Coffee and Conversation with Senior Leadership – Elementary School

Coffee and Conversation with Senior Leadership – Elementary School

Date: Monday – September 17, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Location: Cafeteria

Parents are warmly invited to join Ms. Pender, Ms. Catasti and Mr. Stanworth for an informal get-together over coffee and pastries in the cafeteria. They will briefly discuss recent developments at school, with a focus on the elementary school, but most of the session will be devoted to an open Q&A style discussion with parents. We have scheduled the event on a Japanese national holiday so that working spouses may also attend.

Elementary “Back To School Night”

We would like to invite you to our Back To School Night for our Kindergarten to grade 5 classes, on Wednesday, September 12th, starting at 6:45 pm and finishing at 8:15 pm. The purpose of this evening is to provide you with information regarding your child’s class and an overview of the exciting learning opportunities that lie ahead for this school year. During this evening, you will have the opportunity to meet your child’s class teacher and the other teachers who work in the grade level.

Parking and Refreshments
The playground will be open for parking from 6:15 pm. The cafeteria will be open from 6:30 pm for tea/coffee refreshments.

Grade K – 2
6:45 – 7:20 pm Grades K – 2 parents attend their child’s homeroom for a meeting with their class teacher.
7:30 – 8:10 pm Grades K-2 parents can visit single subject teachers in their classrooms for short presentations about their subject and are invited to ask questions.

Grades 3 – 5
6:45 – 7:20 pm Grades 3-5 parents can visit single subject teachers in their classrooms for short presentations about their subject and are invited to ask questions.
7:30 – 8:10 pm Grades 3-5 parents attend their child’s homeroom for a meeting with their class teacher.

We look forward to welcoming you and hope you can join us!

Parent Technology Coffee Morning Recap: Living With Laptops

We can all relate to the struggle to balance our many devices, from mobiles, to  laptops, to kindles, to iPods, and everything that comes next, so this time for focused conversation was perfect.  Along with our wonderful parent community, Mr. Clark, , Ms. Cofino and Ms. Raskin were there to help share ideas and practices that have worked (as well as those that haven’t). We had a very productive session, and developed tons of great ideas to help our children build and maintain a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle. This session was also run last school year, at the request of parents. We’ll host it again later in the year!

We started our session with a brief presentation, highlighting the big ideas to be discussed:

A few of the key points we discussed:

Although many of the tools we use to connect and communicate have changed, what we’re doing with them is very similar to more “old school” methods – like passing notes in class, or reading under the covers at night, or talking on the phone.

For some reason, it seems that when children (or adults) are using technology tools, we are reluctant to interrupt them. We have developed a kind of societal norm that “laptop space” must be private space. Adam shared a story about being hesitant to ask his son, in fourth grade, to show him what he was doing on the laptop, simply because it was a laptop – even though he’s the parent, he bought the computer, and it was actually his wife’s laptop.

Even though we already have great strategies, as parents (and teachers), to help children manage their time and responsibilities well, sometimes it’s challenging to remember to apply those strategies in this new context, because of the perceived privacy norms.

Although the idea of chatting, sharing, and interacting with peer groups is not new, perhaps the greatest difference is the visibility of the activities – which can be perceived in two ways:

  1. Technology as more visible: In the “old school” context, when children spent time hanging out at places like Gigi’s, their parents might not know really what was happening, and any mistakes made could be forgotten with time. It was almost like those mistakes and behavior were invisible. In contrast, today’s “hang out” space is often online, where every action is visible and permanent.
  2. Technology as less visible: In the “old school” context, when children hang out and chat at home, their friends are there, so parents can see and hear what they’re doing. However, with technology, children can be “hanging out” in a common space in the house, but parents can’t actually see or hear anything, since it’s all on the computer. In this sense, the technology almost makes the behavior “invisible”.

It’s important to remember that all of the adults in our children’s lives are role models. The behavior they see being modeled as adults is behavior they are implicitly being told is appropriate. At Parent Teacher Student Conferences yesterday, there were long rows of students on their mobile phones, sitting next to their parents, typing away on their mobile phones.

Although it sounds too simple, we see in the classroom that by clearly stating specific expectations and setting clear boundaries, students are much more likely to follow those directions. In contrast, if we allow expectations to be more implicit, it’s so much easier for students to ignore those unstated “understandings”.

In the end, we’re working towards each student developing their own self control, and an appropriate level of balance that works for them and their family. To do so, we would like to work as a team: parents, school and students.

In order to help get an idea of what students are thinking and feeling about these topics, Mr. Clark recorded some great discussions with students all across the middle and high school:

Our focus for the meeting was to develop as many strategies as possible to help support a healthy balanced lifestyle. Some of the ways that we’re doing this at school are:

  • All students sign a Responsible Use Policy, which highlights the importance of balance and responsibility
  • To help clearly define the expectations for balance (and to set clear boundaries), no laptops are allowed at break, and laptop use is only allowed in the CLC workroom during lunch (otherwise students are not allowed to use their laptops during lunch.
  • To get started well, we had two full days of orientation at the beginning of the school year where we discussed the Responsible Use Policy, Digital Citizenship and Balance at length in a variety of contexts, as an introduction to our CLC. We also had a mandatory parent information session for middle school parents and all middle and high school students (voluntary for high school parents).
  • We have an overarching Digital Citizenship curriculum, called Digital Dragons, which is currently being taught through Humanities in middle school.
  • After Spring Break, we’ll have a Digital Citizenship Week, when we revisit the major themes of the Responsible Use Policy through a variety of activities and discussions.
  • Our Student Tech Team regularly produces short video tutorials, to highlight important aspects of effectively using the laptops. Recently, they highlighted a number of productivity apps like “Self Control” which was one of the ways that students could help manage distractions.
  • We’re implementing homework calendars in all middle school tutor groups, where all major assessments will be added as events in a shared calendar for each tutor group. Parents and students can then subscribe to these calendars to have the reminders pop up on their mobile devices.
  • We’re developing a digital student planner to help students manage their assignments in an efficient way.
  • All of these topics are important points of discussion within our Tutor program at all grade levels.

