Technology: Power in the Palm of Our Hands
Fri Mar 10 00:00:00 NST 2017

There is no denying the significant role technology plays in our lives and the pervasiveness of computers, smartphones, smartwatches, and tablets - just to name a few -  in our society. They impact everything we do and have infiltrated all aspects of our society. Every day the vast majority of us hold in the palm of our hand technology that once filled rooms and laboratories, though those early generations of computers could not accomplish near as much our phones can; something we often take for granted today. The advances we have made are simply astounding and in many ways somewhat incomprehensible to those of us without strong computer backgrounds.

Yet, here we are with technology in our pocket that can remotely operate our house lighting, set our home PVR while we are at work, and research the nearest restaurant to grab a burger while we are on vacation. And sometimes, students and staff can access that technology in their classroom. Doing so for educational purposes is an overall positive experience, providing immeasurable access to information and resources, as well as providing the opportunity for students to explore, learn, and grow.

We do recognize there can be adverse impacts of technology within the school setting. Constant access can be distracting for everyone. It can cause behavioural and academic issues, both at school and at home. As educators we are cognizant of this and feel we have a role to play in helping students learn appropriate behaviour. In this light we have a number of protocols and agreements with students to help them learn appropriate uses. Everyone in our school communities must remember that the use of technology, particularly cell phones, is a privilege and inappropriate use of technology will lead to a loss of that privilege and potentially further disciplinary action, depending upon the activity.

Key aspects of our approach include the Internet and Social Media Safety program and associated lessons we are providing to our Grades 1 to 12 students. Combined with the Acceptable Use of Technology policy and its Terms of Use agreement and the Social Media Use policy and associated guidelines for students and staff, there is a lot of important work ongoing and behavioural expectations in place. Key to this is our administrators and teachers working with students to set parameters in behavioural matrices, as well as modeling proper behaviour. The approach may somewhat vary but that is not necessarily negative, nor reflective of a lack of fundamental expectations. It is a recognition that each school must operate as they feel appropriate for their school and in accordance with the input and expectations of their school community.

For the most part, inappropriate use of cellphones and other technology is an intermediate and high school issue. While the use of such technology is not pervasive at the K-6 level, we do also feel the same parameters should be in place for our youngest students and that technology use should be focused on educational purposes. And, when it comes to personal technology that is solely focused on gaming, those devices are best left for personal social time outside of school hours.

There is no easy solution as to how we best address this ever-changing issue. Technology races forward and I think we are best served by ensuring our students have access to, and knowledge of this area, with the application of technology in school focused on academics. An article recently published in the Ottawa Citizen indicates that strict bans tend not to work while education and parametres seem to be the best approaches. That is where we should be, especially at the 7-12 level.

Like most issues, appropriate use of technology is not just a school issue and should be discussed at home, as well as other social and learning settings. The more we talk, model appropriate behaviour, and teach positive approaches, the better prepared our students will be to focus their energy and use technology to their advantage - in their current academic pursuits and in their future endeavours.

Please take some time to review the material below and become more familiar with this important issue, including the measures we are taking as a school district to work with our students.

The strongest piece of advice I can give to everyone - students, parents/guardians, teachers and staff - is to put your devices away as often as possible and go for a walk, run, or other pastime of interest to you. Engage in an activity that physically or socially connects you with the real world. For parents and guardians, be realistic in your conversations with your children and ensure they use their devices in a positive manner.

Until next time!

Darrin


Acceptable Use of Technology policy and Acceptable Use of Technology Agreement for Students and Parents/Guardians:

Social Media Use policy, Social Media Terms and Conditions for Student Use and Social Media Terms and Conditions for Staff Use:

District resource page for parents/guardians and students:

Staff Social Media Awareness Video Developed with the NLTA:

Ottawa Citizen Article:

PREVIOUS THREE ENTRIES
Violence Prevention Month and Anti-Bullying
Wed Feb 08 00:00:00 NST 2017

February is Violence Prevention Month and in our schools we take time to acknowledge our efforts to curb violence.  Recent commentary has highlighted the concerns of some parents and guardians with what they perceive to be a lack of attention to this matter and some common concerns have emerged, including parental requests for clear guidelines and appropriate responses and consequences. While there are defined processes in place - including responsibilities outlined in the Safe and Caring Schools policy and the Bullying Intervention Protocol, which all schools must follow - each specific scenario is unique and must be considered in that light. As educators, that is our role and it must be taken extremely seriously for the well-being of every student.

Schools and teachers today find the need to promote interpersonal skills development within, and among, our student community. There is a tremendous dialogue and debate across our country on how the digital society affects our children. The prevalence of technology and social media, even for our youngest learners, has increased the need to teach appropriate communication and social skills.

We have also identified the need to build resilience in our students, the ability to struggle but push through, to fail but to keep trying, to build a growth-mindset. We know that most things in life are achieved through hard work, dedication and focus. Relationships are no different. My generation, maybe unknowingly, learned dispute resolutions through unstructured play on our neighbourhood streets and playgrounds. Today, the heavily structured lives of many of our children mean that the development of these skills have not naturally evolved as a part of the growing process.

