Monday, December 28, 2015

11th Annual Minnetonka District Tours March 2 & 3, 2016

Full Schedule

For the past decade, Minnetonka Schools has opened its classrooms to more than 1,000 visitors from around the world to showcase how technology is integrated into instruction. Beginning this year, our annual tours are expanding to include all aspects of teaching and learning, not just a focus on technology. The National School Boards Association which hosted its second visit in Minnetonka in 2014. The tours always fill up, so register early! 

Classroom visits and small group sessions will provide direct interaction with teachers, staff, and students. Through the Minnetonka Teaching & Learning Framework, teachers design student learning experiences in eight dimensions: authentic and real-world learning, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, global perspectives, personalized learning, and the use of technology for learning. Come see learning in action, witness proven programs, and gather innovative ideas which you can take back to your school. Come for both days or just one: 

Wednesday, March 2, Overview Tour Day: 

Choose from four schools for full or half day tours, from elementary to middle to high school. Explore all subject areas, including Chinese and Spanish Language immersion, early childhood, special education, Navigator Highly Gifted ProgrammingTonka OnlineTonka<codes>, and the arts.  Experience Minnetonka's digital learning cycle for a 1:1 iPad program (recognized as anApple Distinguished Program 2013-2017) and see technology meaningfully integrated at all levels. Walk through newly renovated and remodeled learning spaces including two Media Centers. At the secondary level, see both AP and IB programs and tour the Vantage Advanced Professional Studies Program campus. Classroom visits and mini-sessions will provide direct interaction with teachers and students. Lunch and bus transportation between sites provided.

School Tours: 
All Day Tour Option: Minnetonka High School​
AM Tour Options: Scenic Heights Elementary or Minnetonka High School
PM Tour Options: Groveland Elementary or Minnetonka Middle School East

Thursday, March 3, In Depth Dive into the Behind the Scenes Details: 

Choose from a wide variety of small group sessions led by Minnetonka staff to learn how things work behind the scenes. Sessions include innovation, the Teaching & Learning Framework, new teacher support, instructional technology support, online learning, coding, principal leadership, Design for Learning, assessment, the curriculum review process, Global Learners, gifted and talented programming, innovative student support services, personalized learning, 1:1 iPads, Schoology, 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! Lunch provided.

Full Schedule

Want to learn more about last year's Tenth Annual Technology Site Visit? 
Here is the schedule from last year and a video overview:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Minnetonka Top 100+ Ideas for 1:1 Integration in 5th grade, English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and World Language

Last week twelve Minnetonka staff shared their best practices, favorite ideas, and tips for 1:1 integration in their curricular areas at the annual TIES Technology Conference in Minneapolis. Presentations were entitled TonkaX Teacher Talks, 1:1 Science- Unleash the Possibilities, and Engaging Learners Through Reflection & Discussion. Each teacher showcased some of their best ideas for integrating technology in their 1:1 classrooms in 5th grade, social studies, science, English, Spanish, and math. There are so many great ideas, most of which are device agnostic. 

TonkaX Teacher Talks: 25+ Best iPad Ideas
This breakout session will feature five Minnetonka 1:1 iPad teachers for 10 minutes each showcasing their five+ best ideas and tips for iPad integration in their curricular area. Meet a 5th grade elementary teacher, a secondary math teacher, a high school English teacher, a middle school social studies teacher, and a secondary elective teacher. Come see the great things happening in their classrooms with iPads and push your level of technology integration to a higher level to deepen students’ learning!

1:1 Science: Unleash the Possibilities
Come and hear about the variety of ways iPads have transformed secondary science classrooms in Minnetonka. You will hear examples from areas of physical science, life science, Earth science, physics, as well as accelerated courses and AP. Leave this session with simple and elaborate ways to integrate iPads in meaningful ways. See how technology integration can transform science education by making the student learning experience more personalized, creation driven, and relevant for today’s learners.

Engaging Learners Through Reflection & Discussion
Come and hear about the variety of ways iPads have transformed secondary science classrooms in Minnetonka. You will hear examples from areas of physical science, life science, Earth science, physics, as well as accelerated courses and AP. Leave this session with simple and elaborate ways to integrate iPads in meaningful ways. See how technology integration can transform science education by making the student learning experience more personalized, creation driven, and relevant for today’s learners.

