Saturday, December 12, 2009

Creating the Future of Learning

I was lucky enough to attend an event hosted by Scott McLeod, director of the Center of the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), on December 11, 2009 in Ames, Iowa. Scott brought in Will Richardson, “Learner in Chief” at Connective Learning and the author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms now in its 2nd Edition, published by Corwin Press. Will definitely left an impression on the 40 guests composed of superintendents, principals, Department of Education, AEA, and business and industry.

The speed of technology advances and how it is affecting business and the way business operates. "Businesses must be listening to this conversation or they will not last", stated Will Richardson. Those that are not believing the Twitter revolution, should know that Best Buy has 1200 people at the ready to answer questions via Twelpforce. If you are someone who complains about the "wait time" of a customer service call, you probably need to find an alternative way to ask your question. Twelpforce answers questions faster than their phone customer service.

How does this impact education? Is education listening to this conversation?

Todd Whitaker states that "we are no longer in the business of teaching anymore, we are in the business of learning". Helping teachers "learn" in this new environment will help them help their students. Below are some of the things that definitely made me stop and think: Please share your comments and become a participant in 21st century learning.
  • Enabling students to connect with learners from all over the country who "share their passion" and can help them learn.
  • A school's 3 year tech plan should be about curriculum.
  • Need to have a curriculum in place to support having a device in every students hands.
  • Are we teaching students to read and write in a linked environment (I am including many more links in this post) No one is teaching this; why?
  • Our current assessments don't assess creativity ( a skill identified as critical by business)
  • If our students are not Google-able by the time they graduate then we have failed them.
  • Education is coming close to our "oh crap" moment. We can't just put devices in their hands but look at curriculum and assessment.
  • Wikipedia has over 400,000 changes per day. Errors yes, but they can be changed.
  • An MIT math textbook had over 100 errors but it can't be corrected without buying another textbook. Online or collaborative online texts can not only be changed but updated immediately.
I assure you, Newell-Fonda is listening to this conversation. Our laptop program was a great step in providing devices for each 9-12 student. Now we are seeing that is just a piece of the puzzle, and more important, we need to create a curriculum to support our access. The board will decide how much farther to expand our 1:1. During the grade realignment process, it was promised that grades 7-8 would be included. More updates on that after our December 14, 2009 board meeting.

Another step is addressing standards for 21st Century Learning like those of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). According to NCTE, 21st Century readers and writers need to be able to:

• Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
• Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and
• Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of
• Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous
• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
• Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

I fully understand this will not be easy and probably not met without some resistance and skepticism, but Newell-Fonda will take steps to improve. One thing we have done a pretty good job of is sharing our journey of our 1:1 program with others. In our second year, 12 other schools in Iowa have joined us and we need to continue to share, collaborate, and pursue partnerships.

Apple Open House - January 13, 2009, Newell-Fonda High School

Newell-Fonda High School in collaboration with Apple, Inc., will again host an open house to let other schools come see how a 1:1 works. This will be a 1 day event that will enable any visitor to see first-hand what teaching and learning looks like in a 1:1 environment. It will be an exciting day filled with more exciting news concerning Newell-Fonda's journey.

Friday, November 20, 2009

IASB Convention

I attended the Iowa Association of School Board Convention on November 19, 2009 and was moved by Coach Jim Johnson. Many of you may have heard of this story, but it is worth your time to watch again.

Now a graduate, J-Mac still helps with the basketball program.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Construction Moving Along

Bar joist in place on 2 of the classrooms.
A crane lowers bar joist into position 2 of the 4 classrooms. Bar joists were set on all 4 classrooms on November 9th.

This is the southeast classrooms. The alley will be the new entrance, with classrooms on the left and high school office on the right.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Construction Update

The final footings have been poured for the southeast classrooms. The 2 windows will have a wall in between them separating the 2 classrooms.

The concrete floor in the northeast classrooms was poured on 10/19/09. We finally have an area that is free from mud!

This area will be the future restrooms on the east end of the commons area. Work finished on the outside walls on 10/19/09. Work as slowed as the block masons have fought rain and mud.

Plumbers are roughing in drains in the kitchen area. They have fought extremely wet weather as can be seen by the lumpy terrain.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Governor Institutes 10% Cut

Governor Culver has recently announced a 10% Across-The-Board-Cuts(ATBC) for all state agencies. The Governor has the power and to institute an ATBC. What this means for Newell-Fonda? $200,337.00

I want to explain what this means. We planned our budget last February, had the state's blessing on the amount we would receive in funding. We then planned accordingly to fill our staffing needs. This cut is put into effect immediately. We will receive $200,337.00 LESS than we were promised in our budget. No need to complain, it is what it is, and we must move forward and work together to get through this.

Early projections were that the Governor would start with a smaller cut and then another cut later. The other cut later may still be coming. State revenues are off nearly 17%. Education is 45% of the state's budget. He just cut 10%; and it appears unless there is a dramatic turn-around, there may be more cuts coming. Historically, an economic recovery takes more time than decline. We need to prepare for more cuts.

I announced at our last board meeting the following: "I want to thank past and present board members for making a difficult decision on closing the Fonda building." This will make a difference in how we are able to withstand this down turn in our funding. Other schools will try to react but a process like this takes time.

