China 2015

great wall 1 great wall 2

Our China visit has been split into two cities: Beijing and Shanghai. Cultural experiences have been abundant. Living in the places our students come from has given me perspective into what they are feeling while they assimilate into our culture in Canada.

The people here are friendly, the cities are clean and safe. We can learn a thing or two about good hospitality from them. When you are here, you are their guests and they will not let you pay for much, it has been a battle to pay for the occasional thing.

The Government censorship is prevalent from the moment you arrive, there is no Google, no Gmail, no YouTube, no Twitter, no Instagram. We immediately felt “cut off”. That has not stopped the Chinese people, they are very creative when it comes to circumventing obstacles. The local people use VPN to route information and can actually use Google and Gmail.

I have been awestruck with how much and how fast God is moving in China. Believers are working hard to spread the Message and live the life He has called them to. We need to uphold our fellow brothers and sisters in our prayers. We also need to bring our students and our teachers here to gain the rich cross cultural experiences and relationships that can be made.

Over and over we have heard from educational leaders about their need for Biblical Worldview training for their teachers. I am already formulating ideas to send some of our teachers here to train their teachers in this area and in the area of Biblical Through-lines. Chinese people are looking for education that teaches the whole child and develops each child’s unique gifts and talents that God has given them.

Coming here has challenged my “Western” perspective and ignorance about China’s role in world events and their continued contributions in the world. Even realizing Chinese students coming to LCS have a living knowledge that can correct some of that ignorance.

Continue to keep us in your prayers.

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Asia Trip 2015

I am currently on an overseas trip visiting schools that send students to LCS for long term and short term stay programs. We are also visiting schools that we have twin sister arrangements with and schools that we wish to make connections with and share cultural exchanges. I started the trip on May 20 with two colleagues from the school, Kevin Visscher the High School Principal and Marlene Bylenga our English Language Learning coordinator.

Our trip will be 17 days long, we will visit 3 countries and stay in 6 major cities. Our first stop was Tokyo, Japan. We visited Shukutoku School and visited with parents that send their children to LCS.

We are currently in Seoul, Korea visiting our twin sister school BIS (British Columbia International school), which is a BC, certified off shore school.

It has been a rich experience so far and a source of enlightenment into cultures I have not visited before. The people are very friendly; the schools have been very welcoming and hospitable. Both Cities are extremely safe, it has been interesting to see school age children on the streets, or in fields playing without adult supervision at nine and ten at night.

These cities are a buzz of activity well into the late hours of the day and start early in the morning. It is very apparent that the family unit is strained with the work ethic that is expected from the Dads in these cultures. We need to pray for the Christian communities here as they struggle with the dualistic nature of faith and culture expectations that have been so prevalent for generations here.

Today we are off to Pohang, Korea to visit and make more connections, please keep us in your prayers as we continue our trip and fly to China later this week.

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The Hidden Connection Between Video Games and Learning

Kids will play an average of 100 hours to “get good” at a video game. Will they put in 100 hours to “get good” on schoolwork? As an educator I know they do not put this time into schoolwork. Clearly our “rewards” used in school do not motivate students to put in time like they put time into video games. In a video game, they don’t get grades, they don’t get extra credit, and they don’t win money, yet commit hours to practice. On average, 8-12 year olds play 13 hours of video games per week, and teenagers aged 13-18 years old plays 14 hours a week. I would venture to say that they are not dedicating the same time to schoolwork.

I have to ask myself what we can learn from video games, and whether we can apply that to our lessons for school. What are some key features in video games? If we analyze a video game, some commonalities emerge:

The objectives and goals are spelled out at the beginning of the game.

There are strategies and skills to be learned

There is a vocabulary that must be learned

There is a public measure of how well you are doing

You quickly learn what to do better next time to improve your performance in the game

To help kids learn, we must make sure they understand our lesson objectives. After a 45-minute lesson, if we ask a student how well they did, they should be able to articulate a notion of how well they met the objectives. They should not respond “I don’t know”, although this is a typical teenager response. With any unit of study, we need to explain the strategies, skills and vocabulary that are needed, and we need to give these at the beginning of the unit. A mechanism to track their own understanding of the concepts in the unit will help students succeed. Students need an opportunity to reflect on their work and know what to improve upon for next time.

