ATLIS Reads 2021-2022 Preview and Planning

ATLIS Reads is a community of thought readers who lead technology in the independent schools. Here we make plans for the coming year and discuss the first three questions in 9 BIG Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going "Back to Normal" (*Because Normal Wasn't that Great to Begin With from The BIG Questions Institute. -- SD [15-minute read; 30-minute video]

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VIDEO ARCHIVE
ATLIS Reads Preview and Planning
July 14, 2021 

DISCUSSION SUMMARY: 9 BIG Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going "Back to Normal" (*Because Normal Wasn't that Great to Begin With) from The BIG Questions Institute

This book feels really relevant at this point in time. We feel that pull to get back to “normal” -- and it is very strong. In a certain sense, this book needs to be front and center for our schools. One reader mentioned that her school’s leaders are being really cautious about using the phrase “back to normal,” because normal was broken. They are using the phrase "more familiar times" instead. This care with language may signal an important change, but is the school asking the right questions about what is familiar and comfortable as well?

9 BIG Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going "Back to Normal" (*Because Normal Wasn't that Great to Begin With) from The BIG Questions Institute will form the backbone of ATLIS Reads for 2021-2022.

As schools have shifted to “active recovery” mode, it seems that they may have taken their eyes off what might have been learned from the past year. There’s a worry that any improvements that evolved over the past year and a half will take a back seat now -- to much needed rest and recovery, and then logistics for whatever comes next.

Question #1: Whis Is Sacred?

In a way, the pandemic was a way for the independent school market to show how it differs from the public school environment. Post-COVID, are schools really making the most of this? If we look at Question #1, for instance, we might ask, “Is the traditional school schedule sacred?” Have we learned more about being intentional about how we gather?

Schedules

How have school schedules evolved for the better as a result of the pandemic?

Moving advisory to early in the day as a way to have a softer “opening” for those who can think and perform better for classes that are scheduled later.

Gathering Virtually

Schools are considering what to keep as asynchronous and/or virtual. For instance,

  • Grade-level meetings (advisories F2F joining virtually as a larger group)
  • Parent-teacher conferences 
  • Virtual open houses

If schools are considering the bigger picture of what to keep from what we learned about gathering in virtual spaces, are these conversations being coordinated or are they happening in pockets? Are school leaders asking the right questions? Are technology leaders so much in the weeds themselves that they aren’t able to pursue why things are being done they way they are?

This question of how we come together is at the heart of Priya Parker’s Art of Gathering, which was suggested as a book choice for reading later this year.

Question #2 What Is Learning?
Revisiting the Hybrid Model

Of the three modes of teaching -- F2F, online/distance, and hybrid --  hybrid was pretty universally considered the most challenging for everyone. How will we learn from this experience going forward? For instance, what will we do if we are required to quarantine into the future?

One lesson learned was that blended learning is different from hybrid. With this in mind, one school decided to conduct school in a virtual space or in person but not hybrid, which puts a strain on everyone. 

We also learned that quality asynchronous online instruction and learning can be really good, if done correctly. There are ways learners can really thrive when learning in this way. 

Question #3 Where Is the Power?

This question is supremely important. What do we really mean when we say "voice and choice"? The tendency is definitely towards giving voice rather than choice. And this is driven more than ever by societal and parental pressures for everyone to get into the top schools for college. Are we becoming a totally homogenous society where students will move from point A to point B -- and point B is just one option?

Yet, one independent school lists as one of its core values, “We believe high school should not be a race to college.” We need to give kids room to learn the fun stuff. Teachers too.

Format Changes for ATLIS Reads

  • We will transition from a “seminar” format to a “book group” format and will include both virtual synchronous discussions as well as asynchronous “slow reading” options on Twitter; the summer book choice for 2022 will be conducted as a summer-long “slow read.”
  • The book group will now be free and open to all, similar to ATLIS Virtual Town Halls, but with a more structured focus. If you are new to ATLIS Reads, you can register one time using this form -- and you will be invited to all future events.

ATLIS Reads Programming for 2021-2022

Thanks to Holly Gerla, Charles Wright School, WA; Justin Hermanek, Alexander Dawson School, NV; Jennifer Mehra, The Blake School, MN; Stacey Tippins, The Madeira School, VA; and Vinnie Vrotny, The Kinkaid School, TX, for helping ATLIS design a book group to provide value that meets the needs of the community.

Theme: Rethinking What Matters

With this theme in mind, 9 BIG Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going "Back to Normal" (*Because Normal Wasn't that Great to Begin With)from The Big Questions Institute will form the backbone of ATLIS Reads for 2021-2022.

Reading Selections for 2021-2022

Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway

  • Introductory Discussion: Kwaku Aning, San Diego Jewish School, CA 
    September 29 at 3 pm Eastern

  • Wrap-Up Discussion: Conversation leader TBD
    January 26, 3 pm Eastern

We invite readers to discuss the first half of the book (roughly though p. 80); we also welcome anyone who may be curious about the book’s focus and topics. We welcome discussion of 9 BIG Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going "Back to Normal" (*Because Normal Wasn't that Great to Begin With) as well, especially regarding questions #3-8.

We will wrap up discussion of the book and revisit 9 BIG Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going "Back to Normal" (*Because Normal Wasn't that Great to Begin With) from The Big Questions Institute, in particular Question #9: What’s Next? which references Post Corona in its resources.

Ongoing asynchronous discussions about Post Corona will continue slow reading style* through January via #ATLISReads on Twitter as well as on the online ATLIS Community, Access Points.

9 BIG Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going "Back to Normal" (*Because Normal Wasn't that Great to Begin With from The BIG Questions Institute

  • What's Next? Conversation Leader TBD
    March 23, 3 pm

This meeting will be devoted to what we have learned from 9 BIG Questions as we have continued to wrestle with the many disruptions and ongoing challenges of leading technology in schools. What are the questions that we want to dig into that we may have given less attention to in our earlier discussions? What are the books we want to read together to challenge our thinking and help us lead our schools into the future? In this meeting of ATLIS Reads, we will also choose a summer reading selection, which will be conducted as a “slow read” from May through August, as well as a focus and possible selections for the year ahead.

*As we understand it, the slow reading movement is a bit like the slow food movement. Translated to our circumstances, that means slowing down the reading selected for the year and reading it in chunks, while also encouraging readers to engage in thinking about the book as we go along using #ATLISReads on Twitter and the ATLIS online community at Access Points.

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