A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

TRANSCRIPT
Join Upper School Computer Science Department Chair and Teacher Ash Hansberry, Middle School Computer Science Teacher Bobby Oommen and Lower School Computer Science and Technology Integration Specialist Fiona Deeney for a discussion about how computer science is integrated into classroom activities at Latin and why it's important to adapt to technological changes in today's the world.

Ash Hansberry: I’m Ash Hansberry and I am an upper school computer science teacher. I am also the Department Chair for the Computer Science Department. 

Bobby Oommen: I'm Bobby Oommen, middle school computer science teacher.

Fiona Deeney: I'm Fiona Deeney, the lower school computer science and technology integration specialist.

What is an example of a computer science exercise taking place in the classroom?

Deeney: One of the examples of the projects that we are doing with the second graders right now, they're in the middle of a social studies unit where they're learning about the states and it was trying to figure out a way to incorporate some of their activities that they're doing in art with learning organic lines. And then also with something that they could do with technology. They worked with a 3D printing program, and first of all, worked with shapes that they were using in math. They were using geometric shapes. One example I had them do was think about a two-dimensional shape, such as a triangle, and then using the 3D printing app to turn that into a three-dimensional shape. So they turned that triangle into a pyramid. They had to think about what that looks like as you change the shape. They're also thinking about how the program works, that it's not magic. It doesn't go from using this 3D printing app to just coming out of a machine that that's being sent to the machine. And this is how it builds the shape. So they worked with a geometric shape and then move that into a three-dimensional shape. The next step they did was learn about organic lines. They were learning about it in art, and then we were using the free design draw, the free drawing tool in the app to think about drawing different shapes of things that they might find in nature. And then the connection with the social studies unit then is that after they did those two projects, then they had to think about how they could draw the state that they were studying and then what they would add to it to make it have a three-dimensional design. So they drew the outline of their shape using the free drawing tool, unless they have a great state like Colorado and they lucked out. They were really happy when they found that out, but then they also added some different components, some natural parts of the land that maybe on there. The students that did Hawaii were able to add different layers into the design that they made. And then we've been 3D printing those for them to look at and sort of see the comparison of what those seats look like. 

Oommen: So briefly in the middle school, one of the ways that we integrate computer science and computational thinking into an art class is Mr. Harris talks to the seventh graders about color theory and, and how the color wheel is organized and how colors are coordinated together. So I come in and ask them, well, this is great. You've got color. How would a computer that operates on ones and zeros represent color? And so I give them a little magnifying glass and they look up on their their screens and they're able to see these red, green and blue lights that are actually put together. And they're like RGB red, green, blue. We've been talking about additive and subtractive colors and how those work together to make all these different colors that we're aware of. So then we talk about how computers are using that same idea now in turning a red light on, I can turn a red light on with a computer and I can turn it off. And so we combine those ideas into a larger project where they paint some of the colors and then they use a computer to recreate some of the shapes, print those shapes out, put them in addition to their painted colors. And now they've understood color theory from both from the computer's perspective, as well as just their art perspective.

I would say really quickly as well, in seventh grade social studies, we recently had a new unit on artificial intelligence. So one of their culminating projects was how can AI be used to help in the Syrian refugee and refugee crises in general. And so they talked about how AI incorporates things like representation and reasoning, human interaction vision. And so we talked about these different things. And so students came up with different possible ways that AI could help those crises. And so again, just helping them see how we can now incorporate some of these things into larger, you know, worldwide problems. 

Hansberry: The example that I had in mind for the upper school actually touches on that idea of big worldwide problems as well. By the time students are in the upper school, they've done a lot of connecting computer science to their science classes, to their math classes, to their art classes, even, which is so awesome. And so by the time they're in the upper school, we like to take it one step further and have the students both how they can use computational tools to study different subjects, but then how they can also make their own tools to study different subjects. So we have a unit in computer science principles where we use NetLogo. NetLogo is a program that students can use to make simulations and models. And so we start off in that unit and the students can look at models about all sorts of things, and we make a point to make sure that students look at models, not just about science or not just about math, but we look at models about historical population growth, or we look at a model about segregation and see how a community becomes segregated based on individual's preferences. And so we're able to talk about how does this computational model allow us to better understand our world? You know, they can make connections to the problems they're seeing in history or to things they've read in English class. And then for their final project, that unit, they make a model of their own. And I've seen students make models on everything from students looking at climate change to students trying to model traffic in the cafeteria here at Latin a to students trying to model Coronavirus and how it changed people's movement around the city. And so they're able to apply it to basically whatever subject they have interest in. 

Why is it important to adapt to technology changes in the world? 

