Back in the early 1990’s, I had the chance to chat with Pat Bassett, the retiring head of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), then the head of the Independent Schools Association of Central States (ISACS). At that time, Patsaid, “integrating technology was like changing the wheels of a moving train.”
Fast forward nearly twenty years, to this past July. My new head of school, Ben Hebebrand, in addressing my first meeting with the administrative team, opened his presentation with the image above. In his opening address, he noted, “at Quest Academy, the train is always moving extremely quickly, like these ICE trains in Germany.”
During these past twenty years, we all agree that the acceleration of change is staggering. I imagine that Pat Bassett may have been referring to the nineteenth century steam locomotives. Having moved to a new school, with established traditions and patterns of technology infrastructure and integration, the challenge has been closer to changing the wheels of one of the high speed ICE trains. You want to bring new ideas and ways of thinking while honoring and respecting what is currently being done.
So what does this have to do with anything? Previously, I reported on my first 100 days at school and all of the projects that I was able to undertake from the beginning. Reflecting back on the second 100 days, when comparing changes introduced in the first 100 day, the difference is like the difference between the nineteenth century locomotive and the ICE train. The acceleration of the new changes is staggering. So in addition to implementing iPads in our Early Childhood and Art Departments and rolling out Google Docs, I have added the following projects to the list of items I am working on:
We researched, discussed, and announced that we will be going to a 1:1 program with Chromebooks next year for all of our middle school students in grades 6 -8. I am excited about this. What we will be able to create is the fact that minimally, each student will have an internet based device which they can use during the entire school day (with the 6 hour battery life). This change will enable use to have a floor to develop from. We will still open our network to a student bringing int their own device, but we have a new minimum standard. This will enable teachers to begin to create content based upon this 100% access. Coupled with our use of Google Apps, Haiku, and Hapara Teacher’s Dashboard, we will be able to create a learning environment that our new Professional Learning Communities will be able to really discuss learning, content, and pedagogy in unique ways.
We began our Technology and Learnng Plan, Vision 20/20. This focus of this plan is to bring the role of technology in learning into a clearer focus. Much of this work will take place in our professional learning communities. There are five aspects of the framework we are investigating: apply and understand focusing on technology integration and computational thinking/computer science, integrate and collaborate focusing on blended learning and collaborative learning environments, adapt and individualize focusing on investigating personalized learning, lead and create to investigate the role of online learning within our school, and support and grow focusing on creating the physical layer that will provide access to these new learnings.
Our early work with the learning plan in the area of computational thinking and computer science has led to the creation of a new STEAM course rotation for our middle school students. This rotation will have one trimester of research and digital citizenship focused around (I hope) the principles laid out in Net Smarts. The second trimester course will be in Technology, focused on programming and robotics. The final trimester course will be in Engineering, focused on materials, design, construction, and aesthetics. We are just beginning the build the curricula. What I am excited about is the fact that we are looking to try to incorporate more project and problem based learning and creating alternative assessment strategies, including potentially badging. It is really exciting to be developing this course which will have a focus on making and doing, not just theory and recitation. I have been given a large part in helping conceptualize and begin to develop the program. It is very exhilarating and exciting.
To support the new STEAM class plus our Lower School (elementary) curricula, we are asking to transform our current computer lab into a maker space which we will be calling the Innovation Lab. This space will support the new trimester options we are developing. This project is will hopefully be funded as part of our school’s annual benefit this year. I have been investigating new computers, assorted printers, including 3d printers, laser cutters, and vinyl cutters, a variety of electronic components, including various Arduino boards with sensors and electronics to support this exciting and innovative curricula we are creating. We seem to be catching the wave fairly early with this process. For our benefit, I am helping create a pop-up maker space at the event so parents can get hands-on experience with the tools we are proposing.
To support communication of these new ideas, I have started a new blog which I am maintaining to help keep our parents informed, Keeping UpWithIT.org. I have also help create additional support literature and a portion of Quest’s State of the School presentation, where we have rolled out the Vision 20/20 planning framework and the need for the Innovation Lab.
I am starting a Minecraft After-School club for our 2nd through 8th graders. All of the slots for the two days I am offering this program filled extremely quickly. I have spent time researching and preparing for this mini-course. The students are very excited about this experience.
So as Ben warned me a the opening administrative team meeting, the train was leaving the station and going to pick up momentum very quickly. He was not kidding. But the new possibilites are very exciting and fresh and I am glad that I have been given an opportunity to get involved in all of these projects.
I cannot wait to share the progress here as we move forward.