Monday, October 16, 2017

The Importance of Repeating Messages for a Passing Parade of Students & Parents

Minnetonka 2016 Homecoming Parade
Often we concentrate efforts on getting out a key message and then think we're done afterwards. We often think we can move on and that it won't need to be repeated or revisited. In education, we may have a building or even district -wide theme around anti-bullying, being peacemakers, learning from failure, etc., or have key points of which we want all parents and/or students to be aware, such as 1:1 policies or digital citizenship guidelines and best practices. Since these messages are important, it is vital to think about the frequency and reoccurrence needed for these messages to be fully known. 

There are many ways a message or key points in a program can be lost as quickly as the following school year (or sooner). If we fail to remember that new students and families who weren't part of the learning in a prior year don't actually know the material, problems may arise. Also, forgetting that in a few years all students and/or families may have moved on to another building completely leaving no one who was part of an original event/lesson. Yet another reason a message may get lost is because students and their families may not be ready for it, such as a message that is for upper elementary students that doesn't apply to the second grade students/parents.

Minnetonka 2016 Homecoming Parade
One of my former colleagues used to remind us to think of students and their parents as a passing parade, and educators as viewers on the side watching them pass. In her analogy, she spoke of the need to repeat the same messages over and over again to each passing grade level marching by in the parade for the reasons previously explained above. This is an important point to remember in education. During Digital Citizenship next week and in all the other upcoming public service announcements and communications this year and in the future, remember your audience in education. You may need to revisit, repost, and repeat yourself frequently rather than checking something off as completed and moving on. Once and done isn't enough.

Related posts:

Monday, October 9, 2017

Switch: Managing and Dealing with Change Effectively

Image Source
Last week at the EdLeader21 Conference, I had the opportunity to attend a training on Switch, a book on change by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. The book isn't new, originally published in 2010. At some point after publication I had heard about it in a previous training, but last week's session was a good reminder of its valuable lessons about how to manage and deal with change effectively.

The authors point out that we all deal with changes large and small such as marriage, a new baby, or dealing with new technology or a new procedure or policy. Some change is hard and some change is easy. As we deal with change, we all deal with the emotional and intellectual aspects of each change. The authors have us think of the emotional side of how we deal with change as a two ton elephant and the intellectual side of how we deal with change as the rider trying to reign it in. 

It was helpful to learn that the emotional side isn't always the bad side. The "elephant" can be the good guy (such as, "Wouldn’t it be cool to… solve malaria" or "serve every student"). The intellectual side can be the bad guy, too (such as  over analysis, research, no action...) The constant conflict between the rider and the elephant is exhausting. Since self-control is exhaustible, change can wear people out. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. This is important to remember as educators as we deal with students and parents.
Image Source

During the training, multiple examples of change and this conflict between the emotional side and the intellectual side were given. The Heaths provide a three part framework for overcoming this internal conflict: 

1- Direct the Rider
2- Motivate the Elephant
3- Shape the Path  

On the Switch Framework (pictured), each of the options listed has a short sentence with a reminder about a story shared, which would be helpful to fully understand it. You'll need to attend a training or buy the book for this. A quick YouTube search will yield many options for watching videos with the authors which are beneficial. However, the general ideas are still helpful for anyone. The main principles can help you successfully manage and deal with a change, be it in education or elsewhere in life. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Top Tips for Educators to Help Students & Parents with Technology (video)

A few days ago I had the opportunity to join Mathew Meyers once again for a presentation about technology. Specifically, our presentation was designed to help teachers understand ways to help students and their parents use technology in a balanced and appropriate way. This conversation is one that I’ve had in the past with Mathew—last spring we recorded two parent webinars on this topic. (Watch Part I or Part II of Parenting in the Digital Age). In this latest presentation, we cover some of the same topics with teachers that we addressed with parents, but focus more from the perspective of how teachers and educators can help students and parents. A more detailed outline is listed below.

We all want our students to have safe, healthy, and responsible relationships with technology. Mathew points out that
“adults don’t have a template for this—we really are historically blind with how we lead people into a safe, healthy relationship with technology. Parents and educators don’t have the wisdom of those who came before us in regards to how to raise kids with technology. We need to be thoughtful and mindful about how we are engaging with technology. It is resetting how we do relationships, human development, important to be thoughtful so the the implications aren’t detrimental to our future.”  
The K-12 school years are the opportune time to help students learn to have  healthy relations with the technology in their lives, and educators play a critical role in helping with this. As the lines between personal and school related technologies becoming increasingly blurred, it is more important than ever that today’s students hear about these topics in the school setting. 

Watch the presentation recording in full or skip ahead to a section:


Staff-Student-Parent Triangle
Parent Anxiety, The Device is Not the Problem, the Importance of Alignment and Working as a Team to Help Students, The Power of a Phone Call vs. Email

Screen Time & Balance
Entertainment vs. Educational Screen Time

Attention & Focus, Addiction
Two Different Attention Systems
Turning off notifications
Addictive apps like a pocket slot machine

Stopping Cues & Natural Consequences
Humans are finite, but technology/computers can work forever
Look for logical breaks, incremental time
Using Apple Guided Access
Address the behavior vs. taking away technology
Allowing failure, letting go

Modeling & Personal Balance
Being present—be where your feet are

Relationships & Social Media
What age should a child get a smartphone?
What age to start using social media?
Relationships, Connection, and Rice Cakes

Next Steps
Mathew’s blog, Relationships That Heal

Also, if you are in the Minnetonka area, check out Mathew’s upcoming parent workshops on Teens & Technology through Minnetonka Community Education: 
  • October 10 - What Kids Do on the Internet and its Impact on Development
  • October 17 - Identify Strategies to Keep Technology from Controlling Your Family
  • October 24 - Taking Back Control – Create a Family Digital Strategy
Related posts: 

