Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back to the Future: Experience 21st Century Teaching and Learning on Back to School Night

"Marty! Do you realize what this means?"

This classic line from Doc Brown in “Back to the Future” is perhaps overused, but in this case it is both appropriate and a little scary considering this fact: In “Back to the Future 2,” Marty travels into the future to the year 2015. Let that marinate a little bit...

We're not using hover-boards as regularly, nor do we fly our cars in express lanes, so our new Back to School Night (BTSN) format won't include an explanation on how the flux capacitor works, but it will provide a glimpse into how your children are learning in the 21st century. What follows is a description of the reasons behind this format change, what you can expect in terms of your experiences, and the schedule for the night.

School is Different Today

School is different today and for all the right reasons:
  1. Brain-based research has provided a deeper understanding of how people learn, thus providing insights into effective teaching practices.
  2. Developmental understandings of adolescents has deepened as well, meaning learning shouldn't just be about the WHAT anymore. The world in which our children will find themselves will be one defined by change, and the skill sets needed for this world are not content based necessarily, but relationship based.
  3. Part of that change is the role of technology and how to leverage its power. We see this most powerfully as a means to connect, while balancing its use in order to develop those relationship skills that will be so essential.

Why Change the Format of Back to School Night?

It is important to have some context around the decision to move to a new BTSN format. Over the course of the last few years, I've noticed trends that, taken together, instigated this change.
  1. The information being shared at BTSN was of a very basic nature and was being shared electronically with the students and parents anyway, thus creating a redundancy in communication.
  2. As middle school students move up in grades, there has a been a correlating drop in parent attendance at BTSN.
  3. There has been a lot of change in the middle school over the last four years, and while I have strived to fully communicate it in my Parent Preview letters and other communication outlets, such as this blog, the benefit to your children is best communicated through your own experience.

But I Love the Nuts and Bolts...

We believe it is important to show you how different school really is, and a perfect time to do so is BTSN. However, we understand that many of you rely on BTSN for the nuts and bolts of a class: How can I reach the teacher? What will my child be learning? How will they be assessed on that learning? How much homework can we expect at home? In response, each teacher has created a video which outlines that information for you. The videos will be embedded in their Haiku page, which you will learn more about from John Schoultz. Below is an example of the type of video you might see on a class page.

So What's So Different, Then?

Three things are different about this BTSN. First, starting in Berry Hall, we will launch our new Haiku platform, the main mode of communication moving forward. John Schoultz, our Instructional Technology Coordinator, will outline the basics of logging in and navigating through Haiku. After his presentation, you will receive an email with your log-in credentials and links to video tutorials, so you can access the platform right away.

Second, you will hear from Kathryn Wolfson, our new Guidance Counselor, about the Top 5 Guiding Principles in teaching adolescents. She will explain why these principles are so important to how we shape the middle school experience at Canterbury, and give you a sense of why we teach your children the way we do.

Third, you will move to Armfield Hall and attend two mini-lessons in your child's grade. Your assigned classes are at this LINK. Each lesson will last about 25 minutes and you'll have the opportunity to both engage in the material and ask questions about the process. Obviously, technology is a critical piece of the experience, and you will certainly see how it is integrated into a lesson, but we won't ask you to bring an iPad or laptop. Instead, we will show how your child would incorporate technology into the lesson.

Now What?

We want BTSN to be a launching pad for our partnership in your child's learning. We hope that through this new experience, you will have a better understanding of the expectations we have for the students and feel better prepared to support your child as he or she grows in middle school. At Parent-Teacher Conferences on Sept. 30, you can meet with your child's teachers one-on-one to further deepen that partnership. Our goal is to keep you fully informed about what is going in your child's experience at Canterbury, what best practice in middle level education is, why we believe it is important to do the things we do, and how we go about implementing those priorities at Canterbury.

We are excited to welcome you Back to the Future to experience 21st century teaching and learning for yourself.

The Night's Schedule

Here is the night's schedule.  

  • 6:00 - 6:30: Ketner Science and Technology Building Tours (optional) led by Burns Jones, Head of School
  • 6:30 - 7:00: Berry Hall
    • Welcome from Burns Jones, Head of School
    • New Middle School Teacher Introductions, Burns Jones, Head of School
    • Annual Fund Introduction, Matt and Rhonda Wakefield, Parents '18 & '20
    • Haiku Introduction, John Schoultz, Instructional Technology Coordinator
    • Guiding Principles of Teaching Adolescents, Kathryn Wolfson, Counselor
  • 7:05 - 7:30: Mini-lesson Session 1
  • 7:35 - 8:00: Mini-lesson Session 2

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