NAIS Annual Conference 2017 Reflection

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-4-14-34-pmA few final thoughts from the NAIS Annual Conference.

  1. As a white man, I was challenged to think from the perspective of the other through Onaje X. O. Woodbine’s talk about race and Jennifer Bryan’s talk on Gender and Sexuality Diversity in Pre-K-12.
  2. Sir Ken Robinson provided a definition of a personalized, child centered education: At its core, education is about the relationship between teacher and student. This relationship is the core of empowering learners. I was also pushed on the personalized learning  and disruptive innovation front by Ryan Aldrich and Mark Kushner from Tahoe Expedition Academy (CA); Michael Horn from the Christensen Institute; and Colleen Broderick from AltSchool.
  3. Connections: NAIS is about connecting with old colleagues and meeting new ones. I was able to reconnect with a few mentors who taught me to be a better teacher, administrator, and parent and to thank them for their support and caring through the years. I also took time to make new connections with innovative educators to help push me as a leader and learner. Lastly, I worked on creating mentorship relationships with developing teachers and leaders in schools.

Pushing myself — Deepening my understanding of the other — And connecting to reflect on my past and where I’m going to challenge myself in the future. These were the themes of my learning during the NAIS Annual Conference.

What did you learn?

The Takeaway Book Club: ‘Between the World and Me’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I recently took part in a book club conversation on WNYC’s The Takeaway about ‘Between the World and Me‘ by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Here’s the audio:
Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 2.19.45 PM

I have learned a great deal about the history of race in the United States over the past few years by participating in the CARLE Institute and Undoing Racism. I have also worked with colleagues and friends to speak more openly about race and how it negatively impacts both people of color and whites. Seeing the privilege I have as a white man and learning to work against oppressive racial systems has become an important part of me. ‘Between the World and Me’ provides a perspective that is difficult to read, but important for people who identify as white to hear.

I’m thankful to Abel Bartley and Anita Romero Warren for being so open and honest during this conversation and to The Takeaway for selecting me to participate on this panel.

What are you learning about your racial and cultural identity? How do you keep this critical topic at the forefront of the work you are doing?

iPad Project, Year Two

At Collegiate School, we have entered year two of our iPad Project.  In year one, we asked these two questions:

  • “How can we use the iPad in a class with one teacher?”
  • “How can we see using the iPad in a class where all the students are equipped with iPads?” (from Essential Questions for iPad UserGroup)

The first question changed a great deal on the release of IOS 4.3 that enabled us to mirror the iPad with a VGA connection.  Many faculty used the iPad as a projection device in the Spring and are continuing to do so this Fall. 

As our faculty UserGroup tested their iPads and explored different apps last year, they found numerous ways to use the iPad with students.  Melanie Hutchinson, Lower School Curriculum Coordinator explored many of these ideas with Lower School students in these two posts:

In the Spring, after numerous UserGroup meetings and lots of interesting conversations with faculty, we decided to enter year two of the project by deploying two shared sets of shared iPads in Lower School and Middle School.  In the Upper School we decided to test the iPads in a 1 to 1 roll out with two classes (one in the Fall and one in the Spring), much like Reed College did with its iPad Study.  As you can see from the previous post on this blog, we deployed 15 iPads for Art and Religion this fall.  We’re running an action research project around the students in Art and Religion and will post results from that in the Spring. 

In the Lower School, our faculty will continue to use the iPads with interactive apps to support skill development, the creation of comics and illustrations,  writing and anything else the faculty can dream of — including creating videos or composing music in Garage Band. 

In Middle School this Fall, the main use of the iPads has been with in class research.  We’re deploying Google Apps in the Middle School and will be testing that along with numerous other apps on the iPads. 

In addition to these school sponsored iPad projects, we’re continuing our 8th grade UserGroup and adding the 7th grade to that mix.  Once students earn their iPad drivers license they will be able to bring their personal iPads or Tablet Devices to school.  This training will review acceptable use as well as train them on Google Docs, Evernote or Noteshelf and GoodReader. 

Our question  for this year is, “How does the iPad change the way teachers teach and students learn at Collegiate?”  We’ll be exploring this big question over the year. 

How does the iPad change the way teachers teach and students learn at your school?

Photo Credit

Critical Friends Group Reflection

Trust, Deep Analysis, Positive Feedback, Constructive Criticism, Growth – These are some of the characteristics of a critical friends group. 

I recently completed a one week Critical Friends Group facilitator training.  I participated with thirteen other faculty and administrators from my school.  Eric Baylin and Monika Johnston from the Packer Collegiate Institute led our group.

At the National School Reform Faculty web site, CFGs are defined as:

… a professional learning community consisting of approximately 8-12 educators who come together voluntarily at least once a month for about 2 hours. Group members are committed to improving their practice through collaborative learning.

We spent a week using protocols, or structured conversations to analyze readings, listen carefully, analyze pieces of student work, dig into dilemmas, and plan for the future.  These protocols (many found here)  allowed us to focus in and have deep conversations about the work we do in schools: teaching and learning.  It put us in a learner role and quickly helped us listen and provide critical feedback for our colleagues.  The week built trust between and among the participants and developed what McDonald et. al. describe at Facilitative Leadership in The Power of Protocols: An Educators Guide to Better Practice.  Leadership from within the faculty of a school, instead of top down. 

Towards the end of the week we created a plan for the Fall by scheduling dedicated times to continue to practice and build our facilitation skills.  By setting specific goals and scheduling dedicated time, we committed the group to continue to practice. 

Building CFGs into the culture of our schools will help us dive deeper and become better educators.  Helping our students become better learners and citizens.  I’m excited to see how we grow and develop in the fall. 

Have you used CFGs?  What practices do you consider critical for growth and development? 

Photo Credit: Rossap

 

 

Designing School More Like A Game

Breaks are my time of ideas.  I slow down, read, think, take walks, drive my car without the radio on.  Taking that time to recharge and let ideas percolate is so important for me.  Over winter break this year, my favorite WNYC program, On the Media, aired a show around gaming.  Their last piece, The Future of Gaming was an interview with journalist Tom Bissell which aired pieces of the two following videos:

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

Last year when I visited Al Doyle at Quest 2 Learn (Q2L), I saw the vision of Katie Salen who wrote Rules of Play and founded Q2L.  Kids using system design theory to learn History, English, Math and Science in a 21st Century way.  Kids creating their own games to teach their peers.

This leads me to Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.  I’m only 56% of the way through, but her stories of real games being designed to make the world a better place is compelling.  Not that we have to solve all problems with games, but designing compelling experiences for our students so they are engaged in their learning seems a lot like designing games.

Here’s one example of how I’ve applied McGonigal’s work here at school.  A few weeks ago, I was running an exchange day between boys at my school and girls at one of our sister schools.  The boys and girls were doing some icebreaker activities and one of the activities was starting to get stale and we still had about 10 minutes to go in the period.  I added a new challenge (do the activity standing up instead of sitting down) and it allowed the activity to reengage the students.

I used the understanding that “all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.” (McGonigal, 2011) was important to this process.  A new rule refreshed the game that I described above.

So I’m finding myself more and more interested and engaged in thinking about game design and design challenges as centerpieces of student learning.  Solve big problems, figure out how to change the world, engage people around you. Dan Pink nailed it when he wrote about autonomy, motivation and purpose.  This all seems inter-related in critical ways.

What do you think?  What are your examples of using games to develop better learning environments?