Hansberry: I think this is a great question because technology clearly changes so quickly. I think we're all aware of new technology, whether it's phones, apps, websites, it's clearly a part of everyone's day to day life. And so it's increasingly true that in order to function in the world, you need to have some amount of technology knowledge. But what I think is even more important is to have the skills to keep up with that technology. And that's something that I think we do a good job of by teaching computational thinking skills. So not only do our students get to use all of these tools, they get exposure to lots of different apps to different programming languages, but we're really focused on teaching them the skills that will help them keep up with it in the future. So no matter what app we teach them or what programming language we teach them, there's going to be something new by the time they're out of our class. And there's definitely going to be something new by the time they're in college, or they're looking for a job someday, but what's not going to be new is those core computational thinking skills, they're going to continue to apply. No matter what technology there is, the kids are going to be able to use their skills and well, let's take that technology and break it down. What are the instructions that this technology is following? Where is it getting its data? You know, what are the inputs and outputs that are going to this technology? So the skills that we give them to take care of whatever technology we see today is going to benefit them with the technology of tomorrow as well. And it's going to make sure that they're set up for whatever changes keep coming their way. 

Oommen: So one of the reasons why I think it's also important to adapt to technology changes in the world is in the ways in which it affects us in the way that we live life in policy, in so many things. So going back to that AI unit, we talked about algorithmic bias and similar to what Ash referred to. So where is this data coming from for this AI? Why could AI recognize white faces and not recognize black faces? Why did this AI, when it was processing, whether a person blinked, could recognize white people blinking, but not Asian people? And so talking about how, you know, this can feed into different ways where it it's not just bias, but then all of a sudden it becomes discrimination. And so how can our students be aware of how the technology can be used and where they need to be thinking about this tool can benefit everyone and avoid the mistakes that you know different policies and things have made in the past. 

Deeney: Bobby, with the discussion you're talking about AI, we have just a lighter version of those discussions in the younger grades. Something that I've had to discuss with the third graders was that we were using Google quick draw, which uses machine learning as behind it. And they were amazed thatvit could solve what they were drawing so quickly, but they also very quickly went into a discussion about if you are tricking the system enough that like what is a negative outcome that potentially it could have for a tool like that. Then what that extends to in larger world issues that we have to be aware of where the data is coming from. And then also how we use the data to determine what tools are useful. And then also that that's where things can go in a direction that the tool was not necessarily made for. And that we have to be aware of that.

Podcast

  • Academics
  • lower school
  • middle school
  • Podcast
  • upper school
Computer Science at Latin: CS in the Classroom (Part 2)

TRANSCRIPT
Join Upper School Computer Science Department Chair and Teacher Ash Hansberry, Middle School Computer Science Teacher Bobby Oommen and Lower School Computer Science and Technology Integration Specialist Fiona Deeney for a discussion about how computer science is integrated into classroom activities at Latin and why it's important to adapt to technological changes in today's the world.

Ash Hansberry: I’m Ash Hansberry and I am an upper school computer science teacher. I am also the Department Chair for the Computer Science Department. 

Bobby Oommen: I'm Bobby Oommen, middle school computer science teacher.

Fiona Deeney: I'm Fiona Deeney, the lower school computer science and technology integration specialist.

What is an example of a computer science exercise taking place in the classroom?

Deeney: One of the examples of the projects that we are doing with the second graders right now, they're in the middle of a social studies unit where they're learning about the states and it was trying to figure out a way to incorporate some of their activities that they're doing in art with learning organic lines. And then also with something that they could do with technology. They worked with a 3D printing program, and first of all, worked with shapes that they were using in math. They were using geometric shapes. One example I had them do was think about a two-dimensional shape, such as a triangle, and then using the 3D printing app to turn that into a three-dimensional shape. So they turned that triangle into a pyramid. They had to think about what that looks like as you change the shape. They're also thinking about how the program works, that it's not magic. It doesn't go from using this 3D printing app to just coming out of a machine that that's being sent to the machine. And this is how it builds the shape. So they worked with a geometric shape and then move that into a three-dimensional shape. The next step they did was learn about organic lines. They were learning about it in art, and then we were using the free design draw, the free drawing tool in the app to think about drawing different shapes of things that they might find in nature. And then the connection with the social studies unit then is that after they did those two projects, then they had to think about how they could draw the state that they were studying and then what they would add to it to make it have a three-dimensional design. So they drew the outline of their shape using the free drawing tool, unless they have a great state like Colorado and they lucked out. They were really happy when they found that out, but then they also added some different components, some natural parts of the land that maybe on there. The students that did Hawaii were able to add different layers into the design that they made. And then we've been 3D printing those for them to look at and sort of see the comparison of what those seats look like. 

Oommen: So briefly in the middle school, one of the ways that we integrate computer science and computational thinking into an art class is Mr. Harris talks to the seventh graders about color theory and, and how the color wheel is organized and how colors are coordinated together. So I come in and ask them, well, this is great. You've got color. How would a computer that operates on ones and zeros represent color? And so I give them a little magnifying glass and they look up on their their screens and they're able to see these red, green and blue lights that are actually put together. And they're like RGB red, green, blue. We've been talking about additive and subtractive colors and how those work together to make all these different colors that we're aware of. So then we talk about how computers are using that same idea now in turning a red light on, I can turn a red light on with a computer and I can turn it off. And so we combine those ideas into a larger project where they paint some of the colors and then they use a computer to recreate some of the shapes, print those shapes out, put them in addition to their painted colors. And now they've understood color theory from both from the computer's perspective, as well as just their art perspective.

