Another school year is about to begin! And, I must admit, I am even more excited this year than I usually am! After a busy year planning with our amazing teachers, parents, students, administrators at YIS, along with fabulous colleagues around the world, we are finally ready begin our 1:1 laptop program, called the Connected Learning Community (CLC).
Since we’re a small school, we’ll be implementing the program from grades 6 – 12 in one go (13″ MBPs), and we have come up with some unique and fun ideas for starting this school year off in a special way.
Two Days of Orientation
Instead of starting our year with a standard assembly and regular classes, we have planned out two full days of non-formal school, similar to a university orientation (huge thanks to Rebekah for the idea!). Although many of the sessions will be focused on topics related to the CLC, we’ve also planned in time for cross-grade level team building, fun getting-to-know you activities, and other important start of the year events. We hope that it will go so well that we’ll run this kind of orientation every school year.
Our fantastic counsellor, Adam, and I have been working on developing creative and active sessions that will introduce our most important CLC-related concepts to our middle and high school students. We want to make sure the sessions allow lots of time for discussion and deeper understanding of the content, as well as provide opportunities for students to work together and get to know each other.
Here’s what we’ve come up with:
CLC Introduction: This mock-trial session is intended to help students understand their rights and responsibilities as part of the CLC. Students will be split into 10 groups and asked to role-play courtroom scenarios based on our Responsible Use Agreement (created with student, teacher, admin and parent input). Each group will need to come up with a ruling which reflects the RUA, to be shared with the whole class at the end of the session. For example:
You’re using the YIS Humanities Facebook page to complete your assignment for Ms. Madrid, when a notification pops up that another classmate (in this class) has commented on one of your photos (unrelated to this project). Without thinking, you click the notification tab and Ms. Madrid catches you. What is your fate?
Digital Citizenship Introduction: This session is intended to help build a consistent understanding of appropriate online behavior across the school. To introduce the idea, we’ll show a short clip from Arrested Development, “Pier Pressure“, where some of the characters are “taught a lesson” in an over-the-top way (watch it, it’s hilarious). After the short clip, students will be split into groups of four, to create their own over-the-top “lessons” based on our RUA and digital citizenship expectations. Ideally, each group will then be able to act out their scenario (but we may run short on time).
Finding Balance: Adam has developed this session to focus on understanding how easily we can fall out of balance. Students will start the lesson by playing a balancing game in partners, where each student stands on a spot and they hold and pull a rope to try to get their partner to fall off. Afterwards, they will discuss the types of strategies they developed to help maintain their equilibrium, and how they can apply that to the choices they make about how they spend their time. It will also be important to discuss the expectation that no computers will be allowed during break, and that only students with school-work will be allowed to use their laptops during lunch (in a designated room, with a teacher supervisor).
Managing Your Laptop: This session is intended to introduce students to a variety of productivity techniques in a very short amount of time (e.g. making a repeating event in Google Calendar or backing up your laptop). For this session, every student will have their new laptop (and our CLC Handbook) with them, so they can immediately implement the skills they learn. Students will work in partners or small groups to complete a list of “challenges” using any and all resources available to them. As they complete each challenge, they can record the steps or the resource they used. In case they can’t solve one of the challenges with their team, they will also have three “lifelines” they can use: asking a technician, collaborating with another group, or checking with the facilitator. By the end of the lesson, all students should have at least 10 new tricks they can use to be more effective with their laptop, and a list of helpful resources they can go to when they need it.
In addition to the work we’re doing with students on those first two days of school, we’ve also scheduled extra time for teachers to build their skills. During the three teacher work days before school starts we have time set aside to understand and discuss the Responsible Use Agreement, to continue building classroom blogs (required for teachers this year), and hands-on support for our other tech tools (especially Google Apps). Of course, we have tons of PD planned for the rest of the school year too, so the training doesn’t end this week.
Also, both orientation school days will be shorted, to end at 2:30, to give us about 2 hours of PD time at the end of the day, focusing on Digital Citizenship and Managing Your Laptop. Those two sessions will follow almost exactly the sessions that we’ve planned for students, but with a few subtle shifts to make them more appropriate for teachers.
Digital Citizenship Introduction: teachers will complete the activity almost exactly as described above (for students), but without the acting (nobody needs that kind of pressure on the first day of school). We’ll just share the scenarios each group creates and discuss them as a faculty. We’ll also introduce our new Digital Citizenship curriculum, Digital Dragons, to the staff, which will be implemented in the middle school this year.
Managing Your Laptop: Similar to the student session above, teachers will be given a set of important skills to learn. Instead of having to figure it out completely on their own, we will have stations set up around the room with “lead teachers” who can demo the skill quickly (like a modified SpeedGeeking session). The teacher list will include at least 15 items and teachers can work in partners (or independently) to complete at least 10. We’ll keep a Google Doc open for those who feel confident about the skills they learn to add their name, so that after the session is over, teachers can ask anyone on the list to teach them anything they didn’t have time to learn. The goal is to make the session active and fun, to spread the tech leadership to as many staff members as possible, and to build a list of helpful resources for teachers to return to anytime.
In order to formally introduce the CLC to all parents, we’ll be offering two presentations focused on the vision and history, laptop details, and family responsibilities, as well as time for Q&A. The HS parent session will be optional, and held on the Wednesday evening before school starts, and the MS parent session will be mandatory, and held on the second day of school. The outcome of both sessions is a signed RUA and Laptop Agreement Policy, so that students are ready to pick up their laptops.
I am so excited to see how this orientation goes! I hope students, parents and teachers are engaged and learning, and enthusiastic for the year to come. I’m sure there will be glitches along the way, but so far, I am really happy with the way things are shaping up.
For those of you already in 1:1 schools, are we missing anything? Do you have any advice for us as we begin this adventure? Anything we shouldn’t forget to do?
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