Monday, September 25, 2017

More Minnetonka Schools Media Center Remodels

Scenic Heights Media Center Photo by Melinda Barry
One of the latest media centers in Minnetonka Public Schools to get redone is Scenic Heights Elementary School. The space was first created over two decades ago was in need of updating. So beginning about two years ago, Media Specialist Melinda Barry met with staff, students, parents, district administrators and architects to plan for a makeover. Melinda used the Human Centered Design Process with each of these groups to problem solve the needs and dream about the possibilities. She wrote a grant for funding from four sources (the Minnetonka Foundation, District Innovation funds, Building Capital funds, and the school PTA).
Scenic Heights Media Center photo by Melinda Barry

In the grant proposal, Melinda and the team wanted the space to be flexible with furniture that could easily be moved. They envisioned a variety of spaces within the Media Center for quiet work, reading, collaboration, and large group instruction and meetings. The old checkout desk was large and took up a considerable amount of floor space. Old workstations for desktop computers also used up a large amount of square footage. They wanted furniture that was comfortable and a variety of styles, heights, and types.

After two summers of work, the current media center space at Scenic Heights is looking great! As you can see from the photos, new furniture makes the space very colorful and inviting. A variety of furniture styles, from low cushions and stools to high top tables and chairs create a wide range of spaces and areas for students to work. A relocated, smaller checkout desk allowed for more square footage to be reclaimed. A large group teaching area was created that can flex depending upon the size of the group.
Excelsior Elementary Media Center
At Excelsior Elementary, another media center was remodeled over the past few months. All the carpet was taken out and walls cleared and repainted. A large HDTV was put up for teaching and large group meetings. Windows were replaced that matched the historic architectural style of the original school. Similar to Scenic Heights, the large checkout desk that took up a considerable amount of floor space was removed, relocated, and replaced with a smaller desk. Old workstations for desktop computers were also removed. Media Specialist Erin Carcamo and the staff and students at Excelsior Elementary have enjoyed using their newly remodeled space.

Clear Springs Elementary Media Center
The Media Center at Clear Springs Elementary also received some upgrades over the summer. Most noticeable is the new carpeting and paint. Many of the large desktop computer workstations were removed, freeing up floor space. Media Specialist Tiffany Miley created a number of smaller spaces for students within the media center to read, work, and meet in small groups. Some new portable whiteboards on wheels that can stand alone or be joined together in an accordion-like wall were purchased by The Minnetonka Foundation. These function as a divider of space in the media center as well as can be used in individual classrooms. The Foundation is planning to convert one side of these whiteboards into a Lego wall as part of the Minnetonka maker space initiative called The Hub.

Minnetonka Middle School East Media Center
photo by Andrea Hoffmann
At Minnetonka Middle School East, the media center has received a number of upgrades over the past two summers, similar to the remodeled Minnetonka Middle School West media center. This past summer the old six-foot high bookshelves were removed and replaced with four-foot high bookcases on casters, making the media center space feel more open as well as allowing for flexibility in arrangement. Media Specialist Jane Zins and the students and staff of MME are making great use of the space.

For more information, check out the Minnetonka Design for Learning Page as well as the blog of the Design for Learning Project Leader, Nicole Snedden.

Minnetonka Middle School East Media Center
photo by Andrea Hoffmann
Related Posts:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Annual Minnetonka Site Visits: October 27, 2017 & April 5, 2018

For the past 15 years, thousands of educators have visited Minnetonka Public Schools, including the National School Boards Association which hosted its second visit to Minnetonka in 2014. Come see learning in action, witness proven programs and gather innovative ideas which you can take back to your school! This year's visits are on October 27, 2017 & April 5, 2018.
You can choose to start your visit at an elementary school, middle school or our high school. After your tours at a school, you will transition to our District Service Center for lunch and breakout sessions of your choice. Choose from a wide variety of sessions led by Minnetonka staff to learn how things work behind the scenes. Sessions include innovation, the Teaching and Learning Instructional Framework, online learning, coding, Design for Learning, assessment, the curriculum review process, gifted and talented programming, student support services, personalized learning, 1:1 iPads and more. More details on possible sessions from which to choose can be found here. Discover best practices for implementing meaningful instruction that will accelerate learning, have time to ask questions and head back to your own school full of ideas!
Availability is limited in order to keep sessions small. Lunch is provided. Register Today!
Learn more about Minnetonka Schools and Technology Integration:

    Monday, September 11, 2017

    Even More Minnetonka iPad Integration: Examples from Middle School

    Minnebytes: Multi Examples of 
    Middle School iPad Integration (One per week)
    Our instructional technology staff continue to collect the best practices, favorite ideas and tips for 1:1 integration in all curricular areas from our teachers. They take these and share them with our teachers and parents each week. Many of these middle school "Minnebytes" are device agnostic and in a wide variety of curricular areas. The middle school Minnebytes were started last year by Sara Hunt and will continue this school year, so check back often to see new ideas each week. You can access the high school Minnebytes which I wrote about earlier below as well.

    Middle School West principal Dr. Paula Hoff highlights these examples of technology integration in her biweekly newsletters to parents. She does this in the form of a TouchCast video. In this video, she explains how teachers are using the Minnetonka Framework and technology to deepen the learning for their students. Here is a past video in which she highlights technology integration and its connections to the Minnetonka Framework which gives you an idea of how she is using the tool to communicate with parents. 

    You can learn more about our 1:1 program, iPads, and use of technology for learning in the related posts below: