Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer Technology Professional Development for 400+ Minnetonka Teachers

Over 400 individual Minnetonka teachers attended one or more technology professional development classes this summer! That's a lot of learning! On average, teachers took between two and three different tech classes. 

In the past I've written about the need to differentiate teacher training in order for a 1:1 iPad program to be successful. Summer is one of the ways we make this happen. For the past ten years we have offered a number of summer technology training options for our teachers. Options have grown from just eight classes over four days in August 2005 to almost 90 sessions available over three months this summer, including online. 

In addition to technology classes, there are also many non-technology sessions offered for Minnetonka teachers each summer, too, such as new curriculum training, classes on assessment, engagement, special needs, and much more. We use My Learning Plan to manage this--teachers can sign up for and drop classes, automatically be notified and reminded of classes and locations, and we can track rosters, waitlists, and CEUs. Teachers receive a stipend for up to 12.5 hours of pay for the time they spend learning in summer technology sessions. More details about this summer's technology options are below:

In June, 80 Minnetonka teachers attended one or more of 53 technology sessions over two days along with teachers from all over the Midwest. More info about our June Institute.

Once again this summer we offered online options for learning, allowing teachers to work at their own pace and at a time of their choosing. This summer we had 35 teachers choose to learn more about Screencasting with iPads or the Formative Assessment Toolkit.

August Teaching & Learning Academy
This year we had five days of classes in August starting two weeks before school begins. View the August schedule here and read all the class descriptions. Over 200 different teachers took at least one or more technology classes.

New this year, we held the first Minnetonka Wayzata Tech Summit at Wayzata Central Middle School. Wayzata is a neighboring school district to our north, has had a 1:1 iPad Program for Grades 4-12 for three years, and uses iPads and Google E-12. Minnetonka and Wayzata staff collaboratively led 25 sessions focused on ways to use iPads and Google tools in the classroom in all subject areas.  It was a great opportunity for teachers to collaborate with colleagues from both districts! Over 100 teachers from each district were on hand for this inaugural event.

New Teachers
Each year we welcome a number of new teachers to the district. New teachers take a number of classes prior to beginning in Minnetonka, including technology classes. This year 70 new teachers were hired and learned how we integrate technology into Minnetonka's classrooms.

It's been a busy summer of learning for teachers in Minnetonka! Now the students will benefit!

Monday, August 24, 2015

This Isn't Your Parents' Education

Last month I reminisced after watching Back to the Future with my kids and had three related posts. Today's post easily could be part four in that series. Our videographer, Andy Smith, recently produced another great video highlighting the differences between the education of Minnetonka students today and that of their parents.  For this piece, he showcases a father and son, Brian and Tyler. Brian graduated in 1984 from Minnetonka High School and Tyler goes to MHS today.  Brian offers to help his son with his homework. Tyler shows his dad that everything is on his iPad, and Brian discovers that the content is a lot harder than he remembers from his schooling:

I can certainly relate to Brian. As a parent of four children in Minnetonka Public Schools, I'm amazed at everything they are doing and the complexity of the material they are learning. My oldest daughter, a sophomore, is taking AP Calculus this year, which I didn't take until I was a senior. My other three kids, grades 1, 5, and 7, are in Minnetonka's Spanish Immersion program and are already pretty fluent speakers.  They have gone to school learning in Spanish-only classrooms beginning in Kindergarten. As a student, my first German classes didn't start until middle school. And my three oldest kids are part of Minnetonka's 1:1 iPad Program, while I remember my first time using a computer at Hastings High School in tenth grade on Apple IIe computers! Minnetonka students are doing great, and their test scores show just how well:

As stated below the video description on YouTube, "Minnetonka students enjoy a cutting edge education. The one-to-one iPad program and other technologies in the classroom create a state of the art learning environment. Students have never been more connected to their work, their teachers or the world waiting for them." It's truly an amazing time to be a student in Minnetonka, and my wife and I feel so blessed to have our children be Minnetonka Skippers!

