Critical Friends Come Together in Chicago

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Critical Friends Come Together in Chicago

By Yelena Minasyan

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The AASA Digital Consortium, held July 27-29 in Chicago, brought together dozens of superintendents, assistant superintendents, and school technology directors from across the country to share ideas about using digital media to reimagine ways of teaching and learning to enhance student outcomes.

Nick Polyak, superintendent of Leyden High School District 212, and Michael Lubelfeld, superintendent of Deerfield Public Schools District 109, welcomed all educators as their respective districts served as co-hosts of the consortium.

The group visited West Leyden High School on the first day of the meeting to learn about the district’s Tech Support Internship (TSI). Students who enroll in TSI acquire hands-on technology experience, and provide tech support to teachers and students. On the same day, attendees visited the metal lab, which prepares future engineers by building their expertise through machinery.

The second day of the consortium had an early start—the first stop was West Leyden High School where Jaime Casap, education evangelist at Google, served as keynote speaker. Throughout the inspirational speech, he discussed how the future is today. Lubelfeld tweeted, “The future is TODAY education for today. The present is a gift.” Casap also explained how “computer science is in everything we do. STEM jobs are going to increase rapidly within the next couple years and positions are going to be needed to fill them.” He raised the question “How do we prepare kids for their future?”

Everyone was excited to visit Google’s Chicago office later that day. The interior design of the building was very impressive- it was filled with vibrant furniture with a relaxed atmosphere. Many superintendents indicated they would like to see this kind of atmosphere in their schools. Students from Leyden High Schools joined the meeting and were interviewed by group members. The students' responses were consistent across the room; it was apparent they want to have a voice in the way they learn. During the workshop, superintendents were able to prepare for their “ignite sessions” which occurred on the final day of the meeting

On Day No. 3, administrators attended Deerfield School District 109 and observed STEAM labs. Solar panels on the outside of the buildings made the school more energy efficient. Alabama Superintendent Trey Holladay shared images of the lab on twitter, noting "moveable walls, measuring floors, [and] interactive cameras.” The student's voice is critical when making decisions how to reimagine the learning spaces.

During the meeting, superintendents learned new ways about how they can implement these ideas into their school districts. They will share the results in October at the next Digital Consortium, which will take place in San Francisco.

 

 

To keep up with the Digital Consortium, access: 

https://storify.com/AASAHQ/aasa-digital-consortium-in-chicago-july-2016#publicize

 

Yelena Minasyan, AASA Intern, Student at George Mason University, Global Community Health

 

 

Amen's All Around

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"Amen"s All Around

  By Mollie Sherman

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 It’s always a pleasure to hear passion in people’s voices as they speak on something they truly believe in- my week with the West Coast cohort indulged me time and time again as Superintendents from across the country shared their stories. There was a warmth of comradery in the air as peers turned in their seats to listen to each other formulate ideas and hypothesize initiatives to further their district’s learning. They challenged each other to become truly 21st century educators, and each superintendent rose to the occasion with resolve to bring positive and lasting change to the education our children receive in the public school system. Daniel Cox, Superintendent of the Charles City Community School District in Iowa, spoke to the spirit of this resolution during an activity centered around technology integration as he shared his view of the superintendent’s unique role to “engage, empower, and inspire” their districts.

The personal note of experience inflecting each of their shared thoughts touched on the drive to persevere. A handful of superintendents presented their “Leadership Stories” of growth, highlighting the curves in the path of their lives that brought them to this position of leadership that allows them to enact continuous, bettering transformation. Many spoke of their parents or family influencing their belief in the value of education- it was incredible to note how many of the superintendents in the room had parents that had barely completed their college education, and some even high school. Michael Muñoz, Superintendent of Rochester Public Schools in Minnesota, shared with the cohort words from his father that stay with him to this day: “Education is a key.” Muñoz, who earlier spoke on some of his experiences growing up as a person of color, expanded on his father’s words, stating that for him it became obvious that “with an education I have a key to open any door to be whatever I want to be.”

At the session’s end, a resounding ‘amen’ surrounded the re-energizing and affirming nature of these sessions that leave the cohort feeling confident and prepared to better serve their districts’ well-being. As Larry Perondi, program mentor and former Superintendent of Oceanside Unified School District in California vocalized in his closing remarks, the commitment and passion of educational leaders was evident in the room, and I was truly fortunate to have witnessed such a significant meeting of academic collaboration.

 

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