Clear Creek Amana Middle School

"Home of the Clippers"

The mission of the Clear Creek Amana Community School District is to prepare students to be productive, responsible, community members by providing an environment that inspires quality life-long learning.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Technology, Engagement, and Passion!


About a month ago we had five or six Clear Creek Amana Middle School students, a teacher- Sandi Zimmerman, and a GWAEA Technology Consultant- Stacy Behmer present information to our school board. You see this group of incoming 8th graders had recently been part of a class that Sandi Zimmerman and Stacy Behmer co-taught. The class focused on technology, specifically learning to use and apply the suite of Google Applications. The presentations focus was on asking the school board to consider purchasing laptops for our middle school. The presentation was done almost entirely by the students and utilized multiple technology applications. Above all the kids spoke from the heart and the presentation was excellent!

A couple of weeks ago our school board had another meeting. One of the agenda items was to take action on approving the purchase of 100 laptop computers for our middle school. I'm very appreciative and thankful to report that the school board approved this purchase.

The laptops will be distributed throughout the three middle school grades. Each grade level team will have access to one laptop cart of 30 or so machines. We also have created a new core class this year called 21st Century Writing. The writing teachers at the three grade levels will be asked to not only teach the 6+1 Traits of Writing but they will also be asked to teach and incorporate technology skills into their daily lessons. The plan is that the grade level teams of teachers will work cooperatively to determine what 21st Century Technology skills the students are taught at each grade level. To learn more about the 21st Century Technology Skills click here. Additionally our teachers are going to create more lessons that utilize technology.

As a principal I not only want students to learn but I also want them to be engaged and passionate about their learning. Almost every day in the summer months I wake up at 5:30 AM and head to the golf course for a quick 9 holes before I head into the office. Golf has been a passion of mine since I was probably 4 or 5 years old. As a kid it was nothing for me to play 45 holes of golf or more in a day. My point is when you are passionate about something you seem to always have the energy and drive to do whatever it is you are passionate about. Heck I walked 9 holes in the rain yesterday and couldn't have been happier!

When I walk through our classrooms (which I do quite often) I see great kids! The kids are respectful and fairly engaged in whatever the class is currently focusing on. But when I walk into a classroom that is utilizing different forms of technology I always see nearly 100% engagement! It's no secret that our students are more technologically savvy then most adults. For example when I got my new Blackberry within five minutes I did something to it that caused it to go into the "standby mode." I'm sure many of you know that feeling. I panicked for a moment then remembered that it was lunchtime in the cafeteria. So I took my phone out into the cafeteria and a student not only fixed it for me but also taught me how to use it.

Most of our students use multiple forms of technology within their personal lives. The students communicate often through social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and they often choose to text each other rather than make a phone call. I believe that one of my focuses as a principal is to work on ways to better engage our students. It's clear to me that using technology as a tool to deliver quality instruction will, in most if not all cases, improve the student engagement! Having students engaged and passionate about what they are learning creates the best learning environment for all of us!

We also plan to develop a student led technology support staff. The idea is that our own students will do a lot of the technical support and troubleshooting with our machines. Again, I have no problem giving our students this sort of responsibility. I have no doubt that our students will rise to the occasion and not only fix our problems but also teach many of us how to solve our own technology issues.

So next year at Clear Creek Amana Middle School our students will have an opportunity to learn and teach others about some very useful technology tools. I'm quite certain that many of us will probably learn more from the kids then they will learn from us. My true hope is that we all will find a renewed sense of engagement and passion for learning!

I will close for now as it has cleared up a little and I hear one of my passions calling. Yeah it may still rain a little but when you are doing something you love you really don't notice!

Please feel free to comment and I hope that you all are able to enjoy some of the activities that you are passionate about this summer!

Take care,


  1. Brad:

    This is EXCELLENT! I don't feel we can do enough to make good/constructive use of technology and prepare our kids for the future so they're as on top of and ahead of the game as they can be in this area. It's great to be embracing communication technology/social media to make good helpful use out of it, rather than it being thought of as just a distraction to kids lives, which of course, it certainly can be. But it's important for us as parents and teachers to be modeling and teaching how to use it for the great tool that it can be.

    Have you considered creating a middle school presence on Facebook (a "group page") that can be an included means of communication to students and parents? That is my daughter's primary means of communication these days as is becoming ours. (that and text messaging.) But everything in the world could be on there, from linking to your blog post, to daily announcements, to encouraging words to students for the day,historical trivia for fun, to lunch menus, weather notices, pictures, - everything. It's a great tool. Obviously not all families are using it yet so it can't be exclusive information - but it can sure be incentive for for more and more parents/families catching on. Obviously there is some need for how it is used by kids in school during school hours, but in terms of it being a viable means for communication between the school, kids, and parents, I'm ALL for it. I'm seeing this happen in some other districts and it's very cool. Even with separate activities and teachers having their own FB pages for individual classes. For example, at my old HS, the band director has a FB page for band where he posts all sorts of information, including use of it to just daily encourage the kids not only for band events, practices, but also just in their daily lives and things they're dealing with. It's very cool.

    - John Carlson

  2. Thanks John! I have thought about having a page on Facebook. It is something that I would like to do this year. I think all of your comments are right on...

    Thanks for commenting,