Two other groups of staff from Minnetonka presented at TIES last week on Implementation of a K-12 Computer Science Program and Crowd-Based Innovation: The Future Is Here

In addition to these ideas shared at the TIES conference last week, check out the Top 25 ideas shared at the ETT Conference in San Diego in February by another group of Minnetonka 1:1 teachers. More info about our 1:1 iPad Program can be found here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Free iBook about Minnetonka's 1:1 iPad Apple Distinguished Program: Four+ Years Transforming Learning

I recently published a newly updated and free iBook about Minnetonka's 1:1 iPad Apple Distinguished Program: Four+ Years Transforming Learning. This interactive book contains 20 short videos that will take you right into our classrooms and allow you to see our program in action. The videos include interviews with students, teachers, and parents provide valuable information and highlight key components of our 1:1 program. The book itself contains background information that provides a detailed understanding of how our implementation started, expanded, and has been further developed over the past four and a half years. 

I've gathered a lot of the data and summarized the results of our program in this iBook. There are many stories and actual example lessons from a variety of teachers and subjects areas will help readers gain an understanding of the entire program. I've shared many of the lessons we have learned and best practices we have developed over the past four+ years of implementing a 1:1 iPad Program. I hope this book helps readers either begin or improve their own 1:1 program. 

The iBook has five sections: Visionary Leadership, Innovative Learning & Teaching, Compelling Evidence of Success, Ongoing Professional Development, and Flexible Learning Environment. These sections were actually set by Apple for their Distinguished Educational Program. For the third time, Minnetonka Public Schools has been selected by Apple as a Distinguished Program for the 2015-2017 school year. More news about this recognition can be found here.

Monday, December 7, 2015

6,000 Hours of Coding this Week @TonkaSchools

Photo by Jeremy Engebretson
(Updated 12-14-15: Minnetonka students completed 7,843 hours of coding last week, surpassing our goal! Watch local NBC News Story here.)

This week is the annual Hour of Code and Minnetonka K-12 students have set a goal to complete 6,000 hours of coding activities. Elementary Technology Coaches Jeremy Engebretson and Andrea Hoffmann, working with each school site's coding coordinator and media specialist, have organized a buffet of options in addition to the the regular coding curriculum that all K-5 students cover. They have visual charts, like the one pictured on the right at Deephaven Elementary, ready to track students' hours with a running total. Students will add up the time they spend in school, at home, and in after school coding clubs during the week.

Students actually spend a lot more time throughout the rest of the school year doing coding activities. A year ago Minnetonka Public Schools implemented the state's first K-5 coding curriculum for all students called Tonka <Codes>. In Kindergarten, students use Bee Bots to learn the basics of programming.  In first grade, students use iPad apps like Kodable and Lightbots are used in second grade. Starting in grade three and continuing through grade five, students are using Tynker software. Additional options are in place at each school with after school clubs, such as Minnetonka Coder Dojo and Raspberry Pi. Some schools are using KanoSphero, and Finch Robots.  Check out some videos and links below for more information.

See for yourself!  Watch videos about:
Minnetonka Elementary Coding
Media Coverage on What's Cool in Our School
Minnetonka Summer Coding Camp

More resources can be found here:
Details about the Curriculum and Program

Monday, November 30, 2015

Students Explain Everything and Increase Test Scores

Each year fifth graders in Minnetonka Schools study the science of catapults as one of their units. Excelsior Elementary teacher Jennifer Kitt explained to me recently that the assessment for this unit is typically a more difficult test for many of her students. She explained that in the past, students have not had as high of scores on their final test compared to their scores on other science units. So she was eager to try something new.
Image Source: Explain Everything

This year with iPads in our 1:1 Program, all fifth grade students now have access to the app Explain Everything. Jennifer had her students use this tool to document their learning and explain what they had learned about catapults. She said that her goal was to have her class use a higher level of Bloom's taxonomy, and knew that Explain Everything would be a great way to do it. 

