Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Register today for the Annual Minnetonka Site Visit Oct. 24, 2019 or April 9, 2020

For the past 15 years, thousands of educators have visited Minnetonka Public Schools, including the National School Boards Association which held two visits to Minnetonka. 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 Thursday, October 24, 2019 and Thursday, April 9, 2020Register Today!

Historically, our tours focused on how Minnetonka uses technology as an accelerator of learning. Back in 2003, visitors came to see SMARTBoards and sound fields and a learning management system implemented in K-12. In 2011 visitors came to see iPads used in learning in a 1:1 environment. With the advent of our Teaching and Learning Instructional Framework the 2016 tour focus shifted from technology to the eight dimensions of the Framework and how they are embedded in our programming, our instructional platform, and our culture.

Visitors can choose to start your visit at an elementary school, middle school or our high school. Specialty programs include Navigators and high potential programs, VANTAGEMinnetonka ResearchChinese and Spanish language immersionTonka Online, athletics and the arts. 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 FrameworkcodingDesign for Learning, assessment, the curriculum review process, gifted and talented programming, student support services, personalized learning, 1:1 iPads and more. 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! Additional details about possible sessions to choose from can be found hereAvailability is limited in order to keep sessions small. Lunch is provided. Complete your registration by October 5, 2019 to take advantage of our Early Bird pricing. Lunch is provided. Register Today! 

Learn more about Minnetonka Schools and Technology Integration:

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Minnetonka Screening "Like" Documentary About the Impact of Social Media

In our continued efforts to help our children (and ourselves) practice a healthy balance with our use of technology, Minnetonka Schools will be hosting a parent screening of a new documentary about the impact of social media on our lives called Like on November 13All students in grades 7-12 will also see the film this year as part of their health curriculum. 

I first learned about the film early this summer and previewed it with one of our principals. Then I pulled together a group of about 30 others 
to see it (principals, health teachers, counselors, media specialists, administrators and others). They confirmed its value and we discussed how to have our students and parents see it. Our health teachers liked the direct ties into their curriculum on relationships and the role of technology in our lives. Guidance counselors and administrators liked its messages about the impact of social media. Everyone agreed that it could be a helpful way to further educate both our students and their families and promote a healthier relationship with personal technology. 

Overall the film is really well done. It has a nice balance of interviews with students as well as experts. The film relays information about the purposeful design of social media apps to get us to use them more, a message that the Center for Humane Technology is working to inform the greater public about. This is an organization that I have been following and written about previously. The film includes interviews with Max Stossel, Head of Education & Content. It ends with an updated version of the Panda is Dancing short clip that Max stars in from a few years ago. The film also interviews the co-founder of the "Like" button on Facebook, Leah Pearlman, and discusses the effects of this numeric value on our interactions.

Overall the film does a great job of educating the viewer on these important topics. The film not only addresses some negative effects of social media and phone use but also highlights positives, as well as suggests steps to take to regain a balanced and more healthy use. This is something other films I've seen haven't done and therefore we've avoided showing our community because they basically were too fear mongering and would not help bring change. 

In addition to the trailer linked above, here are two other for the film and learn about the Like documentary, visit

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Class VR Headsets Now in Minnetonka Classrooms

This year in Minnetonka classrooms our students and teachers have the opportunity to use virtual reality headsets for learning. Thanks to the Minnetonka Foundation, 24 Class VR headsets were purchased. Eight headsets are stored in one portable case, so the three cases are available for our teachers to check out and use all together or in smaller sets.

Each of the headsets allows the learner to experience virtual reality in a simulated environment guided by the teacher. Students can explore historical locations such as the pyramids or a castle. They can go into outer space or underwater to explore coral reef. Students can go into the bloodstream to learn about the body or go back in time to see what a site or location looked like in the past.

Class VR provides each teacher with the dashboard to oversee and guide learning. Teachers see a thumbnail in live time of what each student is viewing. They can push out content to all students at once or to specific individuals. Class VR has a library of pre-curated virtual experiences for students as well as a library where educators from around the world can create and curate content. Class VR headsets also work with Google Expeditions.

In the past I have written about a AR/VR experiences that our students have in Minnetonka, such as… We are excited for the increased opportunities to make learning more meaningful through augmented and virtual reality that these sets of ClassVR headsets will provide for our students. They will be a great way to enhance and make learning more memorable for students!

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Monday, September 9, 2019

Seesaw Starting in K-3 Minnetonka Classrooms

Starting this month Minnetonka K-3 Teachers will be implementing Seesaw for SchoolsSeesaw is a student-centered, student-led communications tool. It provides a variety of exciting features teachers can choose to use including individual student portfolios and journals, assessment tools and a class blog. It works great with shared iPads; students simply scan a QR code to log in. To learn more watch What is Seesaw? and read How does Seesaw work?

Each year on our annual parent survey elementary parents state their number one concern is not enough communication home. Communication home is a critical part of a child’s academic success as parents partner with us in their child’s learning. Seesaw will be a powerful tool in helping to build parent support and understanding of what is happening in the classroom.

Specialists working with K-3 students will each have a Seesaw course, too. Our Tech Department is creating teacher and student accounts. Later this month, parents will receive instructions to download the app. If parents choose not to use the app they can receive Seesaw updates via email. Our Elementary Tech Coaches will offer short before/after school Seesaw training opportunities beginning this week and help support teachers throughout the year. 

Additional iPads have were delivered to schools this summer for each third grade classrooms to support a 1:2 ratio, and additional iPads will arrive later in September for second grade, bringing the ratio to one iPad per two students as well. In K-1 classrooms, each classroom has six student iPads. 

Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to see Seesaw in use in other schools and how quickly it was adopted. I'm excited to see how our students, teachers, and parents in Minnetonka use Seesaw! 

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Monday, June 3, 2019

Google's Family Link Parental Controls: Improving But Still Limited

Last fall when Apple released Screen Time, Google had a similar service called Family Link but it only worked on Google Pixel phones. Now it is available for a wide variety of Android devices. Parents of children with Android phones and other devices like personal tablets and personal Chromebooks can now set up Family Link to help guide their child's use of technology, monitor time spent in apps, set limits and more. I don't have an Android device so I can't write about my own experience with it. Go directly to Google's site to learn more and obtain directions. I found this article helpful. 

Some things to note: it only seems to work for users under age 13--after that kids can opt out of parental supervision. That may be problematic for some families. It also appears that your child needs a new Google account to set this up- it won't work with  an existing Google account or school/parent's work Google account. It also only allows YouTube Kids, which older users will likely find too limiting. Perhaps kids could still use a web browser to get to YouTube. These limitations make me hesitant to see this as a great solution for many families- it's a good start, but still limited and doesn't provide parents with the full functionality they need compared to Apple's Screen Time.

Recently Google expanded their Digital Wellbeing resource website. It has helpful tips nicely laid out about how to use technology in a healthy and balanced way. They include tips like limiting notifications, setting daily limits for apps and screen time, tips to unplug and more. They added some video interviews of people reflecting upon their use of tech. All of this is a great step in the right direction to help us use our technology. They state on their commitment page: "Great technology should improve life, not distract from it." I hope Google continues to improve their work in this are to make their services even more healthy, give parents more options, and improve the wellbeing of people using their products. 

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