Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One Month Check in on 1:1 program

We've been at the 2010-2011 school year for over a month now and we've collected some data for comparison. The core changes this year include the implementation of a 1 to 1 laptop program, a 5 X 3 trimester that features extended 65 minute classes, the house system, and a later start time beginning at 8:30 am.

We've pulled some data at this point looking at tardies, absences, and discipline infractions. Below are the results and some possible explanations as we continue to evaluate the changes taking place at Peoria Notre Dame High School

While we have been blessed to never consider discipline issues a large problem, the results in this category are very interesting. Overall discipline referrals are down 63.4% from last year. Part of the benefits of adding a 1 to 1 computer program is the shift from passive to active learning strategies. As teachers become proficient at integrating technology into their instruction we see the quality of student engagement increasing. Information is no longer scarce. Teachers are not limited to text books but have a large array of instructional choices many of which involve a more active role for the student learner. All of this logically leads to a decrease in discipline referrals. Active students engaged in learning stay out of trouble. School is no longer a media and information poor environment compared to the home environment. The digital divide between what students have access to in school and out of school no longer exists.

Two years of preparation went into the adaptation of 1 to 1 computing. One of the lessons learned is to take risks with technology. Teachers do not necessarily have to be proficient at every detail of the software programs but their willingness to challenge students to use these tools in powerful ways often go well rewarded. As part of homecoming week students were asked to create digital shorts tied to the homecoming theme of "Irishopoly". Below are two links to videos that in my humble opinion are very good for a group of students who have had their macbooks for little over two months. I'd share all six but I think two will suffice.

Marian House Video
Benedict House Video

The daily start of school has been pushed back by forty minutes this school year in line with current research regarding teenagers and optimal brain function. Some of the fears in our planning focused on the concern that this would really do nothing to decrease tardies or increase performance. As a number of naysayers argued, " Teenagers would still be late and given their nature a later start time wouldn't do anything." We'll it is still early but the numbers are in. Tardies have fallen 31%. Additionally we have seen large numbers of students arriving early to either socialize or work on assignments. If you count the half hour before school it appears our students, even though lunches are now mixed between ages, have plenty of time to socialize with their friends and classmates.

Some articles on the issue of later start times:

Attendance rate data can tell an interesting story about a school. Student absences have decreased 37.9% . It is our hope that the changes this school year have helped to create a more positive dynamic learning community at PND. The data so far supports the changes that are taking place. We look forward to analyzing academic data at the end of the first trimester. We plan to keep you posted. There are still a number of issues that need our attention and efforts to refine and enhance and we look forward to this work.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Video Monday

These are some interesting videos I ran across over the weekend. Kudos to Scott McLeod for sharing them. The first one is from one of my favorite education leaders. Granted he is from Michigan State so please don't discount his thoughts after what happened in overtime this past weekend.

Yong Zhao: No Child Left Behind and Global Competitiveness from TFT on Vimeo.

This next one picks up the same thread about the dangers of the standards movement in terms of killing the motivation to actually learn. Kudos to the Canadians for putting it together.

I wonder if the focus on believing a test indicates everything about a student might lead to schools like this.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Affinity for Technology

Susie sent me a link to this video and I must say I find it rather intriguing. Dr. Sugata Mitra ran an experiment in which he dropped off web connected computers into poor areas in India and other countries and simply gave the children tasks of learning on their own. Take a look at the results by watching the video here.

It amazes me but I don't really find it surprising. Core to our nature as human beings is the desire to learn. We are all natural learners. The internet just provides all the material we could ever need at the tips of our fingers. Information at one time was scarce. Today it abounds and grows. How does the role of a teacher shift in an era characterized by instant information?. I'd argue the teacher becomes even more important on many levels. Teaching in this environment involves more work in the set up for learning but less in the delivery. There is just too much great information to point learners towards as opposed to presuming we have all the answers.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Benefits of Starting Later

We are now two weeks into a later start time. We've moved from 7:55 to 8:30. Personally I'm enjoying the extra time in the morning. Eating a decent breakfast, getting in some much needed prayer, and doing the daily workout has made life much more enjoyable and productive. Below are some added links about the benefits of a later start time.

From the Wall Street Journal: Study looked at a boarding school that pushed back their start time to 8:30

From the LA Times: This article looks at a study of the achievement gains in later starting schools.

From the Lawrence Journal in Kansas: This one looks at a state wide study supporting the push for later start times for high schoolers.

On another note I couldn't resist sharing this lovely video. As we move more deeply into our 1:1 computing model we really have the chance to do some amazing creative work. I'm not sure we could match the work below but I'm sure we have students that are just as creative. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What the "F"?

We'll as predicted Facebook and its improper use has become a little bit of an issue as we move into our 1:1 computing environment. Let's give it some thought.

First the ongoing issue in any school environment is engagement. Engaged students learn more and misbehave less. Good teaching leads to high levels of engagement and poor teaching leads in general to boredom and the host of issues that are attached to it. Students for years have found ways to disengage from doodling on their desk to passing notes. The issue is not the lack of complete focus but rather the new medium. Talking in class is fundamentally no different than sending a friend a message on Facebook during class. The problem is engagement the medium is rather irrelevant.

So where are we at with FB and appropriate vs. inappropriate use at school. We'll the tech guys have been crunching the numbers and low and behold some students have been on FB during class time. Surprised? The fun part is of course I've gotten a few emails about and rightfully so. My favorite one was the call from a gal at work who saw her daughter posted to FB during class. I asked her how she knew and she said she saw it on FB at work. I asked if her boss knew she looked at FB during work and the line went eerily silent.

Well anyway in an ideal world we could count on our students to avoid FB in class and only use it before school, after school, and during advisory. But alas we don't have a perfect world. But maybe just maybe our students don't understand that we know they are on FB at inappropriate times. So the way I see it we have five options.

1. Who cares: This option involves saying if you zone out you zone out and your only hurting yourself so enjoy the rewards of your labor and enjoy repeating your classes. But then again part of having a 1:1 environment is to boost our academic achievement so this doesn't seem like the best of all plans.

2. Warn them and Move on: Perhaps step one should be an initial warning. We could treat our students with dignity remind them of their obligation to work hard and focus on their learning and see if that solves it. Maybe it will maybe it won't. Time will tell. We can always deal with the super offenders on an individual basis.

3. Block FB during school except before school after school and during advisory: Pretty simple on this one and barracuda allows it to be done. The only downside would be in some classes a creative teacher can actually come up with creative educational uses for FB.

4. Block FB all the time: We'll this is a fun idea. Sounds kind of draconian but hey most work places seem to do this so why not. But then what else do we block? Of course we block the evil sites but where would this lead?

5. Facebook Detention: You heard it right. We can actually track usage individually and then just block offenders out for a long period of time. It's a nice natural consequence but a managerial pain. But then again it would be differentiated instruction. Kind of.

Anyway we'll be taking the issue up during the house leader meeting this week. We'll let you know the route we'll go. We might gather some feedback. Leave your comments below.