Sunday, January 10, 2016

SCS Middle School Teachers share their expertise at Middle Grades Conference

So typically this is a celebration of the great things we have going with students at SCS - but this past Saturday I had the privilege to watch five of our middle school teachers present at the UVM Middle Grades conference and it definitely deserves a shout-out!   Sam Nelson and Katie Stansfield from the Holden Team, Meg O'Donnell and Devon Morrill from the Alpha Team, and Diana Rich from the Holden team presented the outcomes of their collaborative research project called "Meaningful Integration of Technology in the Classroom."    This conference is attended by about 200 middle school teachers from school around the state of VT each sharing their work.  

As I ponder the work they presented - I think there are really a couple of highlights.  First was the feedback from our students about the roll the new chromebooks are playing in supporting their learning.     Below this great photo of our teaching team is a slide showing feedback from one math class about the impact - most notable to me is the note about technology helping them be more thorough in their reflections and the ability of google classroom to help with organization.

We also are very interested in student feedback about how much screen time / computer use the addition of the 1-1 chromebooks is having on each of them.  For that question we have data from one Winton class and the outcome is positive - and yet gives us pause to dig a bit deeper as well.

In response to this data we will be collecting more specific information over the coming months about just how much time the average student is in fact using computers in their day to day classes, knowing that there is a possibility that the devices are unintentionally taking away from other important aspects of learning and especially face to face conversation and dialogue.  We are thankful for this team in leading the way in helping assure that our integration of technology is in fact, purposeful, meaningful and results in positive outcomes we couldn't achieve without the chromebooks.   As we say - it's not about the technology - it's about the learning.

Another highlight of this past week was that the Dore and Whittier design team, the architects who are tasked with creating the schematic designs that will bring our hopes / dreams for the new D and E wings to fruition, visited us for three days.  They presented early draft concepts to the full teaching staff on Tuesday  at our faculty meeting and then spent the next two days meeting with individual groups of interested teachers talking through the pluses / minuses from their perspectives of the ideas.  
Although our initial thinking was a central corridor with sets of classrooms on either side, it quickly became apparent from our conversations that an alternative - placing the corridor along one side and then structuring groups of four classrooms around a common, central "learning commons" was going to both achieve our outcomes of improving safety, efficiency and education - but does so with significant advantages over the more traditional hallway approach.   Here is the concept that we have asked the team to take back as the basis as they confirm that all the pieces we desire can fit within the concept parameters.   This drawing shows the E Wing - where currently Holden / Treehouse are located and which connects the rest of the school with the B (elementary) wing.

There will definitely be much back / forth over the coming months, and we are just beginning the process of hiring both our project manager as well as the construction management firm.  Once we have them on board in February, we will work with them to answer the fundamental questions of the timing and process for transitioning during the construction phase which will be all of next school year.   As that info becomes clearer we will be sharing it with students and families.

My last part of this blog comes with an apology - I had two great opportunities to take some pictures which would have been great to share here and didn't even think to pull out my phone.   Over 80 of our students enjoyed a great time Friday night at the SCS Band and Chorus Bowlathon at Champlain Lanes.   This was a fundraiser for the performing trip these groups will take in April to Boston and it appears they are well on their way.   A special thank you to Matt Wormser and Amelia Gerlin for chaperoning and manning the snack booth all night!

The second celebration was the Alpha Blizzard Breakfast which was a sharing of the their student projects growing from the Citizenship Theme they had just completed.  It was great to see students proudly sharing their projects with their parents and peers - with some great food to go along with it.

Happy New Year to everyone - it was an excellent first week back to school and we look forward to even better news in the 51 weeks to come :-)    Allan

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