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This Time it’s Personal

Dad Childhood

Yesterday a package arrived in the mail. It was from my aunt who sent me some old photographs of my dad…along with a heartfelt note. My dad passed away almost eight years ago without warning, so receiving the pictures was like an instant connection to him.

In the note my aunt mentioned that, “The memory of her brother (my dad) would forever live on in her heart,” and she thought I would appreciate having the pictures of him.  She was right. I don’t have many pictures of my dad, so seeing him again yesterday was both beautiful and jarring.  The package included pictures of my dad as a young boy, his wedding, my wedding, and more. I must have looked through the stack of pictures a dozen times yesterday. 

I was chatting with my wife about the pictures as we were driving to get a sandwich for dinner.  I asked her if we had any printed pictures of our family (and ourselves) to give our children one day. She responded in partial jest, “This is the digital world…we have passwords to digital pictures and video for our kids.”  This got me thinking more about the digital world and the purpose of technology in schools. 

As educators, we need to be really careful about the purpose we implore.  We need to talk about pedagogy more often. (Not in short sound-bytes and 140 character bursts, but deeper dialogue.) I’m not naïve enough to think that my stated purpose for using technology should be your stated purpose. But we better be clear on our why each time we pass out paper and pencils, or digital devices.  “Why” matters.

The transformative potential of technology does not rest solely in its ability to convert images and experiences to digital media. The power of technology is in how it can bring us together if we are intentional about it.  Technology can support and amplify that which makes us uniquely human.

Through technology, our hurts and aspirations can become another person’s cause. The struggles that others share can activate our own empathy. Our ability to create, connect, reflect, wonder, imagine, innovate, express love, learn, share, and grow can be enhanced through technology.

If technology hinders any of these things we need to pause and reflect on the intended purpose. We’re hearing a lot about 1:1 initiatives as districts are striving to put a device in every student’s hand.  I get why this can be a good thing, but I believe the ratio is wrong.  The goal of any iPad or tablet initiative should be “1 to World” (or 1 to 7.4 billion people) because connecting kids to one another really does matter.

In addition to developing deeper connections and an understanding of others, technology can help us better connect to ourselves. I suppose this blog is a small example of reflection. Regardless, we need to better articulate the purpose and pedagogy for the technology we’re deploying. This brings me back to my dad.

There is nothing like holding a picture and touching the image of your dad.  Every fold, fade, and discoloration of the paper can transport a person to a different time.  There is a connection, for me, when I physically hold a photograph, book, or loved one.  It is distinctly human. We need to be giving our kids this same perspective and opportunity when they are holding their devices.

Technology mustn’t replace connecting with others; the power of technology is its ability to extend and enhance how we connect to other human beings. How is your school leveraging technology as a tool that enhances relationships and learning? What is your why?

Dad My Wedding

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3 Questions I Hope my Children’s Teachers are Asking

I often reflect upon how to empower students to learn at a high level while navigating the digitally-connected landscape we find ourselves in.  I ask questions and strive to serve our students better today than I did yesterday.

In addition to being a principal I’m also dad to three pretty spectacular kids.  My wife and I pray our children grow up to be loving people with humble hearts and curious minds.  We also understand that their world is different than ours was, so we think about other important things too.  My hope is that my children’s teachers are reflecting on some of the same questions I ask myself.

3 Questions I Hope my Children’s Teachers Are Asking

  1. How might I model digital leadership for my students?
  2. How might I help my students express their ideas in powerfully creative and appropriate ways using social media?
  3. How might I leverage the transformative power of technology to fuel collaborative conversations between students about their learning?

#STUCONNECT

For the past couple years I’ve collaborated with Tony Sinanis and John Fritzky (principals in New York and New Jersey) to create cross-state collaborative podcasts.  The podcasts feature our students sharing their favorite books, vision for education, and other creative endeavors led by kids.

This year we are adding an interactive Twitter-based chat to the collaboration.  We’d like to invite you to join us as we strive to model how to leverage technology as a tool to connect, inspire, and amplify student voice.

The four chat dates for the 2015-2016 school year are below, and we’re planning to share out a student-created podcast prior to each chat.  Please join us and include your classroom or school in the conversation.  We’ll be using the hashtag #StuConnect on Twitter starting at 9:30am CST on the dates below.

#StuConnect Chat Dates

October 8, 2015

December 1, 2015

January 15, 2016

March 10, 2016

Story Savvy

What is it about storytelling that is so captivating?  I’ve always been impressed by the relative ease in which a master storyteller is able to connect with others.  I’ve also noticed that a good story always evokes a response.  If I’m being completely honest, there are times I’m envious of a great storyteller’s ability to deliver a message to a completely engaged audience.  I occasionally catch myself thinking, “If only I could deliver a story like she can…I’d probably do more public speaking if I had that kind of charisma.”

Kids don’t require master storytellers…they just need somebody savvy enough to pen a few lines or to speak on their behalf.  I’ve come to embrace the notion that our students are counting on us to tell their stories.  They are also counting on us to muddle through our own vulnerabilities to champion an important narrative.  Students need us to be “story savvy.”

Being savvy simply means that we understand or get the sense of something (Dictionary.com, 2014).  It’s similar to a person that’s tech savvy.  An individual that’s regarded as tech savvy understands the problem-solving required to learn new technologies.  An educator that is story savvy understands the value of sharing students’ stories, and effectively communicates them in many ways…including conversation, social media, and other Web 2.0 tools.