When I was in her classroom, students showed me their products. Emma gave me permission to share her product and you can see it in this video. She combined photos, text, and handwriting in her explanation about catapults.

As a result of this project, Jennifer was very pleased that her students recorded the highest scores on this test that she had ever seen in her years of teaching, including students with various academic needs. The students certainly seemed to benefit from the added technology component this year to the catapult unit. Compiling a summary of their learning in a format that could be used to teach others as well as for review of the concepts they learned paid off.

Explain Everything is just one of the many apps our students have available in our 1:1 iPad Program for grades 5-12. It's a great screencasting app, allowing students to include all sorts of media in their presentation and edit the audio, text, and images with precision and ease. I've heard the app's inventor, Reshan Richards, speak a few times and know he is eager to continually improve his product. He has incorporated many suggestions from both students and teachers into this tool. As more and more of our students in Minnetonka Public Schools continue to use it, it will be fun to see what they create! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

EIEIO: Excellence Inspired: Experienced iPad Organization- Three Years of MN Metro Collaboration

For the past three years, around 25 educational technology leaders in about ten Minnesota school districts with 1:1 iPad programs have been meeting for a half day twice a year to share best practices, compare notes, ask questions, and discuss our plans for the future. This cross-district collaboration has been super beneficial. I would strongly encourage anyone in a 1:1 program to seek out other similar districts and meet to discuss issues regularly. I think you will find it worth your time.

Three years ago when we started meeting, there weren't as many area districts with 1:1 iPad programs. We were in our second year of implementation and really wanted to be able to talk with other experienced districts. We wanted the conversation to be about what happens beyond year one, which was something that we found happened frequently at conferences or other general metro meetings when there was no minimum experience required. The questions and needs a school has when they are beginning a 1:1 program versus those a school has after a year or more of experience are quite different. Conversation moves beyond the basics of logistics to deeper pedagogical and philosophical questions. 

For these reasons, we specifically limited our group to be composed of districts that were in the second year or later of an iPad implementation. Over the past ten years in Minnetonka Schools, we have held many events and hosted thousands of educators at our schools to share the best practices that we have learned in implementing iPads and other technology tools.  But part of the purpose of the EIEIO group was to meet the needs of our instructional technology staff and to challenge us to grow and plan for the future.

One of my colleagues, Peter Gausmann, came up with the acronym for the group at our first meeting and it stuck: EIEIO. This stands for Excellence Inspired: Experienced iPad Organization. Kind of a funny name, but it works. Since starting this group, another similar group has begun in central Minnesota, north of the Twin Cities area, with a similar purpose. 

Years ago, we had other user group meetings, such as SWAMSBUG meetings. This stood for Southwest Area Metro SMART Board Users Group. This group met a few times back when SMART Boards were newer with a similar purpose. It didn't last as long, I think because it had a really wide range of user experience with no minimum requirements. As you think about creating your own user groups for idea exchanges, consider ways to make them beneficial for all involved. Depending on the topic(s), requiring experience beyond the initial implementation of a program might just be a great way to get things rolling.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Home Sick? Absent Minnetonka Students Caught Up Before They Return

Schoology iOS App
My seventh grade son was out sick for three days recently with micro pneumonia--not fun. Thankfully some rest and medicine took care of it, and after the fever was gone he was able to return to school. During his absence, I was amazed at how easy it was for him to work on his schoolwork and stay caught up. He basically only had to make up some tests when he returned.

A major reason for his ability to stay caught up is Schoology, our eLearning platform or LMS (Learning Management System). Because our teachers list their homework in Schoology when it is assigned, students know what they missed even when they are absent. In addition to listing homework, most teachers also attach the file(s) that accompany the homework, such as a PDF or link to a video, post an update summary of the learning that day, as well as include material and content beyond the homework that the students would have used during class. This really minimizes the learning gap that had existed in the past. 

The images I've included in the post are all screenshots from his iPad, showing a sample of items he worked on from home while he was out sick. In addition to Schoology, our Grade 5 - 12 students use iPads, so most of the schoolwork they do is completed on their iPad. The paperless digital document cycle allows students to get the materials from the teacher, work on them, and turn them back in, even when they are sick and at home. Watch a 1 minute video here.