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Monday, August 17, 2015

The Tonka AppMazing Race

Just over a week ago I attended the second annual iPadPalooza- Minnesota conference at TIES in St. Paul. Like last year, Carl Hooker was there as a speaker. He started the iPadPalooza events at his district in Texas. Carl is a fun, energetic guy with a lot of great ideas. Besides iPadPalooza, one of his great ideas is the AppMazing Race. In an AppMazing Race, teachers work in teams and go through a series of tasks using various apps on their iPad. 

One of our Tech Integration Specialists, Peter Gausmann, actually first heard Carl speak about the AppMazing Race at the TIES Technology Conference in Minneapolis in December 2014. Carl led attendees at a session through an abbreviated AppMazing Race, and Peter loved it so much that he and Sara Hunt, another Tech Integration Specialist, implemented it at our middle school iPad teacher trainings a few months later.

It was an immediate home run. Teachers reported having fun and enjoying their training session, which was great to hear! They practiced a number of apps in the process, experiencing learning just like their students in a deeper and more memorable way than a traditional training model. We then brought this successful experience to our high school training sessions, where Technology Integration Specialists Ben Stanerson and Sara Martinson had our high school teachers go through an AppMazing Race in the spring of 2014. Once again, it was a success and teachers loved it. Andy Smith, our District Videographer, filmed some of this and produced the video you can watch below. He did a great job capturing the learning and fun that took place. Our teachers have started creating activities for their students using the AppMazing Race format, too. I recently saw the lesson plans from one of our high school social studies teachers who has this planned for an activity on the first day of school with her students in a few weeks.

In Minnetonka, we attribute much our success as a leader in educational technology to our professional development. We constantly strive to provide the best training and support possible for our teachers, and are always looking for new and innovative ways to do this. I am thankful to Carl for sharing his AppMazing Race idea with others outside his school so that other teachers can experience this fun, successful professional development learning experience, too!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sneak Peek at Two Minnetonka Public School Media Center Summer Remodeling Projects

Over the past five years, some media centers in Minnetonka have been remodeled and updated for the times. Two media centers are currently going through this process this summer. Collaborative workspaces with mobile furniture, quiet areas for studying and reading, work stations for computers, projectors for large group sharing and teaching, small group workrooms, and flexible shelving for the book collections have been created.  

First, some history: 
Deephaven Elementary School Media Center
The Deephaven Elementary Media Center was remodeled in 2010. The footprint of the space did not change. A sunken seating area called "the pit" was filled in and made level with the rest of the room. Students and parents helped to plan the space along with Media Specialist Kelli Whiteside. More information and additional pictures about it can be found online.

Groveland Elementary School Learning Commons
In the summer of 2012, we transformed another elementary school library. The Groveland Elementary Media Center footprint was expanded at the same time some new classrooms were added on to the building, adding to its square footage.  This addition let in a lot of natural light with an entire wall of windows. The space has a nautical theme chosen by students and parents with portholes, sailboats, and a map of Lake Minnetonka on a curtain. Groveland also renamed the space the The Learning Commons.  More information and pictures can be found online as well as on a Google Site about the transformation by Media Specialist Colleen Small

MMW Media Center before changes
This summer at Minnetonka Middle School West (MMW), the first phase of a remodeling project is underway with new paint, some pendant lights, and some new furniture donated by the PTA planned in collaboration with Media Specialist Erin Carcamo. This is the first phase of a the project with more to happen in the future.
Colors for MMW Media Center
Architect drawing of MMW Media Center new furniture

MMW Media Center being painted,
note new wall color

High School Media Center with
old carpeting being removed

At Minnetonka High School (MHS), new flooring and paint with a new color scheme, some new pendant lights, and a lot new collaborative-style furniture has been added. A computer lab has been removed making way for a small group meeting area. Large, individual workstations with desktop computers that dominated the middle of the room are being replaced by smaller profile computer which will be along the side. The Media Center will be renamed The Port. This is the first phase of a multi-year project planned by staff, including Media Specialist Peter Gausmann. 
Color palette for new MHS Media Center

Architect's drawing of MHS layout with new furniture
New furniture in MHS Media Center with
new carpet installed and walls freshly painted.
More new furniture in the MHS Media Center
(yet to be arranged)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Techcognition in an Attention Economy

Sunset on Sawbill Lake in northern Minnesota, 
With three colleagues in Chicago for the
Schoology NEXT Conference.