Here are five steps to help you be a “Story Savvy” educator:

S  – omebody Else

Believe it or not, somebody else is probably already telling your school’s story!  It’s true…so you may as well share your authentic observations and professional reflections.  After all, who would you rather share important information about your students and school?  It’s important that our communities hear from us.  While you’re at it…share your school’s story with passion and transparency.  We are in classrooms on a daily basis and see the amazing work our students are doing firsthand; we have a reason to be excited!  Be sure to keep the stories you share positive and altruistic and let somebody else share those other kind.

A – cknowledge

Acknowledge the heroic efforts of staff and parent volunteers.  Sharing encouragement and affirming the teamwork it takes to make a school great is an important narrative.  We cannot do it alone, so why not give thanks to the people that make it all happen.  An attitude of gratitude is contagious…pass it on!  Acknowledge the difference our teachers are making in your stories.

V – oice

Student voice matters.  Be sure that your stories empower kids to develop their capacity to communicate, create, collaborate, and think critically.  Better yet…foster students’ leadership potential by passing them the microphone and providing an authentic audience.  Their voice is typically more impactful and interesting than ours anyways…let them speak and be sure to listen!

V – ision

Vision doesn’t talk but people do!  How many times have you been on the sidelines of a soccer game and overhear parents discussing your school’s vision?  (Insert cricket sound effect here.)

There is a better way to communicate your school’s vision with remarkable clarity and that’s through stories!  Highlight activities that exemplify your vision for a 21st century student learning experience.  Even better…let your students share the work they are doing that aligns with steps towards vision.  Your vision comes to life through the pictures of smiling students and emotions associated with their successes.

Our school community and tax payers have made a tremendous investment in our schools and we can be accountable through the results being achieved.  Share those stories!  Your stories can serve as a pathway to a better future and vision attainment.

Y – our Words

If a tree falls down in a forest does it make a sound?  If a principal types a newsletter that nobody reads is it a compelling story?  Your words matter, so why not share them in a relevant format?  Leverage social media, video podcasting, and innovative new mediums to connect your words to those you serve in a manner that they prefer.  People will tend to fill in the blanks if your words are absent.  Communicate with constituents so they are informed and able to support the important work being done for our students.

 

When things get Messy

Creative and Messy Learning Pic

Any parent will tell you that the term “messy” is not such a good thing when it’s describing the condition of their children’s bedrooms.  However, as a principal I need to clarify one thing; when learning gets “messy” there is potential for creativity to be unleashed!

I recently observed how magical “messy” can be.  3rd grade students were learning about the phases of the moon, and small groups were participating in multiple conversations occurring simultaneously (gasp!).  They had clear learning targets and plenty of choices to immerse themselves in.  There were songs being composed, iMovies being created, and sculptures of the moon being carved out of Oreo cookies.  Click on the video below to see for yourself…it was marvelous!

Click the video above to see how our students collaborated!

Click the video above to see the action for yourself!

The introduction of the iPads in our school has been a game-changer.  They are tools for learning and offer limitless potential for research, collaboration, and creation.  The Wayzata Public Schools’ MyWay approach is truly transforming the student learning experience and providing increasing levels of personalization.

Don’t just take my word for it!  A parent recently sent me an e-mail sharing how her child was at a birthday party when somebody noticed the moon and said, “Look you guys, the moon is a waxing Gibbous!”  The parent went on to explain that the kids at the birthday party carried on an animated discussion for 5-10 minutes about whether the moon was waxing or waning.  I’m told there were some younger children at the party and the 3rd graders took time to teach them all about the moon’s phases too.  Students really are talking about their learning.  It seems as if technology is fostering some of the engaging conversations about their learning!

A research study focusing on the technology explosion in early childhood classrooms found that young students’ spoken words DOUBLED while working with computers, and were twice as high as other activities like art, games, play dough, etc. (Hertzog & Klein, 2005).  We are seeing high levels of engagement in our school as well!

Messy learning really sticks…and inspires!  When highly-skilled teachers integrate technology and the arts in meaningful ways the creative genius in EVERY child is celebrated.  Kids are communicating like never before and exploring new mediums to connect in safe and supported environments.

Inaugural Web Blog Posting

Mr. G soars into the Blogosphere scene!

Mr. G soars into the Blogosphere scene!


It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…Wait…It’s a BLOG! Welcome to the inaugural posting of Java & G. I’m a few cups of coffee in to this marvelous morning and find myself prepared to share a highly caffeinated and informative update.

We have a lot of exciting things occurring at Greenwood this summer; here’s a pithy run down of updates and items to look forward to in 2012-2013!

Plans for a new addition are underway and we are hoping to break ground this fall and begin construction of four new classrooms and a new gymnasium.

Development of a virtual tour is being conceptualized. We hope to achieve the perfect blend of innovation and information so that families and prospective families can learn more about our school at a time that is convenient for them. Check back later to see where this exciting virtual project takes us.

We continue to enhance our communications with families and are delving into Facebook, Twitter and more. Your feedback is always appreciated, and we’re trying to meet families where they are at to convey important information while being responsive to your needs and input.

With a growing school comes the opportunity to grow our talented faculty! We are continuing the hiring process and have almost rounded out our team of “new recruits” for next school year. I can’t tell you how excited I am to share more about the team of teachers and support staff that we will have joining us next year. We’re lucky to welcome some VERY dedicated and caring professionals to the team.

Please be sure to check out the Summer Learning Bingo games on the school website. We have some really neat prizes to recognize the effort of students that choose to participate over the summer. A video podcast featuring “Mr. Math” and Mrs. Gibbons is also available on our Facebook page explaining the summer math and reading games. Check it out!

Thanks for an amazing year of learning and fun…have a great summer!

Originally Posted on May 31, 2012
Modifications made & some links/functionality may be missing.

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