30 years ago when I was a littler Dave and got sick for a few days, I'd either wait until I got back to class to find out what I'd missed, or my parents would call the school and request that my homework get collected and they'd stop by school to pick it up. Then I'd get started on my work, try to figure out what had happened during class, and attempt to get as much done as I could before I returned. A few decades later, technology now allows Minnetonka students to stay on track while they are gone and be caught up before they even return to school. 

You can learn more about our 1:1 Program at  

Monday, November 9, 2015

Community Supported Technology Funding for Minnetonka Public Schools: Voters Pass 10 Year Renewal of Technology Referendum

Last week on election day, Tuesday, November 3, the Minnetonka community voted in favor of renewing our current technology referendum. This levy was first passed in 2002, then voted for renewal in 2007 for 10 years, and now again passed a vote for renewal for another decade of funding. An incredible 72.8% of the community voted in favor of this funding renewal. In addition, 71.6% of voters voted in favor of increasing the annual operating levy, also for 10 years. This operating levy is 13% of our total budget. 

The technology levy funds 100% of our technology expenditures in Minnetonka. It includes the salaries of our tech department staff, our instructional technology staff, all of our technology professional development, training for teachers and staff, pays for services like our learning management system, Schoology, our student information system, Skyward, iPad apps and our mobile device management system, as well as our iPads themselves in our 1:1 program, plus other hardware items like servers, switches, laptops and carts, etc. We have carefully planned our spending of this technology levy and budget accordingly in the past and will continue to do so. The dedicated funding for has allowed us to invest in technology and carry out long term plans. 

A huge number of parents and community members volunteered and worked tirelessly over the past many months to inform the community about the need for the operating levy and the renewal of the technology levy. We are fortunate in Minnetonka to have the support of our community and thankful for an additional 10 years of funding to continue to do our work!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Creator(s) in Minnetonka Schools

Source: iTunes
Starting last month, students in Minnetonka Public Schools began using the Book Creator app on their iPads in our 1:1 iPad program for 6,250 students in grades 5-12. This great tool makes ePublishing easy, and students use it to publish texts with images, drawings, comic strips, photos, music, and videos. Students can produce their own eBook or work collaboratively to combine their work into a group authored publication. After publishing, students can share their work with their classmates on Schoology, our learning management system and hub for our 1:1 program. eBooks can also be saved to Google Drive or published as an iBook. 

Last week, Deephaven Elementary teacher Mike Borgendale took his class to a nearby Carson Bay on Lake Minnetonka to collect invertebrate specimens as part of their science study. They are working with the educational branch of the DNR, MinnAqua. When they brought these samples back to their school, the students used a $2.50 macro lens which clipped on to their iPad over the camera to take close up photos and videos of what they found. They identified the organisms and began researching them, from snails to water scorpions. The students are writing and producing a non-fiction eBook using Book Creator to showcase their learning. The teacher is integrating the language arts lessons of non-fiction text features with science to make this activity interdisciplinary.

Photos: Andrea Hoffmann

Check out numerous examples online to see many more possibilities. Book Creator is just one of the many great tools teachers in Minnetonka Public Schools are using with students in our 1:1 iPad Program. Like Pear Deck highlighted last week, it is another example of how technology can be used to deepen learning experiences for students and make instruction more efficient and effective.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Pear Deck in Minnetonka Classrooms- Engaging, Interactive Lessons with Realtime Feedback

Source: Pear Deck
Starting last month, teachers in Minnetonka Public Schools began using Pear Deck with students. Pear Deck is a program that allows teachers to turn lessons into engaging, interactive activities and provide their students with immediate feedback. Teachers can convert existing PowerPoint or Google Slides into these activities, or build them from scratch.