I would say really quickly as well, in seventh grade social studies, we recently had a new unit on artificial intelligence. So one of their culminating projects was how can AI be used to help in the Syrian refugee and refugee crises in general. And so they talked about how AI incorporates things like representation and reasoning, human interaction vision. And so we talked about these different things. And so students came up with different possible ways that AI could help those crises. And so again, just helping them see how we can now incorporate some of these things into larger, you know, worldwide problems. 

Hansberry: The example that I had in mind for the upper school actually touches on that idea of big worldwide problems as well. By the time students are in the upper school, they've done a lot of connecting computer science to their science classes, to their math classes, to their art classes, even, which is so awesome. And so by the time they're in the upper school, we like to take it one step further and have the students both how they can use computational tools to study different subjects, but then how they can also make their own tools to study different subjects. So we have a unit in computer science principles where we use NetLogo. NetLogo is a program that students can use to make simulations and models. And so we start off in that unit and the students can look at models about all sorts of things, and we make a point to make sure that students look at models, not just about science or not just about math, but we look at models about historical population growth, or we look at a model about segregation and see how a community becomes segregated based on individual's preferences. And so we're able to talk about how does this computational model allow us to better understand our world? You know, they can make connections to the problems they're seeing in history or to things they've read in English class. And then for their final project, that unit, they make a model of their own. And I've seen students make models on everything from students looking at climate change to students trying to model traffic in the cafeteria here at Latin a to students trying to model Coronavirus and how it changed people's movement around the city. And so they're able to apply it to basically whatever subject they have interest in. 

Why is it important to adapt to technology changes in the world? 

Hansberry: I think this is a great question because technology clearly changes so quickly. I think we're all aware of new technology, whether it's phones, apps, websites, it's clearly a part of everyone's day to day life. And so it's increasingly true that in order to function in the world, you need to have some amount of technology knowledge. But what I think is even more important is to have the skills to keep up with that technology. And that's something that I think we do a good job of by teaching computational thinking skills. So not only do our students get to use all of these tools, they get exposure to lots of different apps to different programming languages, but we're really focused on teaching them the skills that will help them keep up with it in the future. So no matter what app we teach them or what programming language we teach them, there's going to be something new by the time they're out of our class. And there's definitely going to be something new by the time they're in college, or they're looking for a job someday, but what's not going to be new is those core computational thinking skills, they're going to continue to apply. No matter what technology there is, the kids are going to be able to use their skills and well, let's take that technology and break it down. What are the instructions that this technology is following? Where is it getting its data? You know, what are the inputs and outputs that are going to this technology? So the skills that we give them to take care of whatever technology we see today is going to benefit them with the technology of tomorrow as well. And it's going to make sure that they're set up for whatever changes keep coming their way. 

Oommen: So one of the reasons why I think it's also important to adapt to technology changes in the world is in the ways in which it affects us in the way that we live life in policy, in so many things. So going back to that AI unit, we talked about algorithmic bias and similar to what Ash referred to. So where is this data coming from for this AI? Why could AI recognize white faces and not recognize black faces? Why did this AI, when it was processing, whether a person blinked, could recognize white people blinking, but not Asian people? And so talking about how, you know, this can feed into different ways where it it's not just bias, but then all of a sudden it becomes discrimination. And so how can our students be aware of how the technology can be used and where they need to be thinking about this tool can benefit everyone and avoid the mistakes that you know different policies and things have made in the past. 

Deeney: Bobby, with the discussion you're talking about AI, we have just a lighter version of those discussions in the younger grades. Something that I've had to discuss with the third graders was that we were using Google quick draw, which uses machine learning as behind it. And they were amazed thatvit could solve what they were drawing so quickly, but they also very quickly went into a discussion about if you are tricking the system enough that like what is a negative outcome that potentially it could have for a tool like that. Then what that extends to in larger world issues that we have to be aware of where the data is coming from. And then also how we use the data to determine what tools are useful. And then also that that's where things can go in a direction that the tool was not necessarily made for. And that we have to be aware of that.

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Join director of college counseling Alexandra Fields to learn more about test-optional admissions to colleges and universities.

TRANSCRIPT

Intro - Alexandra Fields (00:14):
There's a lot of anxiety around the move away from standardized testing. This feels like a massive shift in our community. Students who have parents or guardians who went to college, the test scores meant a lot when those parents or guardians applied to college. And so to think about how schools are evaluating students, without that data point can be very overwhelming and mysterious and scary for students and families. Spending months and months preparing to try and bring that ACT score up a point versus really, you know, acing your way through second semester, Junior year, taking the time to write a really thoughtful essay when you're thinking about bang for your buck, it is easier for us now to say that the latter choice of focusing on academics and focusing on your writing is probably going to get you further in the college process. And that is a big relief for many of our students and families. A lot of research has also been done to explore the ways that standardized tests are quite biased. They are very racially biased. They were created for a white student population taking them. And there's an entire fascinating, very upsetting history of how the SAT actually historically has been used to keep underrepresented folks out of education.

