Friday, May 2, 2014

Reflections on My Trip to Minnetonka, Minnesota

It is only natural for us to get used to our surroundings, our school culture, our faculty morale, our student demographics, etc., but it is so important to find time to get out and see the world. In this context, I don’t mean to sight see the world, although that has its own merit. Rather, I mean go visit other schools and see what they are doing.

I write this posting on the flight home from Minnetonka, Minnesota where I spend the last day and a half on a National School Board Association Site Visit of the Minnetonka School district. All I can say is wow! I saw a school district focused on innovation, utilizing technology to advance learning, a staff morale where teachers love coming to school and embrace new initiatives, a district which understands that proper staffing is key to advancing learning through technology and so much more.  Best of all, the district is all about collaboration, sharing all of their experience and resources. Yes, I am sure they like the public relations generated from these site visits, but they sincerely want to share what they have learned with others.  Led by Dave Eisenmann and a huge staff (I won’t mention all the names, but you can find them on my twitter following list), they put together a visit where we went into classes and saw the learning enhanced with their iPads and other edtech tools.

It would be difficult to share everything I saw on the visit, but here are some of my highlights. You can see some of my pictures and short notes of the Middle School by CLICKING HERE and of the HIGH School by CLICKING HERE.  

   1.       The Middle School News Show – this was simply awesome. A group of students produce a live news show every morning, where they report the weather and important school announcements. With state of the art equipment, the faculty only facilitate the process, but the entire production is done by the students.
   2.       The 6th Grade STEM class, led by Lisa Reed, was outstanding. Seeing kids learn about and build robots is truly inspiring. The resources Lisa uses can be seen by CLICKING HERE
   3.       We saw an 8th grade History class, where students were building their own custom maps. After coloring in a black and white paper map, the students colored in the map, took a picture of it with their ipads and brought it into an app called Thing link. This app allows students to place stars in locations on the map, then they can insert data, pictures or videos relating to the locations. This app really makes geography come alive.
   4.       One of the objectives I had for this visit was to leave with a clear vision of the classroom workflow from iPad to LMS. Not only did I gain that (topic for a future blog posting), but Minnetonka has created a series of workflow videos and post the QR codes in every classroom so that students are always prepared and know what to do.
   5.       The High school principal discussed how he drives the iPad program from an instructional point of view. He made a number of great points:
a.       The iPad is a tool. The excitement is how we are using it to enhance learning.
b.      Assessment: If we ca Google the answer, why bother assessing it?
c.       He asks each teacher  two questions in the beginning of the semester
                                                               i.      What is the one thing you want to do with the iPad this semester?
                                                             ii.      What do you need from me to support you in that work?
d.      It is all about Staff Development. They have a global PD plan, but only share one piece at a time with the teachers so not to overwhelm them. They started with classroom management with the iPad how to always leave a path in the back of the room so you can see what the students are doing. Then they moved on to assessment and other objectives.
e.      Be sure to hear the student voice. They created a panel of students to hear their input on how the iPads were being implemented.
f.        Going paperless! – They began the process but with great incentive for the teachers. “If we save 25% of our photocopying budget, imagine how much money we could give to teachers as mini grants to develop new programs.

The bottom line is that Minnetonka Schools are at the forefront of edtech and learning and they are willing to share it all. I would highly recommend going to their upcoming Ipad Institute from June 26-27. CLICK HERE to get more information about the institute.

Here are a number of links that they shared that would be beneficial so any educator:
   1.       Minnetonka Schools iPad in the Classroom Document - ****** This is a must for any school going 1:1 with iPads. They share everything from the acceptable use policy to list of apps to data that they presented to their school board. If you are looking for data that shows iPads in the classroom improve the learning (when teachers know what to do with them), this is the place to look.
   2.       Minnetonka  Middle School – Site Visit Resources

   3.       Middle School STEM – Program Resources

1 comment:

  1. Thanks you so much for posting your observations and thoughts while you were touring the Minnetonka schools. It was very helpful to see what I missed because I toured other schools. I also enjoyed talking to you at lunch Thursday!
    Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial School
    Lake Crystal, MN