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Monday
May212018

The year-round school

 

Tim Stahmer at Assorted Stuff has a dead-on post, It's Closing Time, about stopping and starting "school" every summer. He shares my pet peeve about closing libraries exceedingly early and collecting technology for summer storage. And I like this question:

But I wonder how much more learning would be possible if we didn’t “open” and “close” schools each year? If we treated learning as a continuous, open-ended process, rather than something with a fixed start and end?

Using an expensive resource like a school and its library for only 3/4 or so of the year just doesn't make good economic sense either.

And yet... I think many of the educators with whom I interact seem ready for a break by the end of May- both teaching and non-teaching staff. While the days of the duty-free summer seem to a thing of the past, even for "9-month" employees, the summer brings a change of pace. Many tasks, while important, do not have the urgency that they do when school is in session.

The summer provides a much needed mental health break for those in stressful positions. By the end of May I go home thinking I don't really care if I ever see another student or teacher or principal for the rest of my life. But by the first of August, I miss them all.

How do we get continuity of education and full use of resources yet provide breaks for kids and adults?

One thing we are working on is extending the school year informally with technology. Our students keep their Chromebooks and access to the school's resources (ebooks, databases, videos, Internet access, etc) over the summer. Our public library collaborative project, of course, goes year round. I would like to have the funding to keep our school libraries open over the summer as well or at least allow kids to check out a ton of books to keep over the summer. We are making inroads at some of our schools by having the libraries available during summer school and having one school do summer checkout. 

A better long-term solution might be to re-envision how a "year-round" school is structured. I worked for five years in a year-round school. The ARAMCO Schools in Saudi Arabia had to accommodate an oil company that could not afford to lose all its employees for three months during the summer. So schools there were 3 months on; one month off. One third of the employees and their kids would be gone in August, December or April. Three three-month-long regular school sessions looked and felt like regular semesters. The single months between them allowed vacation time, remediation for those who needed it, or enrichment programs and recreation. We got both breaks and continuity.

As much as I am sentimental about the summers of my own childhood, I recognize that we need to find ways to keep learning opportunities available to our kids - year round schools, summer school, youth camps, digital learning, library programs - creative options abound.

There is no excuse for the summer slide.

Image source

Sunday
May202018

BFTP: Connecting problems and technology

"Given this year's learning in the areas of technology integration, what might be one or two concrete goals that you will set for yourself heading into next year?" - end of year assignment for an administrative technology leadership class

As assignments go, the one above isn't too bad. But (doing some Monday morning quarterbacking) could it be improved? What if read:

Select one or two major problems or challenges you expect to face next year and apply technology uses to help solve or meet them.

I know, I know, for many solving a problem or meeting an educational need with technology is implied in the first assignment. But for too many educators, technology application is still about starting with a new and sexy solution and then running about looking for a problem to solve. 

In rather vague ways, when most educators think about the why's of integrating technology into education they consider motivation, engagement, technology skill practice, reading and math remediation, higher-level thinking, improved communication, collaborative learning global citizenship, problem-solving, yada, yada, yada. All lovely and important aspirations for the productive use of these fun devices, large and small, that beep, buzz and take batteries.

But we have to do a better job of getting down in the weeds, tackling real and specific problems with technology that are rooted in the day-to-day educational problems that can't very well be solved by traditional practices...

  • How do I help students build the level of concern for the quality of their writing? 
  • How can I help my current ESL students master double-digit multiplication?
  • What might make my unit on the Civil War/the water cycle/nutrition more meaningful?
  • How can I better connect with my students' parents?
  • How do I make my staff meetings more productive?
  • How do I provide non-fiction, high-interest reading materials for elementary students helping them meet the new language arts standards?

My long standing advice to teachers has always been to begin integrating technology into one's worst units -  the ones neither you nor your students much like. I would extend this to all educators and suggest we all start looking for technology solutions to our most difficult problems - those which seem intractable.

Most educators need exposure to the basic functionality and possibilities of new technologies. But once exposed, the direction should be toward problems, not generic or idealistic technology use. 

Graphic source

Original post May 5, 2013

Friday
May182018

Learning adult skills

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

The following graphic came from Stephen Abram's blog post: Adulting 101: When libraries teach basic life skills.
 

 

  • The first question I had was "Where in the heck were these classes when I was 16-25?"
  • The second question I had was "How did I learn the skills I needed to function independently as an adult?"
  • And the final question was "What additional skill classes should this public library add to its curriculum?"

The public library in my young adulthood (think late 60s, early 70s) was a far more traditional place. I don't know if they offered classes of any kind at all - only books, magazines, and reference materials. The library had its role in an information scarce environment and filled it well. Today's best libraries, like the one at which Adult 101 classes are taught are filling non-traditional needs for a changing society. Very cool.

So how did I learn how to heat up a can of soup or change a fuse or check the oil in my car? In a nuclear family these things were just part of life. I learned from my parents, my grandparents, my friends. Many kids still learn adult behaviors in the same way, but it seems we have more kids who may not have this home support, necessitating the need for Adult 101 classes. More's the pity.

What other Adulting 101 skills should be added to the interesting curriculum above? (Feel free to suggest your own in the comment section.)

  • Healthy eating and life-long exercising
  • Calculating interest on loans and long-term savings
  • Participatory citizenship - voting, attending caucuses, communicating with legislators
  • Maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships
  • Discussing without arguing
  • Balancing one's work and family and self time
  • Understanding what research shows leads to life happiness

As Will Rogers suggests in the opening quote, there are things that cannot be taught, only learned through experience. There people who cannot be taught, only be given the opportunity and time to learn. But for many, libraries and schools who do offer classes in being an adult will be a blessing.

I hope the practicalities of adult living are a growing part of both library and school classes.