Alexandra Fields (01:52):
I'm Alexandra Fields and I am director of college counseling at Latin. Test optional, it's something that has gotten much more press and has been in the news a lot and it has been on people's minds more during the pandemic, but it actually is something that has existed long before the pandemic. And the pandemic has just accelerated and popularized test-optional policies. So basically what a test-optional policy means is that a student does not need to submit standardized test scores to be considered for admission. And so that would be the ACT, the SAT, AP scores. And these don't exist anymore, but they used to, and you might have heard of SAT subject tests or SAT 2s. None of those are required for admission. And schools, there are schools who have been practicing test-optional admissions policies for years, and the reason that many schools have taken this move is because there's a lot of really great research out there that shows that the standardized tests are just simply not the best way of measuring a student's potential to be successful on a college campus.

(03:12):
The transcript is actually the best indicator of that. And a lot of research has also been done to explore the ways that standardized tests are quite biased. They are very racially biased. They were created for a white student population taking them, and there's an entire fascinating, very upsetting history of how the SAT actually historically has been used to keep underrepresented folks out of education. They're also biased in that when we think about resources, Latin is very lucky. We have a test prep course that students can just sign up for and take. And it's a part of their tuition here. Many students and families have the resources to engage in tutoring. Even if they don't, they have a college counselor who's counseling them on when to take the tests and how often to take the tests, and what scores they need for certain institutions.

(04:12):
And so all of this means that those scores aren't just representative of a student's, you know, intellectual capability, they're representative of a lot more than that. And so schools began to realize if we are genuinely interested in creating an equitable admissions process, if we are genuinely interested in building a diverse student body in all senses of that term, we can't rely heavily on the standardized test score. So Latin students are impacted by this change in a few ways. The first, we'll say is that the vast majority of Latin students still sit for the ACT or the SAT at least once. And we recommend that they do. And the reason that we advise this is because many students do very well. And even when a school is test-optional, a strong test score is only going to help them in the process. And so most students take a shot at it.

(05:13):
The difference is students tend to not take the ACT or the SAT quite as many times as they had in the past. Maybe a student who realizes, "This is just not where I shine. I get extremely anxious. I have a terrible time with test taking, and I know no matter what prep I do, this is never going to be the strongest part of my application." A lot of times those students will take it once or twice and say, "I'm done," because they realize that they don't need it necessarily. They realize that they can still be a compelling candidate for an admission without that testing. So we have seen students testing a bit less. We also, some of the pressure is removed because you only have something to gain, right? Yes. It can help you to have a great test score, but you don't have as much to lose, because if you aren't able to achieve that great test score, you don't need to include it in your application.

(06:15):
There's a lot anxiety around the move away from standardized testing. As I kind of spoke to before, this feels like a massive shift in our community. Students who have parents or guardians who went to college, the test scores meant a lot when those parents or guardians applied to college. And so to think about how schools are evaluating students, without that data point can be very overwhelming and mysterious and scary for students and families. I will also say that the testing can be a comfort to some students and families, because it is concrete. You know what a strong test score is. You know what a weaker test score is. You can study. You can retake it. And so I think it feels much more graspable and understandable than some of the other parts of the college application process, like writing a great essay, where you can't, you know, run it through something and say, yes, this is a "36" essay.

(07:24):
No, that is much, much more subjective. And so this has been very scary and alarming for students and families. We get a lot of questions on: What are they looking at? How is this, how is my student going to do in this process? Or how am I going to do in this process without the standardized test scores? So the thing that is really wonderful to see is that so many of the initiatives and, and the direction that Latin is moving in, actually aligns perfectly with this test-optional world. If a student is not submitting standardized test scores, what are colleges looking at? They are looking at the transcript, which includes the courses that a student has opted to take and how they've done in those courses. They're learning more about their academic performance from the recommendation letters, where teachers are speaking more in-depth about how they've done. And they're reading their writing.

(08:28):
And that is an essay that students write for colleges. And then some colleges also have some additional questions that they ask. Everything about standards-based assessment is actually working toward creating students who would thrive under that type of an assessment. Because it is not about just earning the score. It is not about showing up and having a great day and acing that test. It really is about on a more macro level, a depth of understanding and a mastery. In the simplest of terms, it's moving away from very clear-cut labels, Honors level, AP level, 36, A+, whatever it is, and it's moving toward: Is this student intellectually curious? Is this student having kind of deep probing thoughts about what it is that they're studying? Is this student making connections across disciplines? All of those types of things are much more compelling to colleges and universities, and they cannot be measured in a test score.

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  • Academics
  • College Counseling
  • Podcast
  • upper school
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Join director of college counseling Alexandra Fields for an overview of college counseling at Latin.

TRANSCRIPT

Intro - Alexandra Fields (00:14):
When done right, our office really believes that the college process can be a process that mirrors a student making their first really major adult decision in their life. We believe in a very individualized process because no two students are alike and no two students are going to navigate this in the exact same way. So the things that one student finds challenging and stressful and overwhelming about this, another student finds really exciting and fun. It can get deep. I had a student say to me, "When I think back on the college process, I didn't realize that the biggest thing I was going to get from it would be learning how to tell my story." And that to me was a sign of success. That was such a wonderful thing to hear a student say.