Putting these ideas into practice will produce a good recipe for our lessons and planning in school. Hidden Connection Between Video Games and Learning game addiction

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Fresh Grade

Grades and percentages have been the mainstay of our school reporting since the industrial revolution. What we received in school as students ourselves is all we know to compare our children’s progress to. What you are not aware of is that there is so much more to seeing into your child’s learning and many different ways to let you know your child’s progress in their journey of learning in the classroom.

During the past 2 months, as a Middle School staff, we have created “Action Teams” to explore better ways of doing various aspects of our Middle School program. One of the areas that we have a team exploring is in the area of assessment and reporting to parents. When teachers write report cards, they reflect on and weigh the assessment collected and make a decision on what percentage would be most suitably reflect a student’s learning. What percentages fail to do is describe how that student got to that point. I know that our current model of reporting does not adequately portrait the good teaching and learning that I see happening in every classroom every school day here at Langley Christian School.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if teachers could give parents frequent portals of viewing into their children’s good learning on a daily basis?

Well, guess what, there is a way!

Our Action Team has been researching a new product called “Fresh Grade”. Fresh Grade is a locally BC created assessment tool which allows teachers and students to upload content (pictures, videos, audio, documents, etc) to a student portfolio. Students are able to set goals and work towards achieving them at their own pace. With more descriptive feedback and communication between the teacher and student, students achieve the required skill or concept more easily. What is even better is that this communication can be passed on to parents as well. 

I get inspired when I see glimpses of change on the horizon in education. Here are a couple short clips of what a superintendent and a principal see in Fresh Grade.

A couple of teachers on this Action Team are so inspired that they are starting to use Fresh Grade for the third term this year. If you are a parent with a child in their class you may get a request to load the app. Please check out the website and let me know what you think.



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GDC Therapy

Earlier this week, my oldest daughter Kaleesha, sent me a Youtube clip to prepare me to put away my iPad when the kids are all home for the holidays next week. It is hilarious, but at the same time it is very true. As we enter the Christmas holidays, I trust we will all keep a balanced screen time and model good digital citizenship for our families. Make real time connections with family that is with you in your home and take advantage of our great technology and face-time your loved ones that are afar.  Merry Christmas


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Rooting for the Villain?

store frontI am the father of two daughters, which means I am under constant scrutiny about what I wear. They don’t really care what I think, it’s all about if my clothing I wear makes them look good in public.

Heaven forbid I don’t look “cool”.

Because obviously I would embarrass them if their friends saw us together.

Christmas presents and birthday presents are always interesting because they usually have me receiving “trendy” clothing and merchandise.  Often I have to look at my wife for her approving nod before I can show how excited I am about the gift. Lately, brand names like Volcom, Hurley, Ripcurl, adorn my closet and dresser drawers.

I will be honest; I don’t pull out my iPad and research the company mission statements for all the brand names I wear. I rely on my friends and fellow workers to keep me in the loop if a brand name represents something counter cultural to what I represent as a person.Every once in a while, a brand name surfaces and starts to be popular in our society.

Here is a brand that you may be interested in knowing more about…

Zumiez is a popular store in Langley that sells all kinds of current brand names merchandise. One line that they carry is called Crooks and Castles. hoodie Crooks and Castles market wallets, luggage, t-shirts, hats, and hoodies.  If you didn’t know any better you could buy or maybe have already bought some of this apparel for your son or daughter. This company is blatant on promoting a lifestyle and worldview that is not congruent with our school and our school culture.

Here is what you may not know:

Crooks & Castles promotes a dark image, both in its designs and philosophy. Their mission statement posted on the official website explains that growing up in Los Angeles, living a “villainous lifestyle”, inspires the brand.  Crooks & Castles’ designs reflect themes of violence and street hustling, emblazoned with depictions of gold chains, nude women, snakes and bandits, and slogans such as “Ain’t No Such Thing as Halfway Crooks.”

