Monday, April 20th, 2009 at Menlo School

Roundtable Discussion on Instructional Technology: Past, Present, Future


The purpose of this event is to do what we thought Apple was going to do on March 18th in Pleasanton for their Think Ahead discuss as educators what 21st Century learning means to us, and what are the challenges and decisions with respect to instructional/educational technology that we face as leaders of Bay Area Schools. As it turns out, Apple's session was more about providing hands-on training of their technology solutions rather than hosting a broader administrative discussion, the latter being critical for us as we try to steer our school in the right direction. So, if Apple won't do it for us, why not just do it ourselves.

  • Location
    • Menlo School
    • 50 Valparaiso Avenue, Atherton, 94027 (school is located at the intersection of University and Valparaiso)
    • Building: Stent Hall (the old white mansion in front of the oval driveway)
    • Room: Davis Conference Room (go in the front door, and turn left past the receptionist)
  • Times
    • 8:15am: light breakfast snacks beforehand
    • 8:30am - 11:30am: discussion, with a short break at some point in the morning
    • 11:30am: hosted lunch

  • Castilleja
    • Steve Taffee, Director of Technology
    • Nanci Kauffman, Asst. Head of School
    • Anne Cameron, Head of Middle School
    • Matt Montagne, Academic Technology Coordinator
    • Joan Lonergan, Head of School (early morning only)
  • Menlo School
    • Norm Colb, Head of School
    • Bridgett Longust, Upper School Dean of Faculty
    • Erin Brigham, Middle School Director
    • Gabe Lucas, Director of Instructional Technology
    • Nancy Fortman, Middle School Education Technology Director
    • David Spence, Assistant Director of Instructional Technology
  • Woodside Priory
    • Michele Riebhoff, Instructional Technologist
    • Michael Fariss, Systems Engineer
  • Crystal Springs
    • Christy Dillon, Head of Upper School
    • John Venuti, Director of Technology
  • Guest
    • Tristan de Frondeville

Guest participant:

Note: our guest participant will be speaking briefly to us for 5-10 minutes at the beginning of the morning. After that, he will be available to participate in our discussion, but will not be moderating it or making further presentations. This morning is an opportunity for us as academic leaders to talk to each other.

Tristan de Frondeville

After 15 years in K-16 classrooms, Tristan has devoted over 10 years to School Redesign, Teacher Professional Development, and Curriculum Design. He has conducted workshops for over 3000 teachers and administrators in the U.S. and abroad on topics such as: "Project-Based Learning", "Using Technology in the Classroom", "Small School Design", "STEM Education and PBL", and "Summer School Design using PBL." Tristan has presented to audiences at conferences such as: California Mathematics Council Northern Section Annual Conference, Oracle Education Foundation ThinkQuest Live, North Carolina New Schools Thinking and Learning Conference, North Carolina STEM Initiative Summer Institute, and the Ministry of Education for the Kingdom of Jordan.

Tristan has also written curriculum for Apple Computer,, SRI International, Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, National Semiconductor, National Public Television, and National Public Radio.

As a teacher, Tristan focused on turning learning into a truly active process, focusing on minimizing 'dead time', and maximizing 'engaged time.' Learning mathematics involves working with the tripod of SKILLS (both PAPER and MENTAL!), PROBLEM SOLVING, and CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING. Tristan 's teaching emphasizes deep, conceptual understanding in a problem solving environment rich in common sense and real-world examples. Skills are thus motivated in a natural way. He creates a culture of respect for all efforts and then guides students to develop strategies that will enhance their problem solving capacities for the rest of their lives.

Tristan hones his technology knowledge by managing a company called Core IT and founding a company called Our Home Spaces ( ) . Core IT provides outsourced Chief Technology Officer services to small businesses in the Bay Area, and Our Home Spaces provides point of use control for energy savings and home automation services using the Apple iPhone as the controlling platform.

Tristan holds an M.S. in mathematics from Tufts University and a California Single Subject Credential and has taught workshops and mathematics in elementary school, middle school, high school, college and private tutoring for 25 years.

