February 2013

What Happens When You Listen to Students?

by Randy Ziegenfuss and Lynn Fuini-Hetten on February 26, 2013

WSESince becoming Superintendent of Salisbury, I have had tremendous experiences visiting schools, meeting with teachers and parents, and learning from members of the Salisbury community about what makes this a great place to be.  To be honest, the best times have been with Student Superintendent Advisory Councils at each of Salisbury’s four schools. These meetings have provided great learning opportunities for me, as students have expressed their perspectives on Salisbury, their learning and what they want in order to be successful.  They are telling me what it means to be “active participants” in their learning, and how Salisbury schools, teachers and programs have assisted in that process.  To top it all, I see their learning coming to fruition through participation in TEDx events, presentations at state conferences, or their engagement in academics, arts and athletics in Salisbury.

So what happens when you start listening to students?

  1.  You realize students have a great deal to say about their learning and experiences in public education.  They have a vested interest and can articulate it, no matter their age.
  2. You appreciate the creative and inspiring way children solve problems when given the chance and the tools.  They have much to contribute when one takes the time to engage them in challenges.
  3. You are reminded of the mission and vision of your school. Suddenly the mandates, requirements and standardized testing do not mean as much as learning and the interaction between teacher and student.

KP and StudentI recently shared a Common Core Standard with students, and asked them to tell us what it meant and how they have been asked to exhibit the skills required.  They clearly articulated their definitions and the ways in which their teachers and programs have helped them to demonstrate their learning.  Their answers were sophisticated and inspiring, much like SHS’s recent performance of Romeo and Juliet:  A Musical Tragedy I think one of Shakespeare’s messages was that we should listen to and hear what children have to say.

Now if only we could get federal and state policy makers to listen to children, public education might make some progress…

Additional Tips for Managing Digital Distraction

by Randy Ziegenfuss on February 20, 2013

distraction2A week ago, I shared a post asking parents and teachers how they manage digital distraction in the classroom and at home. We’ve had several replies in the comments section. Be sure to check them out and add yours if you haven’t already!

Over the past week, I’ve also discovered several outstanding online resources that provide additional tips and strategies. I’ll share one in this post and have linked to several more at the end. While these resources are focused on parents, we can all learn from them, parents and educators alike.

Susan Lucille Davis, parent to two daughters, shares three tips in A Letter to Parents of Digital Age Children. (This is such an outstanding post, I have decided to quote the main points.)

  1. Teach your children how to cross the digital street. – “Our young people are still learning their way around the digital landscape largely on their own — when what we need to do is confidently take them by the hand, show them how to look both ways, and cross the street with them — at least at first. That means staying up-to-date about digital safety, the rules of the road, and what’s going on in the neighborhood. Finally, we need to foster the kinds of personal relationships that encourage our kids to talk about where they are going and what they discover along the way (their successes as well as their mistakes) once we let them travel on their own.”
  2. Help your children pursue their passions online. – “Most parents I know bend over backwards to find the right camps and after-school programs to help their children become better musicians, athletes, actors, programmers, or artists. Just think how you might broaden their experience even more by guiding your children towards the tools and communities online that can help them learn the skills they most want to master.”
  3. Help your children manage their digital “brand.” – “As a parent, you are no doubt concerned about the possible missteps your children may take online as they (or their friends) share private information and media without thinking about the ugly repercussions that might result in the future. You may also want to take an active role in guiding your child as he or she documents the positive stuff — an emerging talent or an amazing self-motivated project, for instance — in an ad hoc digital portfolio. In the end, though, it’s the same thing: helping your children manage the digital “brand” that will follow them for life.”

And her “Final Plea” states so well the importance of all adults, educators and parents, working together to help children learn and thrive in a digital world.

“Helping children learn how to navigate their way in the digital world is a complicated business. Those of us in education need parents like you to be involved as active and open learners about the digital world, learners who can engage with us, their children and their children’s teachers, in much-needed conversations about digital matters. We need parents to act as important models and supports in their childrens’ explorations online. We need, parents and schools alike, to get past the fear that holds us back from connecting with young people when they need us most. Only then can we help them travel far and learn from the journey once they cross the street to encounter the world.”

For additional resources on the topic of digital generation parenting and managing distraction, consider visiting these links:


Digital Distraction

February 12, 2013

In our most recent survey of parents, teachers and students, “digital distraction” was considered to be one of the more challenging aspects of providing students with personal laptop computers. While the percentage of those indicating distraction as a challenge has decreased since the inception of our teaching and learning initiative in September of 2011, distraction […]

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The Cost of Charter and Cyber Charter Schools

February 4, 2013

Many legislators continue to push for expansion of charter schools even though funding continues to drain public schools.  As taxpayers and parents, we hear that school choice is positive and healthy competition for public schools.  What we are not hearing is how expensive choice is and how it depletes funding in public schools leaving students […]

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