November 8, 2010

posted Nov 8, 2010, 4:22 PM by Anna Saunders   [ updated Nov 8, 2010, 4:25 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres Parents,


     My message to you this month is focused on our developing theme of 21st Century Learning exploration. The conversation around this topic began last spring when our technology committee, comprised of parents and teachers, began to review the recently developed Mt. Diablo Unified School District Technology Plan with the goal of updating the Walnut Acres Technology Plan. Thanks to a few very technology-savvy members of our team, we quickly shifted from a focus on hardware and software needs to a conversation about our changing world and the skills that our children will need to be effective citizens in the 21st Century. These conversations were mind-stretching and to give you a taste of their impact, I am including the link to Shift Happens, a very brief, impactful video about our changing world which challenges us to consider what we must do to prepare students for success.  

     Out of our group conversations developed some major shifts to our current technology committee. First, to acknowledge our awareness that our ‘plugged-in’ world is and will continue to require changes in thinking and preparation for the future, we have renamed our committee the innovation committee. Second, rather than writing a separate technology plan document, we will include our goals within the school’s site plan and begin working closely with the Strategic Planning Committee. (The 2010-11 site plan will be available on-line in January, but evolving innovation goals are included for you here.) Third, it is the shift in thinking about what students will need to know and be able to do that will be our primary focus, rather than the acquisition of technological tools.

      There are many skills our current students will need to have in order to participate successfully as leaders and contributing citizens in their quickly evolving world. As always, they will need to master content; but we will need to focus more rigorously then ever before on the skills of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, and global citizenship. Promoting the “6 C’s” is not a concept that our team developed, but one that we are excited to promote. For more information about skills our children will need as adults, visit 21st Century Learning Skills.  

     Our purpose as a committee is to guide our community forward as we empower students to be active, resilient learners to positively impact their future. Our general goals are to promote content mastery, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, and global citizenship thinking. Our specific goals for 2010-11 are designed to help us learn more about how to promote 21st Century learning. They include:

1.  Invitations to speakers to come and share a vision of 21st Century Learning. 
We began this process successfully with our speakers from Apple, and we will continue in December with our own technology guru, Mr. Chris Walsh.

2.  Visits to other sites that are implementing 21st Century strategies in the classroom.

We will be initiating this process soon by sending small groups of teachers to visit different sites around the Bay Area and then return together to discuss our observations. 

3.  Exploration and experimentation with technology-infused projects, including global education projects, at the schoolwide level and at various grade levels.

We have a number of projects planned already, including the Google document use already underway in 5th grade, the use of gargeband technology to create mission projects in 4th grade, and a schoolwide plan to place a camera in a nest under our eaves that seems to get reused each year. If all goes well, our students will be able to watch baby birds hatch and grow as we stream footage to our science lab.

4.  Purchase and use of hardware and applications what will enhance student engagement and empowerment.

We are deeply grateful to the citizens of Contra Costa County for the increased bandwidth that will come through Measure C funds. The enhanced pipeline is crucial for effective implementation of technology-infused learning and it is not something we could afford to do as an individual site. We are experimenting soon with an iPad loaned to us from Apple and we hope to purchase flip cameras for future projects. 

     I appreciate the parental enthusiasm and energy regarding our 21st Century Learning conversations. I encourage you to stay informed as we move forward by attending PFC meetings. November is “Bring Yourself and a Friend to the PFC Meeting” month! I invite you to join me on Tuesday, November 16th at 7:00 p.m. in the Walnut Acres library.

     If the promise of explosive change unnerves you a bit, consider that some realities do not shift. Our innovation work provides an exciting lens to enhance learning, but the fact remains that children need to learn about the world from the adults who care about them. They will do this through technological tools we provide, but those tools will never replace the love, guidance and support they need from us. As we enter this holiday season, I encourage you to make the most of your family time together to model core lifeskills, listen to your children’s hopes and dreams, laugh heartily together, discipline consistently, and create lifelong memories that will nourish your children through their lives. Infuse your children with unconditional love now, so that they will enter the fast-paced, ever-changing 21st Century world as confident and enthusiastic adults. As novelist Susan Lieberman has written, “Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.”


Happy Thanksgiving to you all!