Tennessee is home to some outstanding, long-running college prep schools, and one of those is Baylor School in Chattanooga. We were invited to visit there last week as we shared ideas, one specifically being their recent integration of the iPad into many phases of the school day.
Above is the early morning view from outside their library, high above the Tennessee River. The white fog just over the tree line blankets the river bottoms all around the city. Quite a beautiful site.
It's happening. Textbooks are being replaced. We wanted to look into the issue up close, and Baylor invited us to do so...on the condition that we take it easy on them if our varsity football teams meet in the state playoffs in two weeks.
Here is the iPad in action, Freshman Honors English. What we have here is a peer review writing assignment in which each student has downloaded not only their textbook, but also a particular sharing app that allows for an efficient exercise. Students anonymously submit his/her least favorite sentence from their essay-in-progress for another student to take a crack at editing, trying to improve the wording for clarity. The teacher sees all of this in real time, and she can chime in both vocally in person or digitally on the students tablet, she knowing the identity of each author.
Once the fifteen minute exercise is complete, and the students evaluate the feedback from their classmates, the teacher has all of the essays, in progress, consolidated in another application. This way, the essay remains accessible to both the students and the teacher until the final form is achieved. No physical paper, just a traditional essay assignment with the books digitally located on the iPad.
English prof., Jeannine Carpenter, PhD, guides the Freshmen through a discussion of how their employment of action verbs improves their sentences. Each student's textbooks and their collective classwork are located within the iPad's 16G memory. It was impressive to see the practical function both of receiving and distributing assignments through the digital medium. Not only does Baylor report a significant cost savings in copy paper and reprints, but also the community keeps tabs on the copious amount of assignments that flow between teachers and students, not to mention a time savings in distribution of assignments.
Here's a nicely refurbished computer lab at Baylor. We are undergoing a complete refurbishment of two of our own at MUS. Baylor functions on a Windows platform, as MUS does, and their Apple iPad usage does not conflict with Microsoft Windows. The iPad functions differently than a laptop. It's purpose and function rely on various apps downloaded from the universe of available educational apps in order to support traditional classroom instruction and learning. The apps often employ a stylus for writing assignments.
Web czar Shawn Arrington, head of Baylor IT, demonstrates how the library tables were retrofitted with electrical outlets in the center in order to assist in iPad charging as students went about their day. Each student purchases and owns their 16G iPad which holds a good battery charge in addition to all of their textbooks, but it still needs to be recharged from time to time, not interrupting a student's active school day. Interestingly, memory of 16G is enough for all their textbooks and apps, not enough for additional games, music, and movies. Go figure.
Mr. Arrington, in concert with Baylor's leadership, has his work cut out for him delivering Baylor's iPad initiative, but he is not alone. Across the globe serious change in classroom instruction toward digital applications is currently underway, proving to be unavoidable as teachers and students experience the various efficiencies. What we witnessed was a savings in time (efficiency, organization, consolidation, distribution) and money (printing, textbooks) with the additional expense of the iPad (on the family) and significant teacher training (on the school) in expectation of competency leading to mastery (on the teachers first, students second). Without all the numbers, I argue net savings with an enhanced learning experience—for all—in the short term.
Exactly how extensive the changes will be for schools, and specifically what school subjects seem to be more prone to being influenced by an iPad, are evolving. There is nothing magic or instantaneous about delivering education that happens with a cool tech tool. After all, it's just a tool. Tools should help a task, not divert from its completion. We've all seen both good and bad tools employed in completing a task. What Baylor is discovering, burbs, blips, re-boots and all, is that the predicted improvements through the new iPad tool are indeed helping their students complete their tasks, in many cases better than before. They claim measurable savings and an enhanced learning environment, an evolving adjustment though it be. Hats off to them.
All said, teachers still teach and students still learn. That's the idea, anyway. However, the integration of the digital into daily life is ubiquitous, and traditional instruction is not immune as students come to school with significant digital exposure and expectation. This unprecedented culturall change is not a fad. It's here. How schools adopt and adjust is not just a matter of time. Some argue that it's just Common Sense to do so.
