A letter to students from the ASD Superintendent – HS Version

It Felt Love

How

Did the rose

Ever open its heart

And give to this world

All its

Beauty?

It felt the encouragement of light

Against its

Being,

Otherwise,

We all remain

Too

Frightened.

From “The Gift” (Hafiz)

 

Dear ASD High School student,

Welcome to or welcome back to ASD! I hope your summer provided opportunities for rest, renewal, reading and other learning experiences. As the new ASD Superintendent, I wanted to start my tenure at the school by sharing the poem above. Why? Poet Robert Frost said it well, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” (emphasis added)

For the Richards family—Camille (grade 10) and Zach (grade 8), and my wife Tina—moving to Dubai and starting anew at ASD generates a myriad of emotions: excitement, nervousness, happiness, and sadness to leave friends in Saudi Arabia, among other feelings. Most of all, however, I am filled with awe and anticipation at the honor of serving the 1850+ students of the American School of Dubai. You, the students, are the roses at ASD, and it is up to we, the teachers, to provide the light so you can achieve your dreams and thrive in this world.

The Richards family is excited to join ASD due to the importance the organization places on the community itself. There are many high-quality schools in the world, but there exist fewer schools that go beyond a transactional relationship with its students and families. At ASD, you are part of a vibrant community that strives to be a conduit for your health, happiness and achievement (yes, all three outcomes are possible). ASD has a reputation of being a place that treats its members fairly and with kindness, with care and with empathy. This is exactly where we want to be!

I am writing to you because it may take some time before we can get to know each other, especially since the superintendent does not belong to any particular division or classroom. This is a chance to tell you a few things as the school year starts.

What does a superintendent do? Good question. First and foremost, I protect and keep the Mission of the school, to make sure we are living it: We challenge and inspire each student to achieve their dreams and to become a passionate learner prepared to adapt and contribute in a rapidly changing world. I lead the administration in the day-to-day operations of the school. I also partner with the ASD Board of Trustees—who focus on policy, thought partnership, and ensuring the financial viability of the school.

We take seriously the responsibility to realize ASD’s Mission with each and every one of you. As a result, I share the following commitments to you, which I fully expect you to hold me accountable to:

To listen. As an introvert, this comes naturally to me. I very much want to hear your unique perspective on the school, on your learning, or on life. Speak up. It will help us make better decisions.

To be fair. We will use ASD’s Core Values as the basis of an ethical framework for decisions on issues of programs, curriculum, handbook expectations, and policies. You will always get an explanation of why a decision was made, and the rationale for it.

To be available. My daily calendar is set up in a way that I’ll be out and about campus during and after the school day. If you don’t see me, make an appointment in the main office.  

To uphold ASD’s Core Values. I will strive to do right by the students and the school, and to set a good model for behavior, even in situations where it may be challenging to do so.

I would be remiss if I didn’t communicate some expectations I have for you:

Own your learning. After all, this is your high school experience, not mine. Self-motivation is believed by many as the key to success in our rapidly changing world. Much attention in the media has been given to self-driving cars or sky taxis, but journalist Thomas Friedman advocates for the self-driving you. There is wisdom here.

It is natural to think about the future during your time at ASD, to think of the school experience as planning and preparation for what comes next. It would be a missed opportunity, however, to focus your attention on how your actions today might influence rewards in the future. Instead, and I paraphrase from Stanford Professor Tina Seelig, use your school experience to experiment and explore in the present. In doing so, your natural curiosity and creativity will take over, and the singular focus on producing results will diminish (ironically, you will nevertheless produce results through these behaviors). We, the teachers at ASD, will do our part to create the space and intellectual climate to foster this mindset.

Uphold ASD’s Core Values: compassion, excellence, integrity, respect, responsibility. It takes all of us to model these values, and it takes courage to stand up for what is right, even if it brings discomfort or unpopularity. A community can only be a community if we live and breathe the core values. Otherwise, the values are simply words on a website or a poster.

Go beyond you. ASD strives to personalize the learning experience for all its students, but you also have so much to offer your classmates and community. Share your unique perspective on the world, and help others be the best they can be. The ASD experience is an opportunity to be engaged in a relationship with your community and its members. Relationships are two-way streets, where you can take, but you must also give back.

Finally, work hard, and devote equal effort to rest and recovery. The most accomplished people today and in the past work very deliberately on their rest, and they define this recovery as an active process (not just sitting on the couch for hours Netflixing). Walk, read, practice a skill, laugh, cry, exercise, hang out with friends and family, write notes, etc. Give your brain a chance to consolidate all it has learned in the course of the day. And what do scientists say is most important for you to be at your peak performance? Sleep. (I know. This can be a battle.)