Alexandra Fields (01:11):
I'm Alexandra Fields. And I am the director of college counseling at Latin. I often get asked about our philosophical approach to college counseling here at Latin. And this is one of my favorite questions actually to answer because it's one that we have put a lot of thought into in our office. First and foremost, I would say the thing that guides all of our work is an approach that recognizes that yes, college counseling is about finding a school for a student to attend and, you know, spend the next four years of their education. But it really is about so much more than that. And when done right our office really believes that the college process can be a process that mirrors a student making their first really major adult decision in their life. And that is a big deal. And so guiding students through that process teaching them how to reflect and think about who they are and who they want to be and what they've gotten from their high school experience or not gotten from their high school experience that hoping to get in college university and really kind of putting together a list of priorities and taking ownership over this next step in their life is what we are all about.

(02:36):
So for us, it's really just partnering with students and families and guiding them through that process. We believe in a very individualized process because no two students are alike and no two students are going to navigate this in the exact same way. So the things that one student finds challenging and stressful and overwhelming about this, another student finds really exciting and fun. And then the thing that they find stressful and overwhelming, the other student has no issue with. There are families who feel this is, you know, their third child going through the college process and they feel like they're masters and, and they can really take a backseat. And there are families who this might be the first child, or maybe even the first person in the family to go to college. And this all feels very new and can feel really scary.

(03:29):
And so our job in the office is to meet each student and family where they're at and figure out what they need to move through this process in a way that works for them. Another major priority of ours, and a big focus of the college counseling office, is to make sure that we are a place that feels accessible, that feels comfortable for all students and families, regardless of their knowledge about the college process, regardless of how long they've been at Latin to access us and ask their questions. And so that is something that I think we have a renewed focus and emphasis on. Student experience with the college counseling office while they will see us - I mean, first of all, just in the halls and walking around and at dance shows and, you know, at different things - they won't really start working with us until second semester of their Junior year.

(04:21):
And we get in front of students before then, but it's much more in a general way. They will actually be assigned their counselor in the second semester of their Junior year. Sometimes we get asked, "Isn't that late, (right)?" "You talk a lot about the college process being so complicated (which it is) so why wouldn't we start this earlier?" Which is a very valid question, but the thing to really understand about this is that the most important work that a student can be doing to be preparing themselves for secondary education is investing in their high school experience, is loving their classes, and figuring out what their passions are and exploring theater, and then realizing that they hate theater and getting really, really into model UN and making connections with faculty members. All of these things that students should be doing, whether or not they're thinking about their next step are actually the things that are going to best prepare them for the college process.

(05:28):
And so we don't need to be intervening. We don't need to be adding that on to students when they're 14 years old, 15 years old, and just getting their footing in, in the upper school here. So we begin with them second semester Junior year, and it starts with an initial meeting where we don't really even talk about college that much. You know, some of the questions that I ask students in that first meeting are like, when did you come to Latin? And if you were old enough to have a say in coming to Latin, why come to Latin? And who are your friends and what do you guys do on the weekends and what faculty do you feel connected to and what classes do you love and how do you spend your summer? And what do you think about, you know, the lunch options?

(06:15):
Like just whatever it is to just start to get to know our students. And that's what a lot of Junior year is, is just getting to know students establishing a relationship with them. It is very easy for us in the college counseling office, given our expertise to come up with a list of schools for a student. But that list is only going to be as good as the knowledge that we have of that student. And so we want to lay that groundwork to feel like we really understand who they are and what they're about. And then Senior year stuff becomes a little bit more tactical, practical. Students are working on writing. We work very closely with them on that. Students are preparing for interviews. Students are finalizing lists and making decisions about where they're going to apply. So there's kind of a natural shift that happens between Junior and Senior year, where it goes from more theoretical and reflective to active producing, you know, the, the things that need to be done to apply to college.

(07:15):
And we're really with students throughout the entire thing including the emotional piece of it. So yes, the college process is overwhelming because there's a lot of work to be done and decisions to be made, but it also can be really hard to reflect back on your high school experience and take a good hard look at what you've done and maybe what you didn't do that you hoped you had done. It can be very hard to think about leaving this community, your friends, your family. If you're going to be if you're considering, you know, leaving the Chicago area it can be very hard, hard to think about making that transition and starting all over. And so there's a lot of personal development that happens in this. And that is, I joke, that is why counselor is in our name.

(08:12):
That is why when you come into our offices, you'll see tissues and chocolate and stress balls because it gets deep. It can get deep. I had a student say to me "When I think back on the college process, I didn't realize that the biggest thing I was going to get from it would be learning how to tell my story." And that to me was a sign of success. That was such a wonderful thing. To hear a student say. We are all about fit. We are all about helping a student figure out what the right fit is for them. We are very lucky in that our students across the board are extremely prepared to take the next step into higher education. That is not a concern of ours. And we are very lucky in that our students have options.

(09:02):
And so it is not just figuring out where can I get in, because there are plenty of places where every single Latin student will be admitted with enthusiasm, but figuring out what is the right place for me, what environment do I want to be in? What is a place that is going to foster the type of growth that I'm looking to have in my college experience? And so success looks like students coming back, visit us, which we hope they do, you know, winter break of their freshman year and say, "Oh my goodness, Ms. Fields, Ms. Jones, Mr. Zotos, Ms. Taylor, Ms. Vela, this is the perfect place. You're never going to believe this class that I'm taking right now. You're never going to believe what this professor, you know, set me up with for the summer. I have the best friends that I've ever had." Whatever it is. That is how we know that we're doing a really great job.

