Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Sane View of New Technologies and Learning

My friend and Trinity parent, David Hostetler, who now teaches virtually at Appalachian State in the areas of school law and humanities, passed along to me a blog by Frederick Hess, Pundicity.  

David and I have kept up a conversation about teaching, learning, and technology over the last several years.  His teaching at App State, which started as traditional teaching, has migrated over the years to blended classes and now to mostly virtual instruction.  Those transitions have forced David to think long and hard about the limitations and affordances of different ways of teaching.  He's a great resource for us as we move into our Digital Learning Initiative at Trinity.

David's perspective is a balanced one, and Hess' blog entry has that same perspective.  I like the way Hess takes measure of the possibilities and limitations of new technologies by looking at the history of the book in education.  Check it out here

Hess avoids both the Scylla of the digital sceptics and the Charybdis of the tech evangelists.  His recommendation about what we should look for in our employment of these new technologies is spot on:
First, new tools should inspire a rethinking of what teachers, students, and schools do, and how they do it. If teaching remains static, sprinkling hardware into schools won't much matter.
Second, technology can't be something that's done to educators. Educators need to be helping to identify the problems to be solved and the ways technology can help, and up to their elbows in making it work.
Third, it's not the tools but what's done with them. When they discuss what's working, the leaders of high-tech charter school systems like Carpe Diem and Rocketship Education, or heralded school districts like that of Mooresville, N.C., brush past the technology in order to focus relentlessly on learning, people, and problem-solving.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Grammar Schooling

Yesterday I sent the following email to all of our faculty and staff.  Thought I'd share that with the rest of the Trinity community.  The NPR piece is worth checking out, and the quiz is fun to take.  

I've received already several encouraging and funny responses from faculty.

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Interesting piece this morning on NPR from Mark Memmott, their editor of standards and practices.  

He directed us to the NPR Grammar Hall of Shame.  Please check it out.  

I was gratified to learn that at the Top of the Hall of Shame Chart was a pet peeve of mine, one I keep hearing from Trinity folks (and NPR reporters!): the misuse of pronouns, especially "I" and "me."  Take the quiz at the end of this piece and see how you do.

This kind of thing is not important compared to our Christian mission, the achievement gap, and bullying in schools, but it is important, especially for a school.  Until the Mavens of Style declare that you and me can do what we want with our pronouns, it is our obligation as a school to show the way and walk the correct talk.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A More Nuanced Conversation about Technology and Learning?

Note: We have just postponed the DLI Event until March 19 due to inclement weather. But I'm eager to push the conversation along, so I'm posting this now anyway.

I’m thinking that more Trinity parents heard Monday’s Diane Rehm Show than would normally be the case, since we had a holiday.  I was driving back from the State Swim Meet and turned it on.

Dame Susan Greenfield (a neuroscientist) was going on about how digital technologies are leaving their (mostly unwelcome) marks on our brains.  This week Trinity is bringing an Apple educator to promote our Digital Learning Initiative, and it occurred to me that these two events might be a sort of Point-Counterpoint: Trinity saying let’s enhance the digital experience of our young ones, Greenfield warning us to watch out.  

I have several thoughts about this, and the first is that this way of thinking about things is much too simple.  Dame Greenfield is not waving us off of technology, and Trinity is not unconcerned about the “unprecedented effects” of the digital world on young minds and souls.  A more nuanced conversation is what is needed, and that is what I hope we are having at Trinity. I know that the Apple educator who is coming is having those kind of conversations wherever she goes.

We have been reading things like Greenfield for years now.  I think it was three years ago that we held a faculty reading group that worked our way through Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows.  Carr’s book might be described as a fascinating exploration of the sometimes deleterious effects of digital experience on the brain by someone who knows he could not have learned what he wanted to say without the internet but could not have written without getting away from it.  Like I said, nuance is the key.  Anyway, my point is that Trinity went into this DLI with its eyes wide open to the challenges of raising attentive, courteous, empathetic, risk-taking, gritty kids in a digital age.  