Pear Deck's teacher view (forefront) with student view
This morning in Sara Martinson's freshman English class, students were reviewing parts of speech- verbs, prepositional phrases, subjects, etc. Sara turned the grammar lessons into an interactive Pear Deck. During the lesson, she walked around the room with her iPad which was logged in to the teacher dashboard in the web browser ( This dashboard allows her to see each student's response in real time. The students were on their iPads, also in a web browser, and had entered in a class code at which was displayed on the projector/SMART Board. So there are three views in Pear Deck: the main projector view, each student views each slide on the iPad, and the teacher view which allows the instructor to see all of the students' iPads as they write or complete activities on the slide. Since Pear Deck integrates with Google, the students' names automatically appear on the teacher's view, allowing the teacher to see who is logged in and what each person is doing.

Sara going through a grammar example
using Pear Deck's projector view.
Sara explained to me that in the past, these grammar review lessons would have been slides in SMART Notebook that she projected, and she would have had the students take turns sharing their answers with the class. Now, Sara has found that students are much more engaged with the content because they all have to complete each and every grammar sentence, whereas in the past students might have only paid full attention when it was their turn. Also, as the instructor prior to using Pear Deck, she would not have know how each student was doing, or even if each student was participating. Now she can monitor and adjust her instruction while she is able to individually see each student's work. Sometimes she displayed one of the student's responses to show the class, other times she talked through the question on the SMARTBoard and discussed the solutions.

Source: Pear Deck
She also used Pear Deck's draggable answer feature, having the students report out their comfort level with the different parts of speech by dragging a star on a line/continuum. Answers to questions can also be drawings/sketches, too. She began the lesson by having the students draw an image that highlighted their weekend. Math teachers can have students graph responses and see their equation solutions. The possibilities for any subject area pretty endless and Pear Deck has five different interactive question types.

Student view opening Pear Deck from Schoology on an iPad.
A great new feature of Pear Deck is Takeaways, just released a couple of weeks ago. A teacher can export the complete slide deck into Google Drive by generating one link. Sara did this and posted that link to her first hour class in Schoology as pictured. When students click on this link, it opens up a private copy of their slide deck with all of their individual answers so they can use it to study from in the future. This is a powerful feature that is really helpful for the students.

Pear Deck is just one of the many great tools teachers in Minnetonka Public Schools are using with students in our 1:1 iPad Program for all 6,250 students in grades 5-12. It is an example of how technology in instruction can be used to deepen learning experiences for students and make instruction more efficient and effective.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Google Cardboard- Virtual Reality in the Classroom

One of my sons trying out Google Cardboard
If you haven't tried Google Cardboard yet, you should. Google's virtual reality glasses are paired with their Cardboard app by the same name. Basically it's like adding a View-Master or old-fashioned stereoscope to your phone. The app takes images, Google Maps Street View photos, 360° panoramic images, and more and splits them into a right and a left image for your eyes, so as you look through the lenses in the cardboard goggles it creates a VR 3D-like environment where you feel much like you are there yourself. 

Source: Gadget Releases
I had my kids try out the Google Cardboard to as well as some other apps. They enjoyed it quite a bit. They walked around the Eiffel Tower, Venice, Jerusalem, London, New York, Rome, Mars, and even through the Great Barrier Reef. A few museums are loaded as well with some dinosaur skeletons, airplanes and the Space Shuttle. In each of these places, you are pretty limited to how far you can move around. In the museums, you basically can stand in the middle and turn 360°. They also tried out some of the free VR apps that have been developed for Cardboard, such as Skydive, Racetracks, Roller Coaster VR, and Crossy Road.

Source: GizMag
This whole technology seems to currently be in its infancy stages. 

There was nothing that kept their attention for too long. Some of the images are kind of grainy and that fuzziness may be hard to overcome. I read that some people experience a little bit of dizziness or nausea, but thankfully we did not. I can definitely see that it will be more engaging and attention grabbing as both the interaction within the images as well as the quality of the images improves. Google has released specs for its Jump 360° camera using 16 separate GoPros, as well as made video on YouTube available for VR, so that should help boost the content available. The goggles themselves are not high tech--the flimsy cardboard button/lever in our $12 Domo glasses didn't work, so we had to stick our finger in to touch the phone every time we wanted to walk forward or click. But this is a great design flaw for students to fix themselves, (see farther below). 

Update November 2015: We tried out six different models/brands of Google Cardboard. D-Scope Goggles with a magnet instead of the lever worked the best for us.