Outro (09:59):
Next time on the Latin Learner podcast.

Alexandra Fields (10:02):
This feels like a massive shift in our community. Students who have parents or guardians who went to college, the test scores meant a lot when those parents or guardians applied to college. And so to think about how schools are evaluating students, without that data point can be very overwhelming and mysterious and scary for students and families. Spending months and months preparing to try and bring that ACT score up a point versus really, you know, acing your way through second semester, Junior year. Taking the time to write a really thoughtful essay when you're thinking about bang for your buck, it is easier for us now to say that the latter choice of focusing on academics and focusing on your writing is probably going to get you further in the college process. And that is a big relief for many of our students and family. A lot of research has also been done to explore the ways that standardized tests are quite biased. They are very racially biased. They were created for a white student population taking them. And there's an entire fascinating, very upsetting history of how the SAT actually historically has been used to keep underrepresented folks out of education.

Podcast
 

 

  • Academics
  • College Counseling
  • Podcast
  • upper school
decorative podcast cover art


Join Upper School English Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Brandon Woods, Middle School English Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Jennifer Nabers and Lower School Spanish Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Kasey Taylor for a discussion about Learning for Justice in action at Latin.

TRANSCRIPT

Jennifer Nabers (00:15):
How's this, like, changed something I've taught? So when I looked at the social justice standards, it was then really important for me to think, like, are there memoirs I can bring in where I can really implement these standards? And so this allowed me to really shape, like, some curriculum choices that I was making.

Kasey Taylor (00:34):
Exploring identity is like a foundational element in the lower school environment. And this happens in a number of ways, but again, scaffolding the opportunities year after year after year allows kids to see how identity development evolves over time.

Brandon Woods (00:53):
Our goal of inclusion and the word I would use along those lines is belonging. And how do you gain a sense of belonging into a community? And I would say there are two possible vectors. One is being able to identify your own identity and your own needs. And what do you need as a person in the community to feel included, to feel a sense of belonging. There's also an obligation towards others.

Kasey Taylor (01:22):
Hi everyone. I'm Kasey Taylor. I am lower school Spanish for junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten, first and second grade. So the "littles" in the lower school and also lower school diversity coordinator.

Brandon Woods (01:35):
My name is Brandon Woods. I am an upper school English teacher currently teaching ninth and tenth grade. And I am also a diversity coordinator and I focus on curriculum JK through 12.

Jennifer Nabers (01:48):
Hi everyone. I'm Jennifer Nabers. I teach seventh grade English and am one of the middle school diversity coordinators. What does a unit in class or a class exercise or activity look like using this framework? Let me talk really specifically about how this changed something I've taught. So for many years in seventh grade English, we read the diary of Anne Frank. But at some point, you know, I was really interested in bringing memoir into my classroom it's, like, a really popular genre. Kids really love it. You can do a lot of writing exercises with it. It lends itself really well to, like, middle school, the middle school experience. So when I looked at the social justice standards, it was then really important for me to think, like, are there memoirs I can bring in where I can really implement these standards?

So I ended up including two memoirs. In the past couple of years, I've added, "It's Trevor Noah," which is the young reader's version of "Born a Crime." And then the George Takei graphic novel, "They Called Us Enemy. "And so this allowed me to really shape, like, some curriculum choices that I was making, because then when I look at, for example - and these are, like, the student outcomes, like, if you look in the middle school band - things like, "I am curious and want to know about other people's histories and lived experiences," or "I can explain the way groups of people are treated today and the way they've been treated in the past, how that shapes their identity and culture." So by using the standards, I could, I could make sure that the text I, I was selecting would be a really good fit for the things that I would know I would want to talk about in my, in my classroom.

Brandon Woods (03:33):
So just to talk about the ways in which this system can look outside of a conventional classroom or conventional curriculum. My partner, Adam Apo, and I are doing a project on the history of the gay rights movement in Chicago. And the final project is they're going to do a collective action after talking to a number of historians and activists who have done collective actions in the past. And the goal for them is to less lead that action, but to listen to other groups and to listen to people who've been impacted and help them with the resources of Latin and the students come up with a collective action that will better the lives of particularly LGBTQIA+ youth in Chicago.

Kasey Taylor (04:28):
For lower school, exploring identity is like a foundational element in the lower school environment. And, this happens in a number of ways, but again, scaffolding the opportunities year after year after year, allows kids to see how identity development evolves over time it's ever, you know, ever-shifting, ever, ever being reshaped. It is not something that is fixed and that's really a key component to understanding identity development that we want the kids to really own that by the time they work their way through the lower school environment. So identity development shows up in a number of ways, like, in for example in JK, self portraits are something that are regularly done, creating "Me" paints, which the kids use a different combination of colors to create their just right paint that matches their skin color is another way that identity development happens.