You have a highly-capable Principal in Dr. Leever to work with on the day-to-day goings-on at the high school. I am also available to support your learning and development. Please do not hesitate to introduce yourself in the hallways or after school on campus (and you can always make an appointment with Ms Gonsalves or drop me a note). I don’t carry an email address, but you can find me on WhatsApp and LinkedIn (just ask me for a business card). I also write occasionally on my blog: www.drpaulrichards.com. Check it out.

I look forward to meeting you in the coming days and weeks. Here’s to a wonderful start to the school year and remember…

Once a Falcon, Always a Falcon!

Dr. Paul Richards

ASD Superintendent

ASD Parent Letter

Dear Parents,

Welcome to the soon-to-begin 2017-2018 school year. In the last week we welcomed 39 new faculty members, and several new administrators, to our learning community. I can also claim to be part of this new group! This collection of highly-capable professionals is currently participating in the new faculty orientation program and we believe each will make a positive and profound impact on our school in short order. Returning faculty and staff have also arrived on campus to begin final preparations for the start of the school year.

The Richards family is not new to the Middle East, having lived the past four years in Saudi Arabia, but we are new to Dubai and the UAE. My wife Tina, a nurse practitioner, will take her time to settle in before deciding on her next professional endeavor. Our children, Camille (Grade 10) and Zach (Grade 8) are eager to make new friends and begin school. Even our long-haired Jack Russell terrier, Kiwi, approves of the move, as he now has a social group in the neighborhood.

I want to extend a special welcome to our new families, whether you are new to Dubai or just new to the American School of Dubai (ASD). I look forward to hearing your aspirations for your children and for ASD itself. Please do not hesitate to introduce yourself when on campus. Your children will receive a welcome letter from me on the first day of school; there are a few things I want to tell them directly.

ASD Mission
The mission continues to serve as the driving force of all things at the school, in the decisions we make keeping the children’s best interests at the forefront, and in inspiring us to keep striving toward improvement. The mission is personal: “…challenge and inspire each student…” The mission is aspirational: “…achieve their dreams and to become a passionate learner…” The mission has a bias toward action: “…prepared to adapt and contribute in a rapidly changing world.” The world our children will inherit is not only different than the one we inhabited at their ages, but their world has yet to be fully created. Our graduates must be prepared for disruptions that have not yet occurred, and ASD through its Student Profile — Thinker. Communicator. Contributor. Learner. Leader. — is fully committed to this preparation. As the world changes around us, the school must also evolve its programs and approaches in order to stay relevant to our children’s needs.

Aligned with the ASD mission are the new strategic priorities, developed at a representative summit nearly a year back:

  1. In order to embrace our collective responsibility to deeply embed and fully realize our Mission, Core Values, Learning Principles, and Student Profile, we will develop metrics, report on progress and respond to our performance.
  2. We will develop and implement policies, systems, structures and practices that will meet the diverse learning needs of all of ASD’s students.
  3. We will design, implement and evaluate a community-wide comprehensive learning program that develops and cultivates a mindset to contribute and take informed action.

These statements represent the next iteration of the school’s strategic plan. In the coming months, you will have an opportunity to participate either formally or informally in the creation of results and accompanying action/strategies. You will receive updates throughout this year and beyond on the school’s progress toward meeting these ambitious targets.

ASD Core Values
Core values represent “how we do things around here”, and ASD’s five Core Values are largely ethical in nature:

Compassion: It is our responsibility to give help where needed.
Excellence: Striving for excellence is critical to our success.
Integrity: Integrity and honesty are essential to a safe and trusting environment.
Respect: Every person has equal inherent value. Embracing our diversity strengthens our community.
Responsibility: Each person is responsible/accountable for his or her choices.

It is critically important how we (the educators), you (the parents), and our students in particular, define the behaviors associated with each Core Value. This is especially true with Excellence, the only Core Value that is not ethical in nature. Excellence can be viewed as an activity, resulting from our hard work and ethical behavior, and it can be viewed as an output, where others judge our performance or actions at a high level of achievement. It should not be viewed as striving for perfection, or fostering excessive competitiveness. Please help me in reinforcing this message.