MUS will lean on the best examples we can find as we coinsider our continued improvement as a school that prioritizes good individual and corporate character nurtured through the faculty/student relationship, through human conversation, and evidenced by a student's demonstrable competency in reading, writing, and math, among other core subjects. For a technological tool such as an iPad to help MUS, it must encourage and improve how we do these things.
The 3.9 quake at 7:39 a.m. CST, while unsettling in both an existential and a plate tectonic sense, was no cause for alarm, although lockers 5-12 did move away from the wall. Coach Tyler surveys the damage. The contents will have to be removed as the lockers are secured, well, more securely.
"I'm just glad that I didn't miss Algebra," offered a clearly relieved Carson Boucek, eighth grade.
Supposedly everyone hates middle school. Yeah, yeah, we've heard it before. Awkward time, adolescent funk, raging hormones... we get the picture. Hopefully these guys around here don't hate their schooling, frustrating at it must be at times for them. Accountability, fairness, and standards often run counter to our two biggest challenges with these guys: entitlement and indulgence. Thus, as we attempt to create a culture of honor and respect with regard both to academics and to extra curriculars, to self, neighbor, family, and community, we do so knowing that these guys are individual, young works-in-progress, not the final adult result of their compounded choices. Therefore, we have to exercise a measured sense of humor as well as tolerance for some inconsistency as we unapologetically aim the lads towards elevated standards and hig ideals, incrementally expectating more and more from their behavior and ability.
The article is a good read, and we suggest you consider its contents in light of your little individual work-in-progress.
From the article:
...we don’t look very closely at how
we educate our tweens and young teens. “Adults don’t like to look back
on those years,” says Deborah Kasak, the executive director of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.
We know what she means. Elizabeth is mortified to remember that she
became a mean girl who egged on a friend to put glue in an unpopular
classmate’s hair. Josh was a prime target for bullies; he has sent his
own sons to K-six and seven-12 schools, thus avoiding the middle school
experience as much as possible.
Our reluctance to put serious thought into middle school can also be a
reflection of our changing relationship with our own young teenagers.
“We’re sad that they’re not cute anymore,” says Robert Balfanz of the
School of Education at Johns Hopkins. A friend of Elizabeth’s put it
more succinctly when he bemusedly referred to his eighth-grade son—whom,
it should be noted, he loves dearly— as “a complete asshole.”
As for what makes for a positive school environment, the article goes on:
What makes a great middle school? The National Forum’s Schools to Watch Initiative identifies four key traits:
academic excellence; an awareness of and sensitivity toward the unique
developmental needs of early adolescents; a shared vision; and they
capitalize on early adolescents’ obsession with fairness by being a
trustworthy and democratic community where every student feels a
connection to at least one adult in the building.
This box of contraband sheds light on the fact that students today have a serious relationship with their cell phones. We don't judge them for their growing addiction because adults, including the author, struggle with the invasive intrusion these wonderfully capable devises create in modern society.
One entrepreneurial result of a new school/cell phone-related industry recently emerged in New York City, cell phone valets. We don't need those here, we argue, because we allow boys to keep the phones in their lockers during the school day, allowing usage both before and after academic hours. Since we supposedly enroll "good kids who obey fair and reasonable rules," the clear practice should be easy peasy lemon squeezy. But kids haven't changed, and sometimes they act both defiantly and impulsively. These little hand-held devices are quite fun and tempting, especially for middle schoolers who act defiantly in the face of clear rules and impulsively in light of their immaturity. Glad I didn't have access to all that a smart phone offers when I was 13!
Thus, when we called for a voluntary "give it up if you got it on you," we landed 30 devices in the above box, out of about 200 boys in our assembly. Being the umpteenth time that we've reminded the lads about our policy, we'll hold these for a season. No pat down, no metal detector, just a call to the community, and they gave them up. It's encouraging that the boys responded quickly to our shared community standards.
