we were putting a lot of trust in the hands of our students. However, it turned out to be a core component of the launch…

…Aside from simply troubleshooting, our students help their former teachers at the middle and elementary levels as well as create how-to scripts and videos for students, faculty and the Burlington community. Our students have not only helped within the BPS community, but have helped our Tech Team organize two major conferences in the past year…”

Beyond the student help desk, I think the trust of students in regards to access of social media sites and other apps and sites that can be used for non-educational purposes allowed our efforts to focus more on supporting educational uses of the technology. We did not go into this undertaking with a mindset of blocking and denying access.

We went into this with a mindset that we are preparing our students for life after school where they are going to have to know how to make choices about appropriate use of apps and sites that do not apply to their work. We felt strongly that the conversations that need to take place and the authentic experience of making choices about what to access and when to access it is not something that can be replicated with theoretical conversations.

As an organization, we do not feel we can have the type of learning and interactions between learners that we envision if our default reaction is that the individuals who inhabit our school will choose to do the wrong thing.

We trust teachers and we trust students. Then on the rare occasion that someone misuses that trust, we address the situation with that individual.  Should it happen any other way?

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Check Out The Burlington New Teacher Blog

I started a new blog to share information and resources with our new teachers in Burlington.  The initial post is below. Please check out the Burlington New Teachers Blog when you have a chance.

The initial post from our first meeting is below:

 

Thanks again to all of the new teachers who took part in today’s new teacher orientation. We are so excited that you chose BPS and we look forward to supporting you as you work with our students. We hope that you will find that Burlington is a place where you can feel comfortable continuing to take risks and grow as a learner. Because if our teachers do not feel this way, we will also rob our students of the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Get Connected

We encourage you to take advantage of the resources you have available to connect and collaborate with educators both within and outside of our school district. The United States Department of Education as designated August as Connected Educator Month and there are a number of great resources available at the Connected Educator website.

There are a few ways you can get started. The easiest way is to start following this blog. Please enter your e-mail address in the box on the righthand side of the blog. This will ensure that you get a daily e-mail with any new blog posts from the BPS New Teacher Blog. that you can get started.  You can also use your google account to start following blogs through Google Reader which you can access under the more tab at the top of the page when you log into your Google account. We’ll talk more about this soon!

Finally, I encourage you to join Twitter and start connecting and sharing with other educators all over the world. Here is a link to a document to help you get started that was originally created by George Couros (a friend who is an administrator in Alberta, Canada).  Please be sure to pay special attention to the following hashtags #bpschat (Burlington Public Schools Chat), #ntchat (new teacher chat), and #1st5days (a conversation for getting your year off to a great start).

 As I mentioned I will also lead a session on getting started with Twitter during next week’s opening Professional Development Conference.  You can access the entire conference schedule at the conference website.

Employee Benefits

Here is the employee benefits presentation that was reviewed by our Human Resources Director Joanne Faust.  If you have follow-up questions you can e-mail Joanne at faust@bpsk12.org and her extension is 1774.

Teachers’ Union 

Thanks to BEA President Diana Marcus for taking the time to meet with new teachers this morning. You can contact Diana via her school e-mail marcus@bpsk12.org.

Below is a copy of the Teacher Orientation Handbook


Finally, please check below for our list of dates for module training for our new teachers who have not completed an induction program in another MA district.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me at extension 1804 or my secretary Rosemary DeSousa at extension 1989.   You can also contact me on Twitter @PatrickMLarkin or call me on my Google Voice number at (559) 245-2757.

Boston Globe Headline Does Not Apply To Burlington

As I drove into work this morning, I heard the headline above on the morning news show on the radio and thought about how this might confuse folks a bit.  The news story referenced an article in today’s Boston Globe about the impending deadline for many schools districts across the state to come to an agreement with unions about new evaluation procedures. So I wanted to set the record straight as to where Burlington stands in regards to the new teacher evaluation system that all schools will have to implement by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
The deadline of September 1, 2012 applies to all schools that receive Race to the Top funds, which according to the article is 235 school districts. For the remaining school districts, the new evaluation system will need to be implemented by September 1, 2013.  
Stay tuned for more information on this as Burlington administrators and teachers work on creating a shared vision of what this new evaluation system will look like.
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Leadership Day 2012 – Reevaluating The Plan…

A look back to look ahead…

As I gather my thoughts for this year’s Leadership Day blog contribution, I thought I would take a look back at my posts from the past two years to evaluate my efforts. Back in 2010, my post Leadership Day 2010 – Two Of My Goals For This Year focused on connecting with my my administrative colleagues in Massachusetts and getting out and showing them the ways in which digital tools could help them to connect and collaborate within their schools, their communities, and beyond.