Source: Business Insider
In the classroom, I can see all sorts of opportunities for this tool. First, of course, is virtual field trips. Google currently is working on making Cardboard available in its Google Expeditions Program to a limited number of schools. You are already able to go to any place on earth that is covered in the Google Street View app, just look for the Cardboard icon as pictured. So the opportunity to take your class virtually to any place you were studying seems like a great way to make lessons more real. I suppose soon some morph between virtual reality and a Second Life-type avatar environment where you could see your classmates and your teacher in these locations will be arriving, too. A few years ago at the NSBA Conference, I tried on a pair of YouVist Goggles and toured a college campus which was very intriguing. There are endless possibilities for this type of technology.

Another classroom application I see is the construction of the cardboard goggles themselves. Why buy the pre-made kits when you could have each student design and build their own? Google supplies the specifications. It seems like a great project involving math, science, tech, art, and more. Students could add their own features as well as improve features and flaws like the flimsy lever I mentioned earlier. I'd also love to see a larger cardboard glasses that would allow students to use their iPad instead of their phone, too.
"Either way, we think Google's approach to VR is one of the most fascinating. Cardboard will eventually branch out into the kind of consumer gear that's on the horizon from Oculus and Sony, but there's something to be said for making the most dirt-cheap version possible, and using it in ways that can open future generations' eyes a little wider. Change the world first, make a hit product later." Source: GizMag
In a recent podcast I heard about Facebook's $2 billion investment in Oculus, which explained that there are big plans for VR technology in the video gaming industry. I see a lot of potential for this technology in education, too. It's great that Google has made this expensive technology so affordable and accessible for schools as quoted in the GizMag article above. It will be fun to see what developments take place over the next few years!

Related post: Google Expeditions Pioneer Program Visits Minnetonka Schools

Monday, October 12, 2015

What's in a Name? Digital Health & Wellness vs. Digital Citizenship

A few weeks ago at our first quarterly meeting of our District Digital Citizenship Committee, one of the first things the group did was change its name to the District Digital Health & Wellness Committee. In a way, this name change has been in the works for some time. Our committee started a year ago, and each time we met we spent a lot of time discussing digital balance--ways to help our students, parents, and community use technology in a balanced way throughout their lifetime. We also have discussed using technology with empathy, which was a term I repeatedly heard at the National Digital Citizenship Conference last week in Hartford, Connecticut. At this conference, I was pleased to see the words Healthy and Balanced prominently displayed on a slide in Janell Burley Hofmann's presentation pictured. (Janell is the author if iRules and was one of the speakers at the conference.)
View original Tweet
Consider these definitions:
Citizenship-the status of being a citizen-the quality of an individual's response to membership in a community
Health-the overall condition of someone's body or mind-the condition or state of something
Wellness-the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal <lifestyles that promote wellness>Source
The word "citizenship" never seemed to be a good fit with what we are trying to accomplish in our community in regards to technology use. Being a good digital citizen vs. using technology in a healthy way bring to mind different things. By focusing on healthy use throughout one's lifetime--wellness--we believe we can have a bigger, more positive and productive impact. To some, this name change may seem trivial or unnecessary, but for us it felt necessary. I know companies often go through re-branding their products and logos, trying to find something that sticks. We are hoping this re-branding of our efforts will do just that.

What is that supposed to mean?

Last week, one of my colleagues on the committee mentioned our meetings to her son who was home from college for the weekend. She says he instantly didn't understand what digital citizenship meant and flat out asked, "What is that supposed to mean?" When she mentioned the recent name change to Digital Health and Wellness, she said he stated right away, "Oh, I get it. That makes sense." Perhaps we are on to something and it's time to change our national focus, too. What do you think? 

View Slide Presentation from October 1, 2015 School Board Report or Watch the School Board Presentation

Related posts: 

Monday, October 5, 2015

October 31 Days of Kindness @TonkaSchools #TonkaStrong #KindnessInChalk #WeAreOne

This October, Minnetonka Public Schools is focusing on kindness. October is National Cyber Safety Month and National Bully Prevention Month, and as a way to encompass activities around these themes, we are encouraging our students, staff, and community to take part in 31 days of kindness. Everyone should treat one another respectfully and with kindness whether in person or through technology. The lines between our face-to-face interactions and those that occur through technology are increasingly blurred, and often our interactions with others in one arena spill over into the other. Spotlighting kindness is a great way to draw attention and improve our interactions with one another no matter how they occur.