We strongly encourage parents to pay attention to this event, but not for shame and judgement of our boys, your boys. We don't tolerate that. However, we do expect obedience to our fair and reasonable rules and regulations, one large category being the proper uses of social media, electronic devices, and cell/smart phones.
Speaker Series - October 25 - Online Safety
have the opportunity to hear Assistant United States Attorney Debra L. Ireland
speak at the Parent Speakers Series meeting Thursday, October 25, noon - 1
p.m., in Wunderlich Auditorium. She will address the positive and negative
aspects of social media and the Internet – information that will pave the way
for productive conversations between you and your son. Ireland is also
scheduled to present to students in chapel on January 4, 2013.
An expert in Internet safety on computers and hand-held devices, Ireland was a
popular speaker at MUS last year. She presented information about social media
tools, the benefits and dangers involved with using them, and why it’s
important to talk with your kids about the topic. Read about the United States
Attorney’s Office program, Project Safe Childhood, which includes how to report
suspicious online activity, here.
Lunch will be served at the parent meeting. Please RSVP
by Tuesday, October 23, if you would like a lunch. If you need to cancel and
have ordered food, please give us as much advance notice as possible. Again,
this is an excellent opportunity for you to hear the same message your child
will be hearing. Please mark your calendars for this event.
students ranked nationally on the exam," said the president in reference to the competitive test taken by 1,400 students last month. "Richard Ouyang was the nation’s 13th highest-placed sophomore, so those Owls down in Memphis seem to be up to something good."
Our two ranked participants were among 85 Owls taking the test, a
100-problem, 30-minute competition.
MUS mathematics instructor, Dr. Steve Gadbois, told the president a lot about this fast-paced contest where problems ranged from elementary
arithmetic (#1 was the simple subtraction 4719-1833) to calculus (#94 was the
area of the region enclosed by the polar graph of r=sin t). "You can
decide if such examples might be illuminating," Mr. Gadbois was overhead telling the president offstage minutes before Mr. Obama removed his suit coat and rolled up his sleeves immediately following the dynamic debate.
"The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades," reflected the president, visibly impressed by both Chang's and Richard's showing on the national stage.
The Lower School Golf A Team recently won the Shelby League Tournament previously postponed due to bad weather. Eighth graders Goodman Rudolph, Jack Crosby, Mason Rudolph, and Trent Scull represent the team here. Scull was the medalist. Congrats to the team for an outstanding year!
There are two Lower School interscholastic basketball teams that participate in the Shelby League, one per grade. There are tryouts for these two teams.
Seventh grade – 10/22 & 10/23 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. in
Ross Lynn Arena.
Eighth grade – 10/24 & 10/25 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. also in in
Ross Lynn Arena.
The first practices start the end of next week.
For those who wish more participation than competition, MUS sponsors grade-level basketball teams that participate in the ESCRA league. Known as the Buzzards, these teams of about eight boys per team play on Saturdays during the season, finishing the year with a MUS Buzzards tournament on campus.
Once the MUS teams are announced, Buzzards sign-ups will begin. Buzzards teams have a uniform and league fee totalling about $80. Stay tuned.
Welcome to a new day, a fresh start, the second quarter of the year! While no class schedules change for the boys, the blank slate of the clear gradebook does greet all. Therefore, for at least for one quarter with the semester exam (25% of the first semester grade) on the horizon, hope for better results springs eternal for those in need of an academic mulligan, while the positive experience of a quarter well-done and completed may encourage others. Either way, it's a new day.
With both golf and cross-country seasons complete, and with football completing this week, transitions for many students are on the horizon. Parents are encourage to audit what went right, what can be improved, and what their boy's needs may be as we embark with a more mature, seasoned student this mid-October. Some of these boys need more structure, some have earned some wiggle room. Your parental role in setting the stage at home for what happens here at school is invaluable, and we deeply appreciate your support. While your boy may not see it that way, he'll grow to thank us all later!
Blessings on us all as we set sail into new waters in the morn.