In last year’s post, Leadership Day 2011 – A Few Thoughts,  I focused on the following quote from Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From:

“Some environments squelch new ideas; some environments seem to breed them effortlessly. The city and the Web have been such engines of innovation because, for complicated historical reasons, they are both environments that are powerfully suited for the creation, diffusion, and adoption of good ideas.” 

The main point again was that school leaders need to take the lead due to the fact that public schools tend to stifle new ideas.  I concluded with the following words:

Of course order to do this we need to get more school leaders on board using them.  As has always been the case, our schools need to teach literacy, citizenship, and responsibility.  However, the playing field has changed and we now need to embrace the digital realm as well.  If we do not accept this, we will shortchange both our students and ourselves.

As I think about my focus on school leaders and teachers over the past two years, I feel fortunate to have made so many connections with passionate educators who have started to embrace the power of digital resources to engage students in meaningful ways.  However, I also have been frustrated at the limited movement I have seen among educators in adopting resources which I see as beneficial in the creation of more relevant learning environments for students.

This year, I propose a change in focus, or better yet, an additional focal point in the effort to create learning environments that will better prepare our students for the growingly complex world that they will enter when they complete their formal education. It is time to go all-in with that group of people that many educators tend to avoid…the parents.  We need to engage the people that care most about our students and engage them in a meaningful dialogue about the schools their students need.

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Parents play a key role in our move to create more engaging classrooms.

We need to have real discussions about the fact that the classrooms that our students enter are amazingly similar to the ones that their parents and grandparents entered decades earlier despite the fact that the world outside of those classrooms is in many ways unrecognizable from the world   of school children at those times.

There is no group that cares more deeply about the education of our students than their parents. However, it is up to us to show parents some of the new resources that were not available when they were in school. Even more important is that we show parents how to use these tools that are sometimes perceived negatively by those who have never seen them used constructively. 
For quite some time schools have lamented the fact that parents do not physically show up at school for these types of conversations, but fortunately time and place is no longer a hinderance with the plethora of digital tools we can draw from to get more people engaged in te dialogue. We  (school leaders) are the only ones holding us back from this endeavor at this time.  
The tools are there to connect and there is plenty to discuss, so let’s have it! I look forward to sharing our movement in Burlington with anyone interested.

Here are a couple of reference points that will help us lead this conversation:

What Qualities Do “Bold Schools” Share? – from Will Richardson

 Race To Nowhere resources

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Looking Back At Year One of 1:1 (with iPads) – Part 6

ipads with students
ipads with students (Photo credit: patricklarkin1967)

So it’s time to look at the feedback from 177 of our students who responded on our brief end-of-the-year survey asking about some of their impressions after a year of 1:1 with iPads.  For today, I would like to focus on the responses to the three questions below:

While others may not think this is important data, I think that we have to take some time to look at this data and recognize the fact that most of our students and staff managed to alter their workflow to incorporate the new tools at their fingertips in a very short period of time.  I think this is a credit to the work of our staff and the support provided by the adults and students who make up our BPS EdTech Team.
I love the way that Bernajean Porter describes the technology integration process as one that contains the three distinct steps described below:

Literacy Uses: Student uses are described as technology storiesAdaptive Uses: Learning is telling the same stories with new toolsTransforming Uses: Learning is creating new stories with new tools

It is exciting to see that we seem to be moving well into the adaptive uses in just one year. While it is important that we look for an even higher percentage in this area in year two, the focal point also must move to transforming uses and ensuring that we are supporting a learning environment in which these types of opportunities will be prevalent. 

It reminds me of an excerpt from Cathy Davidson’s Now You See It:

“What if instead of telling (students) what they should know, we asked them?”

We need to continue to learn from and with our students as we continue to seek to maximize the potential of our devices. While some people are quick to question the cost of an iPad and whether our money was well spent, I believe they are missing the point if they are only focusing on the technology.

This quote about iPods could easily be transferred to our iPads initative:

“The iPod experiment was not an investment in technology. It was an investment in a new form of attention, one that didn’t require the student to always face forward, learn from on high, memorize what was already a given, or accept knowledge as something predetermined and passively absorbed.”

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