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.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Great Leader/ship Wisdom from Bill George: Finding Your True North

Last week former Medtronic CEO Bill George spoke at Minnetonka High School about leadership. His talk was geared toward high school students, but many parents, community members, and business professionals were present as well. He did a nice job sharing his wisdom and ideas not only about leadership, but life in general. He encouraged the students to make the most of their lives, emphasizing that life is precious and you only have one life to live. He spoke about the importance of having a mission in life, doing what you are both good at and what makes you happy. He explained that this inner self is your True North.

Bill shared that many leaders who he met did not have a purpose, or postponed their purpose for promotions, wealth, status, power, and other things that didn't make them happy. He encouraged the students to do something that helps others. He repeatedly talked about being a servant leader, thinking about the customer or individuals who are affected by the work you do and the decisions you make. Bill also explained how the best leaders also care and serve the individuals and teams who they lead, encouraging them and caring for them, in turn making them better. It was great to hear such care and empathy expressed by a CEO. I hope the students will go on to become great leaders with integrity and compassion.

I didn't write down everything he said, but did Tweet a few of his comments and quotes that I really liked.  I've Storified them below, and hope you gain further insight into Bill's advice by reading them:

Monday, September 14, 2015

Minnetonka's 1:1 iPad Student Training & Setup Checklist & Flipped Student PD

Grade 7 students learning the advanced features of
Notability's iPad App for a paperless classroom through Schoology
In two days last week, we distributed around 750 iPads to seventh grade students in their classrooms and walked them through the setup process in about 50 minutes (see our slideshow and checklist below). Today we did this with 350 sixth grade students, tomorrow we continue with another 350, and later this week and into next we begin with fifth graders at each of our six elementary schools. Rather than having 100-150 students in a room at once as in years past, we decided to do this in one classroom of students with two or three adults. We are finding this smaller group size allows for more personal attention and is a better and more effective way to get students set up. The amount of individual questions, password resets, confusion about which email address to use and when to enter in a student ID vs. an Apple IDs, etc., can better be addressed when you have less students in the first place. 

After this first day of initial setup, teachers in individual classrooms continue to work with their students in the days to follow. They show them how to use their iPad with apps like Notability and Schoology, completing what we call the "Digital Document Cycle" to do their assignments without paper. They will learn to use other core apps like Explain Everything, iMovie, and more. To lead this instruction, we have recorded a series of videos that our teachers show their students in a "Flipped Student PD Model" so the classroom teachers themselves do not have to be the experts in all the apps and their features.

This is Minnetonka's fifth year of a 1:1 iPad program. We added fifth and sixth graders to the program this year, so we will now have 6,260 students in grades 5-12 with an iPad. Rather than collecting iPads from our grade 8 through 11 students at the end of last year, we decided to have them hang on to their iPads for the summer, and are thankful we did. We had no reason to collect every device and had recently added an enterprise web content filter on student iPads that offered the same level of filtering off campus as students have at school. Not having to collect, touch, sort, and redistribute  the iPads for four grades of students was a great timesaver. We collected the four year old iPad2s of our 750 graduating senior and reused them for a fifth year in a row by redistributing them to this year's grade five students. We have been very pleased with the functionality of these iPad2s, originally planning to just get three years of use out of them. 

Related: Tip #1 for a Successful 1:1 Implementation: Execute the Rollout Carefully and Deliberately and more about Minnetonka's 1:1 iPad Program

Monday, September 7, 2015

District Digital Citizenship Committee: Tonka Schools Campaign to Raise Awareness of Cyber Safety at Home

An article in our local newspaper last week mentioned our efforts to get the word out about cyber safety and digital citizenship to our community: Tonka Schools Campaign to Raise Awareness of Cyber Safety at Home. The article focusing on filtering options and suggestions.  It mentions that our school-issued iPads for grades 5-12 have a built in filter that works regardless of whether or not the device is on or off campus. We are still working to help our parents and the community as a whole understand the need for a filter on a cellular device, and the article details Curbi as a solution for this, which I have mentioned in the past. I have yet to find a comparable working product for Andriod--if you know of one, please share! This was a great quote about filters from a Minnetonka parent in the newspaper article:
Even smart kids make poor choices. Kids are curious. This is an opportunity to allow your kids a safe way to explore the Internet. Then you can let out more line as they show responsibility and gain respect for the technology. It’s training wheels for a powerful tool.
I've mentioned in past posts that we have a Digital Citizenship Committee (Parenting with Purpose in the Digital Age... It's Complicated and Managing New Devices Received at the Holidays). This group is working to increase awareness and engage students, staff, parents, and community in raising responsible digital citizens of the future. We are using a positive community norms framework to define needs and norms among our students, staff, parents, and community for safe and appropriate technology use. The group seeks to guide and promote the importance of teaching everyone the necessary skills of digital citizenship and do so in a multi-medium, frequent and repeated way. The committee members serve as eyes and ears in the community, keeping a pulse on awareness and issues and serving as a champion for responsible digital citizenship.

This Digital Citizenship Committee is composed of a variety of school staff (teachers, media specialists, instructional technology coaches, technology admin, principals, communications director), parents, and community members (a pediatrician and a child psychologist). We meet quarterly to plan the best methods for message delivery to not only students, but also parents and our community through a variety of methods, including tips on our District Facebook page and Twitter account.

A few times a year we offer parent ed presentations on raising digital kids and parenting with purpose. We provide many resources to our parents and community on our District websiteOn a 2015 survey, our students' parents were asked questions related to technology use at home/outside of school. This data was gathered for the District’s Digital Citizenship Task Force to review current practices and provide a baseline for the future. We found that:
  • 49% report that they have installed a filter on their wireless internet access at home that blocks inappropriate websites, an increase of 8% from 2012.
  • Agreement with the statement “Communication from teachers and administrators regarding the iPad have helped our family to develop productive strategies for home use of the device” increased from 56 to 60%.
  • 30% of parents report that their child has a cellphone with internet access WITH a filter that blocks inappropriate websites.
  • 56% of parents report that their child usually keeps an iPad/cell phone or personal technology device in their bedroom overnight.
This fall our Digital Citizenship Committee is planning to promote the Kindness in Chalk Day on Friday, October 9 as part of National Cyber Safety Awareness Month and National Bullying Prevention Month. We are partnering with area community organizations to do this, such as local doctors' offices, banks, churches, and more. This is just the beginning of another year's worth of efforts to help foster conversations and increase awareness about techcognition- how both kids and adults balance their use of technology in today's digital world.

More information and resources can be found at