In first grade, they do a project that's called identity bags where they get to bring home a little paper bag and fill it with a few objects that represent parts of their identity. And then they come back to school with their bag and, and share with their peers. Fourth grade, for example, they do family heritage projects. So, they choose an object that is special to their family and do a little bit of research to understand where did that object come from? What does it represent? How does it connect to their heritage? So those are just a few examples of how identity work lives in the lower school.

Brandon Woods (06:07):
How is this framework connected to the DEI work, DEI goals and the DEI action steps of the school? Well in every way, but I would try to be as specific as possible. I think one of the ways it connects is with our, our goal of inclusion and the word I would use along those lines is belonging. And how do you gain a sense of belonging into a community? And I would say there are two possible vectors. One is being able to identify your own identity and your own needs. And what do you need as a person in the community to feel included, to feel a sense of belonging, but there's also an obligation towards others. What do I have to do to recognize other people in the community? What is my obligation towards them in terms of my, my thought patterns, my actions. And so one of the wonderful things about the, the framework, whether it's identity or diversity or justice or action, is all getting students to think in both of those ways, who am I and what is my responsibility to others? And, and to myself.

Kasey Taylor (07:16):
One of the things you hear from anti-bias educators, social justice education, is that this work is, is not necessarily a curriculum per se. Rather, it's a way of being, it's a way of thinking. It's a way of communicating. It's a way of relating and behaving with the world around you. And it's about having certain dispositions and, and inclinations towards equity and justice and, and looking for those opportunities to create a fair world, a fair world for everyone. And so the social justice standards are just as much for adults in our community as they are for students. We're all on this learning journey together. And so we're paving the way with having this framework, helping us do that together as a community.

Podcast
 

 

  • Academics
  • DEI
  • lower school
  • middle school
  • Podcast
  • upper school
decorative podcast cover art


Join Upper School English Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Brandon Woods, Middle School English Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Jennifer Nabers and Lower School Spanish Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Kasey Taylor for a discussion about the Learning for Justice standards at Latin.

TRANSCRIPT

Brandon Woods (00:14): Making sure we all have a common set of standards. I would also just like to say, in terms of new families and new students in the school, having a common language and a common set of standards eases that introduction into the community.

Kasey Taylor (00:30): Well, I think the, the great thing about the framework the social justice standards are actually the same for all age groups and divisions. However, it's the manner in which students engage with the content that looks and sounds different.

Jennifer Nabers (00:48): The way the outcomes are written in the social justice standards, you know, it says things like "I relate to people as individuals and not representatives of a group." And so it's very empowering to students themselves if you know, and it, it also, as a teacher helps remind me like that this, this is for children, right? This is what I want kids to be able to do. And the way that these are written feels really revolutionary and visionary in that way, because you know, start as you mean to go on.

Kasey Taylor (01:23): Hi everyone. I'm Kasey Taylor. I am lower school Spanish for junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten, first and second grade. So the "littles" in the lower school and also lower school diversity coordinator.

Brandon Woods (01:37): My name is Brandon Woods. I am an upper school English teacher currently teaching ninth and tenth grade. And I am also a diversity coordinator and I focus on curriculum JK through 12.

Jennifer Nabers (01:48): Hi everyone. I'm Jennifer Nabers. I teach seventh grade English and am one of the middle school diversity coordinators.

Kasey Taylor (01:56): What are the social justice standards? They're based on the work of Louise Derman-Sparks who gave us the four goals of anti-bias education and they're centered around four domains: identity, diversity, justice and action. And these became the domains that the social justice framework was based around. And then they're broken down into a set of anchor standards, which includes five per domain.

Jennifer Nabers (02:27): One thing that's worth mentioning is that the name of the organization who hosts these standards has changed. It used to be called Teaching Tolerance, and now it's called Learning for Justice. And one of the things that I, I think a lot of us are excited about is, is we've talked a lot about how tolerance is a pretty low bar. And so when they kind of rebranded the standards as Learning for Justice, it felt like more, I don't know, like a really cool way to say, like, this is what we really care about and what we're working for, which should be more than just tolerance, tolerating each other.

Brandon Woods (03:05): The standards are an offshoot of a project started by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1991. And that was Teaching for Tolerance. And they had a goal of helping teachers in schools really teach students how to interact and be a part of a democracy - and a democracy that is anti-bias and anti-racist. So the standards came out of that initial project from the Southern Poverty Law Center. When did Latin adopt this framework and has it changed over time? So the first time Latin adapted the standards was in 2017, and initially, they were adapted in the lower school. And then the following year, they were adopted by the middle and upper school. And the standards themselves have not changed over time. What has changed over time is our implementation and the expectations of that implementation across all three divisions.

Jennifer Nabers (04:02): Why is it important for the standards to be incorporated into the curriculum? This is a great question. I think it actually goes to why are there standards anywhere in education, right? Because it's, you know, there's millions of teachers in the country at, you know, hundreds of thousands of schools doing this work. And so standards are just a really key way of communicating baseline assumptions about what we think is important for our, for kids at every grade level, right. So you can't really build a curriculum without standards. You can't have a scope and sequence of what you're trying to cover without those. So they're kind of, they kind all go together and create - one of the ways to think about it is like - a safety net almost, right? Like if we can name what it is, we are trying to teach kids in the classroom, if we can sort of, and then, so then we have a more like a higher likelihood of achieving it. And then I would also say if we can point to standards, this is what we're trying to achieve. And these are how these things are, you know, supported by best practices. It's sometimes easier to onboard new faculty to explain why these are important to like librarians or other kinds of support staff and to get parents and other parts of the school community on board.