Advancing the Mission of ASD
ASD is well known for its welcoming community and again this year, there are multiple opportunities for you and your family to be involved in ways that strengthen our community and support our school. Each and every gift of time, talent and treasure is valued and supports the success of students and advances the mission of ASD.

We are grateful for the many dedicated parents who volunteer throughout the school and through the PTSA, Booster and CAST parent organizations. The dedication and gift of time create wonderful opportunities for our community that foster friendship and involvement. Please consider how you can get involved this year and I look forward to seeing you at all our community building events, including concerts, competitions, Halloween Night, Santa’s Workshop, Sports Award ceremonies, the ASD Carnival and more.

Last year as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, ASD launched its first-ever Annual Giving program. Providing opportunities to give in support of ASD is common at most leading, independent nonprofit schools (both in the United States and within the international arena). Through giving, you help ensure ASD can fulfill its mission to prepare students for our rapidly changing world beyond what tuition allows.

I want to say thank you to the many parents, faculty, staff and alumni who made a gift through the Annual Giving program or through the 50th Anniversary Gala. Last year’s annual gifts, together with the proceeds of the 50th Anniversary Gala, yielded nearly AED 1.5 million which have been dedicated to a number of outstanding projects that otherwise would not have been possible: the re-imaging of the ES and MS/HS Library projects; misting fans across campus; a new state-of-the-art theatre projector; new school-wide sustainability bins; division learning space enhancements; funding dedicated to support learning projects inspired by students and more. I look forward to sharing more about making a difference through giving to ASD and thank you in advance for your participation.

Home-School Partnership
Our children thrive at school when the support from home and from school are strong and aligned, where support is developmentally appropriate to the age of the student. Psychologist Robert Evans (author of Family Matters) put it well: “Prepare your child for the path, not the path for your child.” We want our children to be happy and healthy thirty-five year olds (and preferably not living with us at our home). This requires a gradual shift from the early years right up to graduation for parent-as-doer to parent-as-coach. We want to resist the parent-as-rescuer or parent-as-personal assistant roles that can be debilitating to the normal development of children. Parent-as-friend is the joyful role that develops once our children leave the nest.

Protocol for Resolving Issues: ASD is fortunate to enjoy the strong participation and support of parents, and you can assist us by talking directly with your child’s teacher regarding classroom issues or concerns at the earliest possible time. In the event that you are unable to satisfactorily resolve an issue with your child’s teacher, please contact the division administrator. If the issue cannot be resolved at the division level or if the issue relates to a matter of a school-wide nature, please contact the superintendent through Reina Gonsalves at rgonsalves@asdubai.org.

Reminders/Announcements

In concluding, the entire faculty, staff and administration are deeply committed to the upcoming 2017-2018 school year being a wonderful year of learning for your children. If we can be of assistance or support throughout the school year, or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. I look forward to meeting your family.

Sincerely,

Dr. Paul Richards
Superintendent

Straight Down the Middle – June, 2017

Dear ISG Staff:

This represents the last time I formally write to you as ISG Superintendent. I would like to personally thank you for all of you have given to ISG during my tenure, and to the Richards family. I have learned a tremendous amount from you all.

Scott

I want to recognize Mr. Scott Miller, a first-year teacher at DEMS, who passed away this weekend at his villa. This tragic event has reached beyond DEMS, and beyond even the ISG community. Scott, a gifted teacher, made a positive impact with many students and staff this year, and he will be missed.

 

Long-serving Leavers

Though the overall staff attrition rate is low this year, there are several staff leaving ISG after a long service to their school and to the district. I’m pleased to recognize and thank the following who have served fifteen years or more at ISG:

Laura and Ray Timm: Icons of the Jubail community for over three decades, Ray and Laura are known for their dedication to their students, and for their fitness and longevity (which would sometimes make its way into their lessons).

Sajida Ifikhar: Teacher of Urdu for twenty-six years. Steady, hardworking, and a solid contributor to life at Dammam.

Rima Abushaur: A stalwart teacher at DBGS in the Arabic and French language, also for twenty-six years, who will continue on as a supply teacher.

Linda L’esteve: Teacher in the Dammam preschool for twenty-four years. A big contributor to the youngest minds at the school.

Sue and John Chapman: Two stints at DBGS and then John moved to the district office as Asst. Supt. for Human Resources. Sue is a highly capable primary years teacher. Twenty-four years at ISG.

Nick Hardcastle: Long-time teacher of seventeen years and most recently Head of Seniors at DBGS, Nick is also an outdoor enthusiast, leading many expeditions within KSA and to Nepal.