I was a more than a little frustrated by some of the Greenfield interview.  A teacher called in and asked how digital technologies might be best incorporated into the classroom, and Greenfield said something like “technology can never be a substitute for an inspiring teacher.”  This we knew already, and it would have been helpful if Greenfield had suggested some particular ways an inspiring teacher might use technology to instruct.  Another low point for me was when a camp director called in and said that they had recently reversed their policy about cell phones: They used to ban them, but now they were experimenting with teaching kids to use them in moderation.  Greenfield used this moment to get on another soap box, and I thought she (and Rehms) missed a wonderful opportunity.  I wish they had asked the director to share just how they managed that moderation, what it looked like, and how they thought it was working.  Moderation is almost always more complicated (I won’t say harder) than abstinence, and we need to learn from each other.  I’m pretty sure that the answer to how we teach our children to use technology at Trinity School is more about moderation than about abstinence.  

But there was one golden moment for me in the interview, and I wish every Trinity family could hear that part (towards the end of the show).  Greenfield was making the point that we are not doomed to run like lemmings off of some digital cliff, that we can impact culture and its impact on us.  She suggested three very simple ways that people (especially families) could counteract some of the more negative effects of digital immersion.  

Read.  Read to and with our children.  I think she (and I) have visions of a couch and a book with real pages to turn.  I think too of our Lower School teachers reading to our students as they eat their lunches.

Eat Together.  Family dinners (tech free) are a discipline and a joy we can all cultivate. Likewise, Division Directors and teachers at Trinity can shape the way we eat together at school, to promote wise and moderate use of technology.

Exercise.  Physical exercise, whether in organized sports or just time to play.  If you think of it, the time that our children spend on the court or the field is perhaps the most unconnected, low-tech time in their day.

These simple suggestions seem profoundly true, relevant, and helpful. As Trinity moves into a more robust employment of technology for teaching and learning, let us all--teachers and parents especially--tie them as symbols on our hands and bind them on our foreheads.

Thus may we be a Once and Future School.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lions at State Swim Meet

While the rest of the Trinity community was enjoying a holiday, our swimming Lions got up early and headed to Greensboro to do us proud at the state meet.  Here are some photos from the meet. Who knows--maybe our swim team can sleep in tomorrow if we get a snow day!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Nicole Baker Fulgham

Tonight Trinity hosted Nicole Baker Fulgham, along with a panel of three local educators and community leaders for a discussion about educating all children.  

Fulgham has written a book entitled, Educating All God's Children: What Christians Can--and Should--Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids.

Some people asked why Trinity was hosting this event.  

I can think of a couple of strong reasons:

First, the sponsoring organizations, the Center for Christianity and Scholarship and Durham Cares are good partners and friends of Trinity.  We like to say that Trinity is a community where diverse Christians meet, to collaborate on important work for the Kingdom.  The Center represents a focus on the life of the mind that is at the heart of Trinitys mission, and Durham Cares is dedicated to service, which flows right out of our school motto, Non Nobis—Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory.

The second reason I was glad to host this is that the calling of our speaker tonight and the topic she will address are close, very close, to the calling of Trinity.  Frederich Beuchner said that the place that God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the worlds deep hunger meet.  If thats true, then the topic tonight is something for Trinity to engage with: For our gladness here is all about learning, about the love of learning, about the formation of young men and women through education; and, as Nicole Fulgham is exceptionally well-equipped to tell us, education is also the worlds deep hunger and need. 

We were glad to have many people from the community at Trinity tonight, as well as a good showing of Trinity parents, faculty, and others.  
A special thanks to Edward Dixon, the Executive Director of the Center for Christianity and Scholarship, which spearheaded this.  And to Sophie Smith, Molly Pasca, and Lori Winters, who did so much to make this happen.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Go Lions!

On Friday, we rounded out a great Spirit Week with our Pep Rally.  I love having the whole school together for any event, and these spirited cheer sessions are full of positive energy.

We had plenty of fun contests, like the free-throw contest:

And the relay to dress Mrs. Lemke and me:

What fun!

Thanks to Trinity parent Amanda Strawbridge for these photos.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Alumni Return to Trinity

It was great to see a crowd of Trinity alums at Trinity tonight.  They came for the basketball game.  They came for the free food.  They came to see what was new around campus.  But mostly they came for each other.  I had a hard time quieting them down to make a few announcements.  And an hour after the event was over, I saw groups of them hanging out talking.  Many of them stayed for the Varsity basketball game.

It's always good to see them again.  They are our plausibility structure--the lives they lead are the test of our ideas.  I am watching closely and hoping for them to flourish in their callings, in their service, in their work for Christ's kingdom.