Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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Time to make choices

As I was a couple of weeks ago, I am feeling ambivalent about technology.

On one hand, I see the maturity and discipline of our Upper Schoolers with their digital devices. This morning I hosted a provocative conversation with our Spanish exchange students, who marveled at the ability of DA students to use their iPads and laptops productively and without distraction. "In our classes in Madrid," one told me, "no computers or phones are allowed and still we spend too much time talking and passing notes. Here most students have a phone in their pocket and a computer on their desk, but still they listen to their teachers as if the discussions really matter." 

On the other hand, an essay from Outside magazine has been bouncing around in my head all week:

"Reboot or Die Trying" - A star political blogger for Grist.org, David Roberts spent so much time posting and Tweeting and staring at screens that he almost went nuts. So he pulled the plug for a year, restarting his relationship with technology and actively seeking health, balance, and adventure in the real world. What he learned just might save you from meltdown. Click here to read the article. 

On the third hand (pictured above), I saw 12th Grader Mark Cohen's new Google-powered Moto 360 Watch. Last spring Mark was among a few thousand Google Glass Pioneers (here's my post about Mark's experiment). This week he bounded across campus to show me his new wearable computer and a few of its nifty tricks. Click the video above to see one of them. Mark's discerning approach to apps, tools, and devices gives me hope that the "digital natives" we teach can pick and choose wisely from a buffet that too often dizzies me and my contemporaries. 

On the fourth hand (offered by a Pre and Lower School Parent), I read with interest Wednesday's piece in The New York Times: "Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent." The article begins with the shocking (but in fact entirely predictable) declaration that many tech CEOs set severe limits on screen time for their own children. What follows is a series of more nuanced qualifications and caveats (so much depends on the age, the location, the device, the app, and the individual child). 

All these hands (whether typing, wringing, clapping, or slapping to frustrated heads) point me to the same conclusion: it is hard to make clear, informed, and disciplined choices about our tools and toys. Hard but unavoidable and essential.  


Posted by mulkus on Friday September, 12, 2014


Michael, Our conversation needs to be about how technology can add value to the learning and teaching community. Just adding technology in order to "keep up" is how schools end up with ineffective digital learning programs. Purpose is important as well as harnessing the wisdom of the adults who lead and teach students. Clay Shirky brings up some interesting points in this post. https://medium.com/@cshirky/why-i-just-asked-my-students-to-put-their-laptops-away-7f5f7c50f368  I value his opinion and see that his eveloution is worth considering as we march towards the future. I also know that people worried about students knowing how to write when the mimeograph and ball point pen came into existence. The telegraph was also seen as a waste of time as who needed to get news from Great Britian so fast. Forward with a purpose! 

from Karl Schaefer on 09/12/14 at 08:34PM
What does a happy, moral and productive person look like in 2014 (and beyond)? Can that not involve technology? Forget devices for a moment. Think of how our world has changed through technology in our daily lives. The automation of everything has given us many benefits along with a need to establish a healthy lifelong habit of exercise and fitness. We no longer get enough physical activity from our daily lives, we need to make time for it. At DA, we are committed to wellness as part of the education that happens on our campuses. From the time students enter in Pre-K, we work to foster a love of movement, activity, and health. Personally, I love that about our school. In 2014, "Digital Wellness" is as important as any other type of wellness we teach. Isn't it possible that people in our generation have developed these unhealthy digital habits because we did not have the benefit of learning how to make positive choices with technology from the adults in our lives? In my opinion, we have a responsibility to the next generation to put them in control of the digital tools that are a necessary part of their lives. Our students didn't invent multitasking, they were born into a world where it was already the norm. In my opinion, this is a discussion about wellness, literacy, and citizenship - not devices. 
from Michele Gutierrez on 09/17/14 at 11:43PM

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