When It Comes To New Technology, It’s About Engaging The Students

The use of technology in education has been a popular topic in educational circles and the media for the last few years. It is often a discussion based on extremes where one either believes that our students should abandon paper and traditional learning methods and tools completely in favour of a fully digital and connected educational experience or schools should shun technology completely for the safety and well-being of children who already spend far too much time using devices. As is often the case with extreme and conflicting points of view, the right path lies squarely in the middle.

I readily admit that as someone who experienced high school in the 1980s, I feel lucky to have actually witnessed and participated in the evolution of both television and computers from relative rarities to technologies people cannot live without. In high school my classmates would rush home after school so they could watch these wonderful new music videos for hours, arriving at school the next day to show off a new dance move, hair style, or single white glove! I spent my afternoons after school tinkering with the latest used computer I had managed to buy with my allowance and paper route money. I got the sense that while my parents did not fully understand my fascination with a useless (to them) computer, they were relieved that I was not ruining my life glued to the television watching music videos that were destroying society as they knew it.

Television and music videos did not destroy society and result in a lost generation. What did happen is parents (and educators) became aware and engaged in what the children were watching. Parents set limits and had conversations about what their children saw. Educators realized that because newer forms of media engaged children, that some of this same media could be leveraged for educational purposes. The world continued to spin and life progressed. The “good old days” were only good in the old days.  Society progresses and changes and going backwards is neither possible nor desirable. Human beings make mistakes. Better to learn from mistakes when students are young and have supportive, responsible teachers around to guide them rather than trying to learn from mistakes as an adult where the consequences can be far-reaching and difficult to mitigate.

Technology in school is not a passing fad. Technology is just one of many tools that teachers here at Mentor College and TEAM School use every day to guide our students to success. The ability for our students and teachers to use digital tools will continue to increase in importance with every passing year. Some argue that technology in our classrooms creates student distraction. The solution back in the good old days when students passed notes as a form of distraction was not to ban paper, so why would we even consider banning technology?

Technology does not replace teaching, rather it augments it. We have an exceptional group of educators in our schools who invest their time and efforts into helping your children become the exceptional young adults they all have the potential to be. We believe that the thoughtful, meaningful, and appropriate use of technology in our classrooms will ensure your child reaches his or her full potential.

Mark Sheward
Technology Resource
Mentor College/TEAM School

A Phoneless India

The moment I tell people I travelled halfway across the world to Udaipur, India, the first question I get asked is “So, did you have WiFi?” – to which I shortly respond with “No.” And yet, this answer so dry and simple always shocks them. “What did you do? How did you text people?” Well, that one is easy. I didn’t text people, nor did I have the burning urge to all day long. I was 11,462 km away from home, surrounded by an entirely new culture, with nothing but my camera, best friends, and curiosity by my side. Why would I need my phone?

Not being able to use my phone for two weeks turned out to be a much easier task than I had previously expected. Before going to India, I was petrified of not having my phone. I mean, my parents couldn’t call me on my birthday, I couldn’t text all of my teammates and friends with the latest gossip, and I couldn’t fall asleep scrolling through the Instagram explore page. Going on my phone turned into part of my daily routine, and I honestly thought that I needed my phone to survive, but I was very wrong. I can truly say that I didn’t miss my phone at all, and even when I was granted certain opportunities to use it, I opted not to.

There were so many wonderful experiences in India that I feel like I would have missed out on if I had my phone. For example, every day we would have some down time to do whatever we wanted before dinner, whether it was playing cricket, showering, or talking with friends. I always took this opportunity to lie in the grass, write in my journal, and have some great laughs with my friends. I know for a fact that if phones were to be introduced into that scenario, that free time probably would have been much different. With that being said, however, I honestly don’t think any of us missed our phones all that much. Yash Pujari, another student on the trip, even said “I didn’t really notice that [my phone] was gone.” And that was the truth. Once the surrounding culture, unique people and breathtaking scenery engulfed you, there was no need to be on your phone. I feel as if I can speak on behalf of the entire group when I say this, but because we were in India for such a short period of time, any time on our phones would have been a wasted opportunity.

Even after coming home from India, I noticed a huge change in regards to my dependency on my cell phone. I mean, sure, I still use it to text my friends, but I do not need it like I did in the past. I feel as if now it is much easier to put my phone away for long periods of time, as I don’t have the urge to check up on what has happened in the past two minutes of someone’s life. It is almost as if I can see the futility in cell phones now, as there is so much of the world that I can finally see now that I moved my iPhone screen out of the way. Thus, as my time in India was probably two of the happiest weeks of my life, it also taught me an important lesson to experience the world more and be engulfed in technology less. So, I guess I will leave you with a challenge. I challenge you to put your phone away for two weeks, and see what happens as a result. Did you notice things you never have before? Did you find yourself talking to more people? Did you finish your work faster? Did you realize that you are not as dependent on your phone as you thought you were?

Sierra LeBlanc
Grade 11 Student

Wrong Site? Feels Right!