Below is a link to an article that Tristan wrote in 2009 entitled Ten Steps to Better Student Engagement:

5-minute synopses from each school:
  • Norm Colb and Gabe Lucas, Menlo School
  • Joan Lonergan and Steve Taffee, Castilleja School
  • TBD, Woodside
  • TBD, Crystal Springs

Suggested conversation topics:
  • Castilleja
    • Administrative leadership in the 21st century. What can we do to model 21st century learning within AND beyond our school communities? Be sure to read this blog post titled, "Transparency=Leadership.">> (Matt Montagne)
    • School websites in the 21st century...shifting our websites from digitized versions of three panel brochures to a community story that highlights reflective learning (Matt Montagne)
    • The rising cost of tuition, our current economic crisis, and the advent of high quality distance learning opportunities present both threats and opportunities to independent schools. How do we embrace 21st century learning opportunities in a way that allows us to remain relevant, competitive, and unique in a changing landscape? (Taffee)
    • How might independent schools on the Peninsula cooperate with one another in addressing 21st century learning and teaching opportunities in which face-to-face relationships and proximity provide real advantages over virtual relationships? (Taffee)
    • I suspect we all face similar challenges when it comes to curriculum change and professional development. What's working? What's missing, that if it was present, would allow us to do a better job? Does coopetition in these areas make sense for us? (Taffee)
    • Parent 2.0 - What are we doing in our respective learning communities to bring parents up to speed so they can better support their children in a learning landscape that they may not be familiar with? (Matt Montagne)
  • Menlo
    • Hearing about specific case studies at other schools...i.e., instructional tech programs/plans that have been particular successful, or have struggled to achieve their goals (John Schafer)
    • 1:1 program...what are other schools planning? Will economic forces or rapid technological growth change our planning in as little as 1-2 years?
  • Woodside
  • Crystal Springs

Notes from disucssion:

Theme 1

  • Project orientation / integration
  • Using technology to change the focus of the classroom to a more interactive environment
  • Assessment practices that are project based / authentic
  • Presentation requirement for graduation, with components such as research, public speaking, collaborative learning
  • Focus on process and methodology, not answers
  • Scope and sequence is focused on rich tasks, authentic process, global components

Theme 2

  • Rethinking ideas of school libraries
  • Using technology for students and teachers to share and collaborate.
  • Twitter analogy: create environment for this kind of growth to occur
  • Balance skill versus utility (??)
  • Integration/shared curriculum: make this the norm, not the exception
  • Spontaneous learning opportunities

Theme 3

  • School architecture and design: constraint of thought/departments as separate "bins"; slowness to change
  • Educators need to work as those in other fields, where change is more highly embraced
  • Align/standardize the following: how teachers teach, students learn, and how we assess students
  • Take best of both worlds: depth of knowledge in departments, and collaboration from interdisciplinary projects
  • Undo the granularity of departments
  • Create physical closeness of teachers, sharing of space

Theme 4

  • Design thinking: connections to the real world; end with questions, not answers
  • Less focus on AP's
  • Devalue grades
  • Reflective learning
  • Consider the work of the Independent Curriculum Group
  • Differentiation (??)

Theme 5

  • Rewarding innovation: money, grants
  • Hiring with mission/philosophy in mind
  • Bringing in parents as advocates/partners: so that they don't see technology as the problem; bring them on campus (show, not tell); schools are prepared to receive help/gifts from parents; get buy-in from parents
  • Clearly defined end-goals
  • Leaders as examples: OK to experiment, fail; lead from top

Next steps

  • Start small: show simple examples of new ideas...get hooked teachers
  • Model new approaches as institutional leaders
  • Build infrastructure to support student collaboration
  • Create inter-school support groups that are topic-focused
  • Share professional development among multiple schools (speakers, innovation grants)
  • Create mid-peninsula virtual workspace
  • Think "K-8", even in high schools
  • Look at colleges and universities for examples
  • Moderation: don't try to change too much too fast
  • Meet again
  • Build inter-school network: think about external members (corporate, non-profit)
  • Support teachers who are ahead of the curve
  • Address the issue of 24/7 access: develop a plan, while the economy is down

Resources from meeting:

Independent School Educator's Network - Professional network of independent school faculty from all over the world. Matt will create a sub-group within this community for Mid-Penninsula teachers to join to support the virtual component of our interactions.

Independent Curriculum Group - Consortium of Independent schools in the US who have moved beyond the APs. Nanci Kauffman brought this up in our morning conversation.
  • The Mid-Peninsula Independent School Consortium Group has been created and may be accessed here . Please join and encourage others to do so as well!!