 

Performance Report

I’m resending this link to the ISG Performance Report, which you received from Tara Waudby two weeks back, for it is a remarkable, first-of-its-kind-for-ISG production. It captures both quantitative and qualitative data from our four years of work together toward 21st century relevance in our educational programs. It includes short narratives. There is a lot of good to tell through this report, and plenty of data to examine more deeply. We hope this will be the first of an annual performance reporting mechanism on how we are doing toward realizing our Mission. (It’s your unofficial summer homework to read this document.)

 

Some Final Reflections

Four years ago, when I arrived (3 days after the start of school!), I knew my charge from the Board of Trustees: accelerate ISG’s journey toward 21st century relevance in the classrooms. Each of the seven schools had common challenges, but also needed its own path. The big question in my mind was whether ISG—its infrastructure, its teachers, its administrators—had the capacity for such a change. With some strategic investment, we took care of the easy things right away: internet connectivity and devices, literacy resources and consultants, more PD monies available from the district office. It was a tsunami of resources, and people took it in stride.

 

Fast forward to the present, with many new faces joining our experienced ISG staff, and I’m pleased with our progress. The Board asked me early on, “Are the teachers capable of all this?” I responded, “Yes, I believe so.” Now I can say that again with greater confidence. All the administration ever hoped for was that every ISG staff member would get on the path toward 21st century excellence.

 

It feels natural that we have kept the triumvirate of district goals—literacy, tech integration, and collaboration—but also added to and refined the work as a new regime takes over. Furthermore, our relationship with data has matured considerably, where we are now poised to intervene when students are not performing up to par. I truly believe, under the stewardship of Eddie Liptrot and his team, that the best days for ISG are yet to come.

 

There is no doubt that ISG has been good to us. We suffer from the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly that all workplaces experience. Politics are low. We are patient with the countercultural elements of our host country. We rightly put our focus on what is best for the students. It’s all about the learning, because these students, who did not choose to come to KSA, deserve our very best efforts. We can be as good as we choose to be. It is up to us!

 

Whether we were able to get to know each other or not, I hope you have found that I’ve lived up to ISG’s core values of respect, responsibility, integrity, acceptance, with the commitment to act. There were successes, and there were mistakes. We rarely get do-overs, but honestly, I did my very best, and I have no regrets.

 

Please stay in touch, even if it’s only on Linked-In.

 

Yours in service…

Signature Paul.png

_DSC4604

Straight Down the Middle – ISG Staff

Straight Down the Middle
December, 2016

Dear ISG Staff:

“To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” (Mother Teresa)

As the sun sets on the penultimate day before the winter holiday, you, like me, have likely have reached a happy state of exhaustion, a brilliant term to describe those who work in the noble profession of schooling. We heed Mother Teresa’s advice, using holidays to replenish our energies, restore our perspectives, reconnect with family and friends, find a new book to read, and generally unwind from the stressors of life. But my thinking is shifting on this matter. Why do we wait for the breaks (nights, weekends, holidays) to take care of ourselves? Should we not carve our time during the school day to replenish our reserves? Would this not best serve children and our colleagues?

Schools are filled with exceptionally good people, who are also notorious for taking care of others first, and themselves last. As a New Years resolution, consider adding one or two strategies to your daily school routine, trying them when you have a few minutes, especially when you feel overwhelmed or exhausted (which is counterintuitive, but it works!). Here are some ideas:

  • A walk in the sunshine
  • Closing your eyes and taking 10 deep breaths, and then just listening to your immediate environment
  • Connecting with one person you haven’t spoken to in a while
  • Eating your lunch with the students
  • Eating your lunch exceptionally slowly, to truly taste the food, and not doing any multitasking while eating
  • Practicing something that is a hobby
  • Writing three hand-written notes of gratitude

Research shows that incorporating self-care strategies like these into one’s daily routine not only produces an antidote to stress (facilitating relaxation), but it can re-wire your brain, making you more resilient to the daily (and inevitable) stressors of life.

And sometimes, just being still and quiet can be the best therapy. Chuang Tzu’s Flight from the Shadow illustrates this point.

There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both.
So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty.
He ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally dropped dead.
He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still (and quiet), there would be no more footsteps.

This time of year marks a good time to take stock of ISG. I’m happy to say that the organization is in a good place. We have enjoyed a very productive first four months of learning, as evidenced by the knowledge our students are exhibiting through their actions, behaviors, and created artifacts. It has been a half-year of adult collaboration, the best (from my seat) I’ve seen in four years. We are building that professional culture of growth that we know excellent schools possess. We continue to make gains in the infrastructure that supports this learning and collaboration. Bright days are ahead for ISG.