The administrative team has begun looking at things that we can reduce or do without in the future. There can be no reductions to certified staff because they are under contract for 1 year. Many state agencies have the ability to institute furloughs but we can’t do that. This will be a very important year for the Legislature. They will need to prioritize spending on a tight budget year. All government agencies and businesses are feeling the pinch of this long-term downturn.

Can Newell-Fonda withstand this? Absolutely, but we need to work now in little ways so that we can be in a position to support programs for kids. We will begin planning for next year and look for ways to become more efficient while at the same time continuing to offer quality programs.

You can view the Sunday Des Moines Register article related to the cuts. The cuts for every district in Iowa can be seen here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Construction Update

Work is progressing very well as the block mason has been moving right along. They are laid something on every wall. Interior footings are also being finished by the general contractor. This photo is taken from the future commons area looking north to the 2 class rooms on the north. Each will have a large window in it.

This photo is the future front of the addition and will be 2 classrooms facing south. The windows will be taking shape in the coming days. The block masons have only been on site for 3 weeks and have had great weather.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Construction Update - Kitchen taking shape

Slechta Masonry has made great progress this week. The kitchen walls are taking shape as we have had great weather for building. The pictures below show the back of the kitchen completed and the side wall taking shape. Keep checking back for periodic updates.

The kitchen walls are taking shape as we have had great weather for building. The pictures below show the back of the kitchen completed and the side wall taking shape. Keep checking back for periodic updates.

These are the footings of the principal and board room. This picture was taken from the commons.

Here are the footing layouts of the bathrooms off of the commons. This should provide a great place to gather during volleyball and basketball games. This picture is from the middle of the future commons.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Give Them The Tools...

Newell-Fonda has just kicked off year 2 of our 1:1 laptop program, "Log Onto Learning". The focus of year 2 is to empower students to utilize the tools that we have given to them. We have heard time and time again, that if we did that, they will come up with ways that we never imagined to utilize this as a tool and be creative. More on being creative later.

Also, to start off year 2 we are allowing social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. While this is contrary to nearly 99% of Acceptable Use Policies across not only the state of Iowa but also the United States, our goal is to teach the responsible use of these social networking tools that they already know how to use. These tools allow students to better collaborate not only between classmates but also between other schools, states, and countries.

Our new Spanish teacher is utilizing a site for webtools for language that allow her students to practice the correct pronunciation of Spanish. She is able to create her own assignments and students reply either with written or voice responses. She in turn is able to give the students feedback via email or recorded voice. As she has seen, "students are less intimidated to practice for fear of making errors in front of their peers". The key to this FREE website is having the tools in the hands of students. Requirements are that students have web access and also a microphone to be used to record their verbal answers back. This site can be used for any subject and as we discussed, could help with a student who is better at verbal answers rather than written. Exciting time in education if your school is providing these tools.

And now for the "being creative later story" We have also given our students each an email account through our district program. Again, we see the use of email as a collaborative effort to empower students to utilize the tools available to them, and to model appropriate use. Today, as I was sitting in a superintendents meeting, I was receiving Twitter updates from a Judy Jeffrey address on the other side of the state, corresponding with the office via email, and listening to our speaker at AEA 8. Into my inbox comes an email from one of our freshman girls. Today was the kickoff for magazine sales, the primary fund-raising for their junior prom. There are all sorts of prizes for the top salesperson and many times the student who makes first contact gets the sale, or students don't even hit all of the staff to renew their magazines. Well, not the case this year. This freshman student has learned that you can send an email to a listserv that hits all high school faculty members. I received the email and I responded and we ended up having a dialogue through email about her innovative approach. Give them the tools, they will find creative and relevant uses with them.

Yes, there will be challenges, but some businesses pay large sums of money to come up with marketing campaigns that may not be as effective as what this student came up with. Granted, I am supportive of students presenting face-to-face to get the sale, and she will still need to do that. But she understands a little bit about the "working smarter not harder" concept and demonstrated it today using the tools given to her.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Early Figures Indicate Enrollment Increase

With a preliminary count of students in the seats taken on August 28, 2009, the Newell-Fonda enrollment shows an increase of nearly 15 students.  October 1, 2009 is the critical date for Certified Enrollment, which represents a different number than students in the seats.  Students in the seat almost always equates to a larger Certified Enrollment.  Certified Enrollment is the official count that is used in the funding formula used by the Department of Management.

In addition, August 31, 2009 is the first day of preschool and we have an above average number of 4 year olds in our preschool.  At one point this summer we had over 50 in our early childhood classes which included 9 transitional kindergarten (TK) students.  Official enrollment numbers will be posted after October 1st.

This is a great year to have a large number of preschool students since Newell-Fonda was awarded the 4-year-old preschool grant.  We received funding this year in the form of a grant and will count these students in a special count weighted at .6.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Newell-Fonda Construction

Construction on the Newell-Fonda addition is moving along with a noticeable footprint of the building nearly complete.  More pictures will follow construction progress.

Footings being dug with new parking lot
in the background

View of footings which will
be the east wall of the kitchen.