I think it was 2003 when a family joined our school. Within a few days, the mom of the family and Mrs. Starkey found themselves with a similar daily routine and it was discovered that their family had two girls in the same grades as we did (JK and Grade 3). Friendships developed with all of the members of the two families and one evening during a social gathering, I asked my favourite question: “So why did you decide to come to our school?”

As it turned out, they liked Mrs. Philbrook and Mr. Macdonald (who was the vice-principal at Primary at the time) and they got a good feeling from the teachers they met at the Open House. They had already decided that they wanted a private school education and they had heard about the school’s excellent reputation from friends in the community.

The clincher for them? When they came for their pre-assessment interview, they mistakenly arrived at the Main Campus. They walked into the front lobby and (expecting to see little children) were surprised to see Grade 12 students at the tables there. Without being asked, one of the students asked “Can I help you?” and after realizing that they were in the wrong building, the student offered to walk them over to the Primary Campus. The conversation during that walk across the field had the parents saying later “If that student is typical of Mentor teenagers, this is the place we want our girls to be, too!”

Since 1981, our best “advertising” for the school has always been our students, families and staff. At our Open House on Saturday morning, we once again learned that 90% of the families at our Open House and Entrance Assessment already have a connection to the school through a colleague, neighbour, friend, or family member. Thank you for your continued support of Mentor College and TEAM School.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

Mobile Distraction

I was at a seminar for educators a few years ago when the facilitator handed out a piece of paper with a picture of a parking lot on it. She encouraged everyone to turn off their cell phones and place them in one of the spots in the “parking lot”. Whenever we had an urge to use our phone for some reason, she asked us to write it in one of parking spots and once the parking lot was “full” we could go out into the hallway (with our phones) to empty the lot. It was only a 2 hour seminar but at least 5 people had to leave for “parking lot duty”! I thought it was a good move by the presenter and I felt sorry for the people who could not go 120 minutes without their phone.

This dependency on mobile devices is now getting people fired from their jobs. One of the career choices our students make is in the field of accounting and I am encouraging these students to apply for a job at Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) after university. This is the firm who has been entrusted with the voting process at the Academy Awards for almost a century and as was discovered after the incorrect “Best Picture” award was given out, PwC managing partner Brian Cullinan (pictured) was on his phone and tweeting backstage during the ceremony. Our grads can say during their interview, “If you contact my reference, Mr. Macdonald, he will confirm that I know how to work without needing my phone!”

Because I have been at the school for so long, I do not know what it is like to have a cell phone out all of the time at work. I don’t know what workplaces in “the real world” do with respect to cell phone use but I can’t imagine employees pulling out their phones to answer a text in the middle of a presentation by the boss! I do know that the keywords for technology in both the classroom and the real world are “appropriate use”. At our schools, students who are found using a cell phone during the school day must surrender it immediately and must also meet with the divisional principal to see if further action is necessary. We believe that school (which is the equivalent of the workplace for students) is a place where the distractions of a phone far outweigh its benefits. I wonder (with the benefit of hindsight) if @briancullinan_ would agree?

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

Mentor/TEAM: A Truly Collaborative Environment

At the recent awards assembly for the Mentor grade 7/8 science fair, the science teachers congratulated the students on their ideas that were so inspirational, and encouraged them to realize the impact they can have to make something better, and to make a difference in the world. The teachers also helped the students recall the number of people involved in the process of completing their science fair project and recall the moments of collaboration among their peers, their teachers, and the parental support from the start of the project through to the final day of competition.

As the school Director, I have the privilege of seeing our students on a daily basis, and each week while spending time at all 3 campuses of TEAM and Mentor, I witness firsthand the many accomplishments of our students. While working with our students, we certainly celebrate their moments of success, but we also observe our students demonstrate their growing maturity and personal development as we provide guidance in the handling of the situations and experiences in their young lives. As teachers and administrators, we enjoy a tremendous sense of pride in our students; though it is on a professional level, it is akin to the pride of a parent.

Our students have been involved in numerous activities where we see evidence of them making a difference in their world, whether locally or internationally, either now or in the future. During this past very busy term, our students have also been enthusiastic participants in so many activities. We have seen them achieve excellent results in both individual and group activities in academic pursuits and academic competition, in interest activities, and we have also celebrated their achievements in the athletic arena.

Thank you parents for attending Speech Night, the Celebration of Cultural Diversity, Science Fair, sport games, and for enthusiastically encouraging the students in Deca, OEC trips, SK 100s day, TEAM Hoops for Heart, participation in the arts, play auditions, community activities like TAG and Habitat, the preparation for the India and the England/Iceland trips, student organized conferences, Intermediate Carnival and Primary French plays, and all of the many other second term activities.

Students, we urge you to enjoy your March Break holiday in whatever manner will assist you to re-charge and re-set, and to prepare for the next and final term of this academic year.
Parents, we thank you for your support to our students, our teachers, and to our schools.
This truly is a collaborative environment where we work together toward the best achievement and success of our students, as we witness their strides to make a difference in the world.
We wish you an enjoyable March Break and look forward to everyone’s safe return on Monday, March 27th.

Chuck Macdonald
Director
Mentor College/TEAM School