From our family to yours, we wish you a restful break!  May the New Year be filled with love and compassion. See you in January.

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 3.00.27 PM.png

 

Straight Down the Middle (Staff) – August 2016

Straight Down the Middle
August, 2016
Welcome to the new school year edition!

On behalf of the entire District Office team, and the ISG Board of Trustees, I’m pleased to welcome you back (or to) ISG. Today marks the first day for staff at ISG’s seven schools (and five campuses). Though certainly hectic in our preparations for Monday’s go-time with children, I love the energy that this week brings.

We have been welcoming in several new teachers over the last few nights, trying to make their transition as smooth as possible. (Thank you for your help in this matter.) I’m curious how many watched A Hologram for the King on the plane, and whether that was a good thing for their induction.

The Richards family had a relaxing and typical ex-pat summer, spending time with family and friends, predominantly in New England. I was able to do a week’s professional development at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, and to read several books on my list: Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America (Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf), How to Set a Fire and Why (Jesse Ball), and about 20% of the Sherlock Holmes Ultimate Collection. I’m almost through with The Orphan Master’s Son (Adam Johnson), a fiction about North Korea. I’m happy to talk about any or all of these books with you if we can find a moment, and I’d love to hear what you read.

ISG is ready for you to join us on Thursday at the annual Convocation (08:30 in the Dhahran Auditorium). After a few words from Tara Waudby and me, we’ll follow the usual script of professional development workshops. See Tara’s email from Monday to get specifics for what’s on offer.

You have got a lot on your plates, so I’ll keep this message short. I’ll give you some updates when I see you on Thursday.

Cheers,
Paul Richards
ISG Superintendent

(Don’t forget to join the ISG Safety and Security Google + Community)

Straight Down the Middle – June, 2016

School’s Out for Summer edition

Ramadan Kareem! Eid Mubarak (soon)!

Though we start a gradual descent toward summer break some time in May, the last week of school always feels like a hasty landing of the plane. C’est la vie for the school teacher! It has been a real pleasure over the past few weeks to attend many of the performances, concerts, graduations, promotion ceremonies, and other events at the ISG campuses. For those I’ve missed, we’ve got ISG’s social media channels.

I want to wish you all a refreshing and stimulating summer holiday, whether you’ll stay in KSA, go home, or take a special trip. For the Richards family, it is time to visit family (Boston & Colorado), take a course, go to camp, fight off mosquitos, and generally relax.

The close of school provides a time for recognition and celebration. It can be difficult when wrapped up in the day-to-day grind of the school year to step back and appreciate the myriad of good work going on each day. Let’s start with something simple: the tens of thousands of staff-student interactions each day. Yes, we pass along knowledge, and help develop skills, but most of all, we mentor, inspire, and set a positive example for our impressionable youth. This partnership allows for growth, and I see it every day in my travels, and it inspires me to be the best I can be.

There is a transactional element to ISG, particularly with the dozens of support staff across the district. Approvals get moved about (along with too much paper, I must say), support is offered, translations are made, advice is given. Thank you to all of those local staff who are lower on the pay scale, but are integral to keeping the whole ISG train moving. Without you, the education would be impossible.

Taking a more macro perspective, we have moved the 21st Century learning needle considerably in terms of technology integration, innovation, new learning spaces, and the still-essential, literacy. We have tried to keep the improvement focus simple and consistent with the binary wings of tech and literacy. We have added a budding coaching system to support teachers in the classroom. We have improved the number of opportunities for athletics and sports within the ISG community. I could go on an on.

From my office, the view forward includes several whales (an ironic term given where we are in the world). We are making good progress on the search for a future Dhahran campus, speaking with several big developers for a state-of-the-art campus. We anticipate reaching an agreement before the winter break.

Attention is being given to support the Jubail community as it builds new middle/high school, as well as Dammam, who opened its new school this year. Yanbu is investing heavily in its current infrastructure. Financial health and Board governance continue to receive ample attention so we can remain on solid footing with these two important drivers.

The search for my replacement continues in earnest, assisted by International School Services. A small committee of the Board is currently vetting candidates to create a short-list for August interviews. Stay tuned for further information when we return to school.