Brandon Woods (05:21): In terms of new families and new students in the school, having a common language and a common set of standards, eases that introduction into the community and which they can see online - these are the goals we have, these are our aspirations. And sometimes new families, new students can get lost in the lingo. But this is a kind of, not necessarily universal lingo, but certainly a language that a lot of schools are adapting. So I'm always for making those transitions smoother.

Kasey Taylor (05:57): Thinking about the pluralistic world that we live in today, that students need to really know how to, to thrive in this world. They need to know how to connect with their place in the world, how they move through the world, and how their identity shapes the way they move through the world and how other people's identities are also impacting the way that they move through the world. So Jen had mentioned along the lines of, you know, one of the goals is prejudice reduction, but then also the standards help us move into taking that knowledge and moving into action. And which is a really important part of the social justice piece - that we're moving towards collective action and knowing what it sounds like, and looks like to be supportive of underrepresented and marginalized communities and, and moving to solution-oriented practices.

Brandon Woods (06:50): What do students take away from this framework of teaching? Well, there are a number of things they take away, but I would say one of the things that's most important is a sense of agency. It is hard to tackle a problem unless you can identify it. And one of the difficult things about this work is how do you identify the problem? And then how do you break it down in an age-appropriate way in a developmentally appropriate way where you can imagine these kind of targets that students can reach. And as we were talking about with the last question, really making sure they understand our expectations and how they should be acting towards themselves, cause this is about being kind to oneself, but also to one another. And so, in that way, I just wanted to echo what Kasey was saying in the last question about what does bias or prejudice reduction, and anti-bias actually look like on an institutional level. And I think that's one of the things that the students gain over the scope and sequence of the standards.

Kasey Taylor (07:56): How does the framework differ in each division? The great thing about the framework: the social justice standards are actually the same for all age groups and divisions. However, it's the manner in which students engage with the content that looks and sounds different. So this is due to, you know, cognitive and social-emotional development. The different ages that are represented at our schools, especially a K-12 school. There's quite a span there. Basically, the framework offers standards that are being achieved in all three divisions. The fundamental concepts are exactly the same as a matter of fact, but the scaffolding that's helping the kids learn how to interact with these standards - that's what looks and sounds different. So one of the great things about the social justice standards from Learning for Justice is that they also have included student outcomes and school-based scenarios that help teachers implement practices around this, that give them an idea of what this is going to look like and sound like at every age group. And there are four bands of age groups. The first band is K-2. The second band is 3 through 5, grades, three through five, and then we have the middle school years and then the high school years. So it really does sort of break it down and scaffold it in a way that helps teachers know how to implement the standards appropriately and in age-developmentally appropriate ways.

Jennifer Nabers (09:27): This is maybe like some inside baseball: one of the things I think is really cool about the way the standards are written is they're written from the student point of view. So if you look at, for example, like the Common Core Standards for English, right, they're sort of this, like they're very teacher-driven, you know, like you want kids to be able to do this. You want kids to be able to cite this and like, yes, it's like student outcomes, but the way the outcomes are written in, in the social justice standards, you know, it says things like, "I relate to people as individuals and not representatives of a group." And so it's very empowering to students themselves, if you know, and it, it also, as a teacher helps remind me like that this, this is for children, right? This is what I want kids to be able to do. And the way that these are written feels really revolutionary and visionary in that way, because, you know, start as you mean to go on.

Brandon Woods (10:22): One of the ways it can potentially look different in each division is the part that Kasey was talking about early in terms of action and what that action component looks like from lower school to middle school, to upper school. Right? So with upper school, the expectation is they're starting to internalize these standards and not only pushing back against us as an institution in the ways in which we may fall short of those standards, but their immediate communities, and if I may be so bold, the world. Right? So the idea is once they freely internalize these standards to look at the world in which they live in and see how they can apply them outside of our brick and mortar buildings.

Next Up (11:02): Next time on the Latin Learner Podcast...

Jennifer Nabers (11:06): How this like changed something I've taught: so when I looked at the social justice standards, it was then really important for me to think like, are there memoirs I can bring in where I can really implement these standards? And so this allowed me to really shape like some curriculum choices that I was making.

Kasey Taylor (11:26): Exploring identity is like a foundational element in the lower school environment. And this happens in a number of ways, but again, scaffolding the opportunities year after year after year allows kids to see how identity development evolves over time.

Brandon Woods (11:44): Our goal of inclusion and the word I would use along those lines is belonging. And how do you gain a sense of belonging into a community? And I would say there are two possible vectors. One is being able to identify your own identity and your own needs, and what do you need as a person in the community to feel included, to feel a sense of belonging? There's also an obligation towards others.

Podcast
 

 

  • Academics
  • DEI
  • lower school
  • middle school
  • Podcast
  • upper school