Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Marin Country Day School

Marin Country Day School is set in a beautifully green environment, it has a rich history which is embedded through the environment in a variety of ways. There is a real blend of the old with the new and the school technology team share a strong vision.

'Know who you are as a school and the technology will follow' - they believe in the importance of teachers following their passions and the school providing the access to the tools. There is incredible evidence of this through the school and in the classrooms we visited.

Last night, before visiting this school, I checked out the school website and read the information below.  After spending time in the school today, my feedback would be that this is a community that lives their vision, knows their core values and are passionate about learning and making a difference.

Our School is a Community that

INSPIRES children to develop a love of learning, thoughtful perspectives, and a diversity of skills;

NURTURES in each of them a deep sense of respect, responsibility and compassion; and

CHALLENGES them to envision and work toward a better world.

'MCDS is an independent K-8 coed day school enrolling 565 students at its 35-acre campus in the San Francisco Bay area. The school's mission, underscored by our core values of respect, responsibility and compassion, asks children to become skilled learners and ethical people, motivated to make a difference in the world.'

The school roll is made up intentionally of
  • 25% low income
  • 50% middle
  • 25% high
They strongly believe in equality for all when it comes to 'the extras' including technology, field trips and kai so that attention can all be focused on the learning. Therefore it is an all inclusive tuition fee ($25-$32k). There are various scholarships in place for families.

The Principal spoke passionately about the history of the school, their school mission (has been in place since 1995) and the time they have put into collaborating on their strategic plan. The basis of their strategic plan focuses on 3 points.

Program: We will develop an integrated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program for grades K-8 to strengthen core academic skills. Concurrently, we will explore ways in which 21st century skills such as design thinking and mindfulness can help our students build the capacity for innovation and creativity.
Community: We will develop and cultivate cultural competency skills, K-8, that will help us communicate effectively across a range of human experience and difference. And we will establish the environment and methods for honing these skills in the classrooms, on the playing fields, and outside of the school.
Financial Sustainability: MCDS is committed to thinking broadly and creatively about every aspect of our operating model. We will look for new revenue opportunities beyond tuition, philanthropy, and endowment, which would both improve our finances and expand our mission.

She also spoke about the importance of bringing in consultants to support the transformation of curriculum. There was a high value (and budget) placed on professional learning - 1/4 million each year which was sometimes exceeded.  They also believed in attending professional development as a team, this ensures learning is sustainable and means individuals are not thinking in silos.  They have had huge support from their Board of Trustees who believe in putting as much money into learning and support for the teaching team as possible.  They have 2 teachers in each class and a maximum class size of 20.

The question of 'How do parents perceive technology' was asked of the Principal. It is apparent in this school that if parents are wanting to come to this school (just 50 spaces each year in Kindergarten) there is an understanding that technology will be an integral part of the curriculum. There is a strong sense of home/school partnership through communication on the school website, and through the PTA. The team talked about the importance of empowering whanau and how they intentionally educated parents in the use of technology and supporting their kids in the digital playground.

What does the set up look like at Marin Country Day School?

  • iPads belong to school- cases, apps
  • Insurance policies taken out by the school- 1st time breakage - school cover, 2nd time on student at a cost of $100 3rd student at a cost of $500
  • They reflected on the need to create a better culture of caring for iPad
  • School has total control at this stage but this has it's challenges
  • They are moving to personal accounts, where student/whānau set up apple ID to allow for more flexibility
  • Now in Year 2 of 1-1 with iPads
  • Kindergarten-4th grade - 10 iPads per class (teachers will borrow from each other when they need whole class set)
  • 4th grade have shared password for e backpack for ability to access work at home
  • 5th grade - intro year 1-1 iPad but it stays at school - students also are set up with google account - lots of focus on what does it mean to manage this eg workflow from home/school - google apps, ebackpack
  • 6th grade and up - go home
  • Using printopia for printing from iPads and are experimenting with Printopia pro
  • Class size - max 20 (can you imagine this?)

Teacher Stories

8th grade project

2 kids from two different classes (didn't know who partner was) collaborated on a piece of art eg symbol meaningful, back and forth, last piece found out who it was and voice thread interview (see photos). Art came first but iPads enhanced this learning.

Science - a teacher explored the use of iBooks Author and created a science text book over summer holidays. The importance of starting with a Teacher having a need and then used a tool to create it.

Librarian - Tessa and Erica

  • Students visit once a week - Kindergarten through 5th grade.
  • Waiting to see where market goes with ePub books - a lot of books not available.
  • Exploring issuing San Francisco Library card - digital books for iPad
  • Buy books through VPP
  • Kindles in library
  • Collaboratively involved in building of library - technology, library as one department - research, e literacy
  • Computer labs now 'project rooms'
HUGE thanks to the team @ Marin Country Day School for sharing their school with us today.  I think we will all take away more answers, more wonderings and even more questions.  After nearly 2 weeks of school visits in California, I truly value the deep hard questions and most importantly the WHY.  I think one of the big questions has to be - how is this improving student outcomes?  So much to reflect on.

Enjoy some of the photos from this incredible school.

Twitter Hook Up


Link to Cribby's blogpost of the day:-)

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