I would like to thank both David Whitaker (and Olga) and Anne Armstrong for providing over a decade of service to the Business Office and Little Learners, respectively. The District Office welcomes in Dirk de Jager (and wife Jeanette) as Director of Finance, and Sylvia Hayles to lead Little Learners. In addition, James Pritlove will be our new Director of Security and Safety. We also welcome in the four-plus dozen sponsored teachers and many more local teachers, TAs, and support staff to ISG. We are a large organization, with many moving parts, but ISG is people-focused and care-based, and we’re eager to welcome, get to know, and learn from our new arrivals.

Believe it or not, we have already planned our annual staff Convocation for Thursday, August 18 at 08:30 in the Dhahran Auditorium. The theme will be collaboration. In that spirit, I encourage you to check out the district’s site for learning—ISG Learns—which Tara Waudby caretakes.

Please see this link to the 2017-18 school calendar. With the location of the two Eids, the school year became a bit squeezed. An August start was simply not feasible.

I’d like to end with a link to ISG’s newly adopted Standards for Customer Service. The District Office strives toward the very highest level of support for the schools and its communities. These standards will help set the tone and expectations for our interactions (such as a “starting with yes” mantra).

Most of you have never been able to visit Yanbu International School, a special community on the Red Sea, north of Jeddah. This “lip dub”, put together by the senior class, is a nice tour of the school (sorry, you’ll need Facebook for this). Enjoy!

Paul

 

 

 

 

Straight Down the Middle – Unplugged 2016 edition

 

27 February 2016
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Dear ISG staff:

For the past few days, several staff have represented ISG at the biannual ASB Unplugged Conference, hosted by the American School of Bombay. I believe this is the most important gathering on the international school world’s calendar; I was pleased with the impact of ISG’s participation in 2014, and I feel the impact will be even greater from this experience.

Why does this conference work? First, it’s the setting. The first day of the conference happens at the school, while it is in session. In fact, the day before the workshops start, a full day is devoted entirely to classroom visits. If one can’t get inspired seeing the joy students exude when engaged in their learning, and how a caring and competent teacher facilitates this, then one should not be in this profession.

Second, there is an esprit de corps that permeates the conference. It is in the ether. ASB Unplugged serves as a network that builds the social capital among all of us that choose to engage in self-improvement for the welfare of the students in our charge. Researcher Michael Fullan argues that by building social capital—which concerns the quality and quantity of interactions and relationships among people—we are able to tap into the expertise of others. A school can achieve an impact bigger than the sum of its individual parts.

Finally, the content of the conference is engaging, both in substance and relevancy, but also in challenging our oft-restricting assumptions toward teaching and learning. The following quotes were shared today over the ISG team’s WhatsApp group:

  • “If students are doing work for the world, they want it to be good. If students are doing work for you, they want it to be good enough.” (McLeod)
  • “All assessment interrupts the learning process.” (Stager)
  • “If a teacher explains the same concept to a child 100 times, it is not the child who is a slow learner.” (source not attributable)
  • “Data is the narcotic that lazy school administrators use in lieu of sitting next to students.” (source not attributable)

To simplify and clarify my own takeaways from Unplugged, I offer the following synthesis. We, meaning all of us dedicated to K-12 education worldwide, are still in the infancy of understanding and coming to grips with technology’s role in student learning (and student learning is what our daily work is all about!). Technology is both a skill to be developed, and also a tool to facilitate our desired outcomes. These skills and tools are inherently interdisciplinary—so it applies not necessarily in every instance, but it can apply everywhere. Technology integration is neither all good nor all bad. We know it can boost learning and growth (by fostering collaboration, or effecting communication, or creating something useful and elegant, for example). We also know the concerns about distractibility, about the erosion of authentic relationships, and about privacy are valid and need more study. The key is to continue our critical examination of what works in the learning process, piloting and prototyping new ideas (and sharing them broadly), giving voice to students by allowing them to influence and own their learning through choice, measuring the value-added to what we are doing, and being mindful of the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm.

I am proud of the good work ISG teachers do everyday in this realm, as I am of the support administrators and other staff provide to the classrooms. I appreciate the open mindset and grit employed when tackling the vexations that present themselves. It may feel a far distance to go before technology clicks in our day-to-day practice, but we are trying, and we are making progress. Success is rarely linear, is it? (Citation: American School of Bombay)

Success

Unplugged has allowed the ISG participants to nurture our inherent curiosity, affirm the moral responsibility to do right by children, and return to Saudi Arabia to tap into and grow the organization’s social capital—all for the benefit of those we serve, our cherished students.

We’ll see you soon.

Dr. Paul