Once we had an idea of the support structures in place at school, we spent the rest of the meeting developing similar structures for the home in small groups, using Google Docs. Everyone came up with fantastic ideas, including all of the ones we were planning to share!

Here are the strategies we developed:

Setting Limits:

  • Set time limit per day for total screen time, and gradually allow the child more control over how they allocate that time.
  • Set a specific time, or set of times, when the computer can be used.
  • No computer use after a certain time.
  • No technology at the dinner table.

Developing Time Management:

Take Advantage of Tech Breaks: Research shows that knowing you have specific time set aside to check social networking sites actually helps students focus better, so Dr. Larry Rosen recommends 25 minutes of homework time, then 5 minutes of a tech break, then study again.

Family Agreements:


  • regular monitoring of comments made/received
  • checking the history regularly

Regular and open conversations with your child are always the best way to make these strategies successful.

Some further resources:

Thanks to all the parents that attended today’s session! Even if you weren’t there, please join us for our monthly Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Mornings on the first Wednesday of every month at 9:15 in the Cafeteria. Our next meeting is: Wednesday, October 3rd at 9:15 in the Cafeteria and we’ll be chatting about  Digital Citizenship – what it means, why it’s important, how we’re addressing the major themes here at YIS and what you can do at home to support. Looking forward to seeing you there!


Parent Technology Coffee Morning: The Year at a Glance

Welcome back to another year of Parent Tech Coffee Mornings! This year we’re trying to share some “big ideas” in education with you to spark some discussion about the future of learning. In order to help you plan your attendance, here’s an overview of what we’ll be sharing this year:

Living With Laptops: Sept 5 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

Welcome to another great school year at YIS! We know that developing strategies for maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle in our Connected Learning Community is a key priority for many families. We all struggle to manage our many devices, from mobiles, to laptops, to kindles, to iPods, and everything that comes next. During this session we will share ideas and strategies to help your family build and maintain a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle based on current research, experiences last year and suggestions from families here at YIS.

Introduction to Digital Citizenship: Oct 3 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

In addition to the technology skills that student learn as part of our Connected Learning Community, we are also focusing on the “other” side of technology use: behavior, responsibility, and safety. These general skills are referred to as Digital Citizenship. Please join us at this session for an introduction to most important concepts in Digital Citizenship, as well as the ways that we are helping students learn these critical skills and understandings here at YIS.

Managing Information: Nov 7 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

We use a wide variety of tools to stay organized here at YIS, including: Blogs, Google Docs, Calendar, and Reader. It can seem overwhelming at first, but they all interact together to make student workflow as seamless as possible. This session will share an overview of the different tools that we use and how you can help your child(ren) stay organized and efficient.

Embracing Creativity: Dec 5 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

Although technology is great for being productive, we also highlight the use of technology tools to promote creativity, collaboration and communication. This session will feature new creative uses of technology along with ideas for how to support your child’s creativity at home.

Connectedness: Jan 9 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

With the Flat Classroom Conference coming up soon here at YIS, this session will highlight some of the ways that students (and teachers) stay connected and why those connections are so important. From Twitter to Instagram to Facebook, many people in our community are sharing, collaborating and communicating in a variety of contexts. Come to this session to find out why!

Building Good Habits: Feb 6 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

This week we’re focusing on Digital Citizenship: safe, responsible, respectful and behavior in digital spaces, as well as prioritizing a healthy balance in life. This week’s session will highlight the ways that parents can help support their children in building strong digital citizenship skills.

Global Collaboration (The Flat Classroom Conference): Mar 6 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

As we’re just about to begin the Flat Classroom Conference this week, this session will share the key themes of the conference, the format and the ways that participating students and teachers will be learning together. The Flat Classroom Conference is a fantastic example of how we can be learning in an authentic and project-based environment. Join us for a preview!

Revisiting Facebook, Safety & Privacy: April 10 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

Each year parents have requested a session on Facebook to understand exactly how it works, what you’re sharing and who you’re sharing with. This session will give an overview, as well as some strategies to “take control” of your Facebook profile.

The Gamification of Learning: May 1 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

Wondering what’s next in education? This recent TED talk by Jane McGonigal, “Gaming Can Make a Better World”, has helped propel the idea of game-based-learning or gamification of learning into educational conversations around the world. Watch the talk and see how we’re implementing this kind of learning environment in certain classes here at YIS.

Summer Fun with Technology: June 5 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

This will be our last Parent Technology & Literacy Coffee Morning session for this school year. We’ll explore fun and collaborative tools like VoiceThread, GarageBand, blogging, and more to find ways to help your child continue to develop his or her technology skills this summer – and to share the fun you’re having with your family and friends.