Sunday, March 10, 2013

Our Doors Are Always Open

The following is a guest post by Steve D’Ascoli.  Steve visited New Milford High School on Thursday February 28, 2013.  NMHS routinely hosts visits from outside educators, schools, and organizations in an effort to provide insights on our initiatives.  Below is a reflection by Steve on his recent visit.

Today I had the opportunity to meet with Eric Sheninger before he headed off to the 2013 NASSP Conference.  I reached out to Eric to gain insight into the technologically driven mindset that has encapsulated New Milford High School. It was a great opportunity to not only get to exchange ideas with Eric regarding technology’s role in the classroom, but to see the learning community that has been nurtured and developed at his school.

Probably the most interesting idea Eric shared with me is how his school has structured their schedules to provide time for daily professional development.  In order to foster growth and development, a “PGP” (Professional Growth Period), allows teachers to have time to search for resources, share current practices, and collaborate with one another. An amazing, transformative decision, which can spur innovation and afford teachers the opportunity that no one ever has... time!  I don’t know if Eric was the brainchild behind that idea, but I have to tip my cap to whoever came up with that model.

It is also interesting that at New Milford High School, there are no mandates for teachers to use technology. Eric shared that teachers  are beginning to welcome the role of technology, as they are able to see how it not only makes their instruction more engaging, but also in many circumstances, easier on the teacher!  Through self-directed personal learning communities, and support from administration, Eric shared how teachers are empowered to take a different approach towards instruction because THEY want to.

As we navigated the hallways and classrooms, I was able to experience firsthand the school culture that is fostered at New Milford High School.  The students recognize their opportunities to use devices in school, and understand what the expectations are for appropriate use.  It was eye-opening to see that in a cafeteria filled with high school students that are allowed to use personal devices,95% of them were eating lunch, doing homework, and interacting in the same old fashioned ways!

Reflecting on this experience it is important to see how at my school district, we must establish specific goals that we intend to achieve by initiating a BYOD program at Valhalla Middle High School.  One interesting component that Eric mentioned is that part of the New Milford outlook is that cooperative learning is stressed, and that devices should be connecting students together.

I really appreciated the opportunity that Eric arranged for me to spend time together and demonstrate the educational climate at New Milford. I hope that I am able to use this experience to influence the teachers and students at my school in similar ways. I look forward to meeting Eric again soon and definitely at Edscape in October!

Steve D’Ascoli is a 5th year educator at Valhalla Middle High School in Valhalla, NY.  He has dual NYS certification in Secondary Social Studies and as an Educational Technology Specialist- daily utilizing both skill sets. As part of Valhalla’s Technology Committee, he is one of the leaders in driving the vision for  the District.  Steve is also currently leading Educational Technology instruction as an Adjunct Professor at Pace University and is obtaining a degree in School District Leadership.

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