On Friday, October 9, we are taking part in Kindness in Chalk, which is an event started by a Minnesota mom and blogger. Students in Minnetonka Preschool through High School will write positive and encouraging messages in chalk on sidewalks outside of their schools as well as in the community. We will be Tweeting and posting these on our Facebook pages. In addition to this day, there will also be video public service announcements that students are putting together, additional messages encouraging kindness, anti-bullying, and cyber safety Tweeted, posted on our schools' Facebook sites, as well as sent home in school email newsletters. We will include connections in our messaging to using technology with kindness, anti-cyberbullying, encouraging positive use of technology for social media, posting things that inspire, and build empathy. Later this month we will host a webinar for parents with a local pediatrician and child psychologist about helping kids use technology in a healthy and balanced way

You can follow, encourage, reTweet, and spread these messages by following these hashtags: #TonkaStrong, #KindnessInChalk, #WeAreOne, and @TonkaSchools. If your school is participating in Kindness in Chalk, National Bully Prevention Month, or National Cyber Safety Month, please let me know. I’d love to hear about activities from other places.

Read more about Minnetonka’s 31 Days of Kindness on the High School Newspaper Site.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Chilean Exchange Students and Teachers in Minnetonka Public Schools

For the past two weeks, nine high school students and their Academic Vice-Rector from The Thomas Jefferson School in Concepcion, Chile, visited Minnetonka Public Schools. Each student lived with a Minnetonka host family with a high school student, attended classes with their Minnesota host brother/sister, went to school events such as a football game and homecoming dance, and toured the Lake Minnetonka and Twin Cities area, riding the Steamboat Minnehaha, going to a Twins Game, visiting the Mall of America, and many other things. 

Visiting Chilean high school students demonstrating a traditional dance
for Minnetonka Middle School East Spanish Immersion Students.
The students were actually part of a larger group of 46 people from their school who spent a week together in Washington D.C. before splitting up into smaller groups to spend two weeks immersed in high schools across the United States. Minnetonka High School was of the destinations. Our family hosted their Academic Vice-Rector who has been bringing students to the U.S. for the past ten years on their annual tenth grade trip. She and her husband have two children similar in ages to two of my own. It was a great experience for our family have a guest from Chile for two weeks. It was actually our second time hosting a Chilean guest. About three years ago we hosted a student teacher from Chile who taught at Minnetonka High School for a semester. 

I think my favorite part of the past two weeks was meal times, when all of us would sit around the table and we had 10 minutes of mandatory Spanish speaking. I've mentioned before that my three youngest children are in Minnetonka's Spanish Language Immersion program and are fluent. My high school daughter is taking Spanish, and my wife knows a lot of Spanish, too. I, however, have a major in German, but I still really enjoyed listening to their conversation, attempting to pick up parts of what was being discussed. When we were speaking English, I enjoyed hearing about life and school in Chile from our guest.

We were so fortunate have this experience and broaden our horizons, making another connection with someone from another country. Chile looks like a beautiful place that we hope to visit someday (see the students' slideshow presentation below). Hopefully my own children will have exchange trips and experiences like this as well, perhaps in Minnetonka's International Studies Program. I would encourage you to be a host for a foreign student or visitor and take time to learn about another culture.

I’m also thankful we have such easy ways through technology to stay in touch. Twenty years ago, I remember a college trip to Europe using a calling card and only having a few minutes to talk to my family because it was so expensive. Now the ability to Skype and FaceTime (among other tools) for free to stay connected to your family when away from home, even while on the other side of the world, still amazes me. 

It will also be interesting to see how VR (virtual reality) tools develop, and whether or not they can come close to replacing travel, living with a host family, and immersing yourself in another culture.  I tend to think that this won’t happen anytime soon, but perhaps in my future grandchildren’s lifetime.