Last week in less than a 24 hour period, I left the Schoology NEXT conference in downtown Chicago, flew home to Minneapolis, picked up my four kids and camping gear, and spent the next four days on Sawbill Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). It was quite a transition from a tech conference in the city filled with skyscrapers and millions of people to the remote wilderness completely off the grid!

The BWCA is a national forest campground with over a million acres of lakes and forests in northern Minnesota on the Canadian border. There is no electricity, no running water, no motorized vehicles, and no roads. You travel by canoe and portage (carry) your gear over the land between them, which can be a short path or very, very long hike.

I believe this was my 17th year camping in the BWCA: my dad first took me in high school and then nine years ago we started bringing my own kids. Dad "retired" from these trips about four years ago and my college roommate joined me, helping with all the gear, cooking, and work. (My wife stays home and enjoys her time alone for a few days.) My kids started going when they were between the ages of three and five, and starting last year all four were old enough to join in the fun. The BWCA is a great place to spend time together, relax, swim, explore, observe nature, fish, play cards, read books, and disconnect.  I only used my phone as a camera.

I spent a lot of time thinking about being off the grid and aware that I was not connected or on a screen over those four days in the BWCA. You can really notice how much time you spend on a screen when it suddenly is not available. There wasn't any technology prompting me for my attention. There was no way to check in and see if I'd missed anything, either. 

The day after I returned home, I heard yet another fascinating (and timely) WNYC's Note to Self podcast episode entitled, The Attention Economy: What is Our Attention Actually Worth? In the episode, Manoush Zomorodi interviews Tristan Harris, a tech entrepreneur and design ethicist, who explains that some tech companies design for and get paid by the amount of time they can hold our attention in an app/program/device. Tristan wants to change this, and I hope he (we) can. He tells an interesting background story about the original designers of AirBnB, who originally measured the success of their service based on the positive time/value add that hosts and guests collectively reported about their stays and time together. Imagine focusing on a positive metric like that... versus bottom line profits based on how much time you can just grab someone's attention, taking them away from those around them, their thoughts, or just some down time! It's encouraging to hear that someone in Silicon Valley is thinking about designing technology to not demand more of our attention, and I hope other developers will adopt this way of thinking.

I believe that one of the essential skills we can teach our children as parents and educators is an awareness of how they spend their time with technology, how frequently, and the value of their interaction with it. As we see both them and ourselves being engaged and more dependent on screens and technology, it seems that it will be even more difficult in the future to recall life before this constant connection and screen presence. I wonder if future generations will even have times where they are just lost in their own thoughts in silence, or be with one another without technology present? I believe it is important to provide kids with experiences off the grid and/or away from technology so they know what it is like, as well as to frequently discuss an awareness of their use of and reliance on technology. 

Techcognition- an awareness and understanding
of one's own use of technology

Metacognition is the awareness and understanding of one's own thought processes. Perhaps now we need a term for the awareness and understanding of one's own use of technology. How about techcognition (or technognition)? I hope to help my own children and today's students with their techcognition skills. I want to help them learn balanced vs. addicted or distracted use. Technology is certainly here to stay. It is essential and beneficial in numerous ways. Helping today's kids learn to be cognizant of their interactions with it can only help prepare them for a future that will be even more connected than things are today.  

If you have never been to the BWCA, I highly recommend it. If you're fearful of what to pack or how to do it, there are plenty of outfitters and even guide services. I'd be happy to recommend something, just let me know. (Chicago is a great place to visit, too, but for different reasons.)

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