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Rumble of Thunder—July 22, 2015

June 19, 2015

Welcome to my first blog post as Superintendent for Central Valley – Home of the Thunder! This blog will act as another means to increase communication amongst stakeholders in the district.  It’s also a way for all of you to “see behind the curtain” to get a better idea of what is happening, how we go about the important work of educating all students, and why we make the decisions we make. This page really comes down to providing thoughts and commentary about Central Valley and education.

As a blog is truly about communication, what better topic to discuss than communication itself. More specifically, the change in how people communicate. Take for example rotary phones. Many of us remember using them especially when a 9 or 0 was misdialed causing the user to start dialing the number from the beginning.  If you haven’t seen this YouTube video on kids reacting to rotary phones, it’s worth the time to watch it.

Technology is changing­—fast!

The rate at which new technology is being adopted is amazing. It took about 40 years for the percent of ownership of the car to go from 10% to 40%. As you can see by the chart below, the telephone took 23 years while the cordless phone took longer at just over 26 years to reach 40% ownership.

When we start to look at the number of years from 10% to 40% ownership for computer related technology, the timespan quickly shrinks. The PC took 12.5 years while the internet took 7 years. The cell phone of yesteryear only took 4.5 years to reach 40% adoption which is slow compared to the 3 years it took us to adopt the smartphone and tablet.  The reason for these comparisons is to show in real numbers the ever-quickening adoption of new technology.

Chart noting the adoption rate of technology

I mention older technology to show how communication has changed greatly from even a few years ago. If you have a smartphone in your pocket, you have more advanced technology at your fingertips than was available on Apollo 11 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon almost 46 years ago. We live in a world that is now driven by information and the flow and control of that information has become an economic driver. Our students have grown up in a world where they haven’t known anything different. The days of staying out and knowing to come home when the street lights came on are sadly gone. The internet, smart phones and YouTube are a part of who they are. More students watch videos on YouTube than they watch TV. As this is the world they live in, and they are the future, it’s critical that we at least step into their world.

Part of their world involves social media. While we used to get our information from the likes of Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, our students are using social media to explore the world around them and to communicate with each other. Our students have moved on from Facebook to Instagram, Snapchat and others.  They aren’t on Facebook because their parents and grandparents are on it and that’s “just not cool” as I was told by one of our younger students. So we have a choice…to either step into their world so we can communicate more effectively with them or to try and pull them back into the world we grew up in that no longer exists. Trying to keep them in our world hasn’t worked for generations so time to meet them where they live.

One way to step into their world is Twitter. I’m sure that comment produced a bunch of groans.  I will admit I was not into Twitter at all until I realized how easily it was to communicate with others without limitations to zip code or title.  The latest news is posted on Twitter exponentially faster than TV or even internet sites such as CNN, MSN or FOX NEWS. It’s easy to find out what is happening in your region or town with a push of a button. Information ranges from emergency updates to heartwarming stories related to your hometown.

Image of social media iconsTwitter also lets each of us build our own professional learning network (PLN). We can talk to others in fields that interest us and expand our understanding of the world around us. We can find new ideas or even recipes to try.  First, for me, it’s about learning more about how to do my job better, providing all of our Thunder with the skills necessary to be prepared for career and/or college. In a moment, I know I could go to my PLN on Twitter and ask for advice on any topic and quickly get a response. That is really powerful and empowering to know you are part of a much larger universe and that others are going through and trying to do the same things you are. Maybe that’s why students are attracted to social media. They have a voice that may often be muted elsewhere.  They are free to express themselves, sometimes not in a positive manner.  That’s where we as adults have to step into their world and help them navigate the sometimes scary world around them.

This is the second reason I use Twitter.  To connect to our students in the world they live in. We have had a few discussions about snow days and cold.  While some might see these conversations as arguments, it’s important to point out that any difference of opinion is an argument.  The secret is to have a civil conversation about the argument/disagreement.  Students can express their opinions and get answers quickly while maybe even using their voices to do so.  Don’t we want our students to be active members of our society by using their voices for the betterment of all?

The last reason I use Twitter is to show the outside world all the great things happening at Central Valley.  We have talented and hardworking students and staff in every area whether it’s in STEM, the arts, or athletics to name just a few. My job is not merely to be the superintendent but also to be the head cheerleader and lead advocate for the Thunder locally, regionally and nationally. If we don’t tell our story and the great things happening, who will? We have to frame our message for all those that don’t know us, that don’t know the struggles and achievements Mohawk and Ilion have had and now share as Central Valley. This is why I am on my phone at times so I can tell our community and the outside what it means to be the Thunder.  I promise to keep my phone use to a minimum but please take a chance and step into the world of our Thunder. You will be amazed by their response.

Rich Hughes