What does all this mean for our schools? It means we will continue to maintain a focus on promoting and developing positive behaviours. Furthermore, schools will engage students in discussions through programs and activities such as Morning Conversation Circles, Roots of Empathy, and other character development opportunities. We will continue to focus on the importance of relationships and further expand well-researched approaches, such as restorative justice. The men and women who work in our schools are always seeking to improve the safe and caring environment and respond effectively when a student does not feel safe.  We are committed to improving our response when working with children.

For parents and guardians, we ask that you continue to work with your school, respecting that everyone has your child’s best interest in mind, even when we may disagree. The hard work of establishing relationships is a process for all of us. We urge you to continue to work with your children to build resilience, promote positive behaviours, teach appropriate use of social media, and encourage positive relationships. Our schools are constantly working on these concepts, however, all of us need to reinforce these messages, both in the classroom and at home.

We need to work together to build a school community of confident and hopeful students. Let’s find ways to foster stronger and more positive relationships, thereby reducing instances of bullying and building confidence in our students.

Until next time.

Darrin

A Fresh Start
Tue Jan 10 00:00:00 NST 2017

A new year often means resolutions: commitments to exercise, eat better, and live well. Generally I support those ideas and encourage those who find them helpful to begin and fulfil a resolution. 

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year and during the break I did some thinking about why that is. And while I love the social aspect, including time with family, relaxation and good food, I came to realize one of the main reasons I enjoy Christmas is the overall positive feeling present; the good-natured spirit present in people. Family gatherings are jovial, with stories of past experiences and good times, as well as upcoming adventures. The mood is good and people are kind to one another. Most importantly, as the holiday season approaches, our schools and students are filled with positive attitudes and they undertake remarkable projects to help their communities. Similarly, many of us find the time to give back to our communities and do something extra to help those who may need additional support during this time of year. 

Well, this holiday season made me think that if we maintained such positive feelings and continued the positive actions throughout the remainder of the year we could certainly have more positive experiences and achieve a great deal more as communities. I recognize it can be easier to think this way during the festive season when we have more downtime and life has a slower pace. However, I think if we take the time to remember the holiday season, the feeling it brings us and how we strive to be a better version of ourselves, this is something that we can accomplish throughout the year.

So, while I do not make new year resolutions, I do plan to try and recall more frequently - every day or at least every week - the positive things and people that surround us and why we are so lucky to have the opportunities we do. I know we all experience significant challenges at times and I hope that if I can recall and maintain just a small portion of the holiday season feeling all year I can live a more productive and successful life, both at home and at work.

As you strive to attain your personal new year resolution, keep in mind the favourable aspects of the holiday period we just enjoyed, try to keep the good feelings flowing and maintain a positive relationship with your friends, family, coworkers and yourself. If we recall the many good things in our lives and that we are so fortunate to live in this province and country, we can live a productive and personally rewarding life.

A new year is a great time to start fresh with new goals and objectives and for the good of our personal and professional well-being, let’s take inventory and be appreciative of what we have.

Until next time!
Darrin

Enjoy and Share the Wonders of the Season
Thu Dec 15 00:00:00 NST 2016

Since I started blogging, I have always done an entry focused on the holiday season and this year is no different. It truly is one of my favourite times of the year as we get the opportunity to spend a little more time with family and friends, relish some downtime for relaxation, watch classic black and white Christmas movies, and enjoy wonderful meals that are accompanied by great conversation.

It is also a time of year to remember those who may be less fortunate than us and may not have the same opportunities to experience the traditions and family time so many of us take for granted. Our school communities certainly do a wonderful job of keeping this in mind and encouraging our students to help those who may need a little extra assistance or extra cheer during this time of year. Please do keep this in mind over the holidays and continue to ensure the message of hope and confidence is shared with everyone - no matter their personal circumstance. Sharing your Christmas light with someone can have more of a positive effect than you know. Let’s also celebrate and extend the spirit of the season to all our community members who represent a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds and who have wonderful, long-standing traditions that enrich our province.

As always, I encourage everyone to enjoy themselves over the holidays and spend time with those you care the most about. Enjoy the time of year to the fullest and the best of your ability while preparing for the new year, new challenges and great accomplishments to come.

On that note, I know at this time of year we do a lot of reflecting about accomplishments, highlights and exciting moments. Well, to conclude my last blog of 2016 I thought I would attempt my own Top 10 for 2016.

So, here goes:

10). Bought a jeep - (yes, a late mid-life crisis occurred in 2016)
9). The Chicago Bears won a few games…there is only one direction to go now!
8). Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography was released.
7). The Leafs drafted Austin Matthews, he scored four goals in his first game and I am eternally optimistic - hope and confidence folks...
6). A new District website was launched.
5). I ran a personal best 10K
4). The District moved to Google Apps for Education
3). School board trustee elections were held.
2). Seeing my second granddaughter (who lives away) walk and hearing her speak for the first time.
1). My youngest daughter graduated high school.

Merry Christmas and all the best to you and yours for the coming year!

Darrin Pike
CEO/Director of Education

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St. John's, NL · A1B 1R6
Tel: (709) 758-2372 · Fax: (709) 758-2706
95 Elizabeth Avenue
St. John's, NL · Canada · A1B 1R6
Tel: (709) 758-2372 · Fax: (709) 758-2706

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