Here is their mission statement, go ahead, give it a read:

Not all of their clothing and merchandise is “in your face” with negative concepts, some items have very cool graphics and trendy logos. However, the lingering question is, do you support what the company represents and what your money is supporting?

In our middle school we have decided that we do not support nor wish to promote this company, and consequently, have asked our students not to wear “Crooks & Castles” clothing and merchandise.

We are hoping that you can also help us by spreading the word and letting other parents know the back-story to what this company promotes.

I am aware that there are other companies that have bad practices, knock off designs and poor employee management — and these can be difficult to be identify or spot.  However, when a company is blatant and upfront with their philosophy and story, then we need to also be upfront and blatant with our story, which is counter cultural to theirs.

What do you think?  Do the brands that we sport say something about who we are? I know that I will be looking a little more closely at labels I choose to wear.

Maybe there are other brand names that we need to be aware of?  You can help us out with a comment below about them.

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Christian Schools Canada Leadership Conference 2014

Recently the administration of our school attended a Leadership Conference. The keynote speaker was Jamie Smith, a professor of philosophy at Calvin College. His keynote addresses were based on his book “Imagining the Kingdom”.

Jamie challenged us with the idea of Christian education being a Re-narration of the Bible for our students. His challenge for us was to capture the imagination of our students. He postulated that the way into the heart is through the body and the way into the body is through story and that as humans, we tell ourselves stories in order to live.

As Christians, our worldview is carried in story, images, legends, and telling these stories captures our imagination. To help us with this we can form micro practices that will have macro affects with students. Liturgy or rehearsed action can be in the form of communal practice. The more we have communal practice, the greater effect we can have on our lives and our student’s lives.

An easy micro practice for us is in the area of prayer. St Ignatius of Loyola developed a mode of prayerful reflection often referred to as the Daily Examen. Often prayed at lunchtime and the end of day, the Examen has five simple aspects: become aware of God’s presence, review the day with gratitude, pay attention to your emotions, choose one feature of the day and pray for it, look forward to tomorrow.

My take away from the conference was this: pay attention to the details of what we do here in our Christian school every day, because the small things matter.

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Digitally Unplug

Summer is upon us and now it is time to relax and unwind. A big component of our GDC curriculum is finding a balance in your life between your onscreen time and off screen time. Recently I had my first real MMO (massively multiplayer online) gaming experience. About four weeks ago some of my staff thought it a good idea to engage some of our students in the game Clash of Clans. It has been enlightening for me to feel the addiction these games generate. The whole concept of screen time balance was foreign to me prior to the start of this game. The first two weeks, I could not get off the screen, I was consumed by the allure of building bigger villages, developing stronger defences and building stronger troops. It is week four, I am finally now realizing that I will never win nor get to a place I can feel like I have arrived in the game.

Recently the National Post newspaper published on article on game addiction in China. There are now 400 rehabilitation centres for the Internet addicted and China is among the first countries to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder. The article went on to describe one resident the once played for 40 days straight, no stopping, no eating, and no washing.

I will follow our Good Digital Citizenship pillars and unplug myself from the game. I will leave my devices at home, load up my boat, drive to the west side a Vancouver Island and go fishing. I will be back sometime in August.  See you then, and I hope you will unplug your devices, your children’s devices and get outdoors!

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iGods Part 2

Lately I have been reflecting on the words in the final chapter that Craig Detweiler put in his book “iGods”. He writes a chapter on Escaping Technology: To the Wilderness, here he describes the benefits of going offline and stepping outside our zone of wifi coverage to truly experience God as he intended us to. We are becoming like fish that no longer notice the water they live in, we don’t realize just how many electronic messages we are processing via our smartphones. By taking a step back, we can see if we are in fact dependent on technology, we can also test our commitments in our lives and help us realize what matters most to us.

“As we hurtle toward an unknown future with technology, we must plan some conscious pauses and be willing to use a mute button in our lives. Surely if Jesus felt the need to seek time away from the crowds, we could survive a day or even a week without social media, right?”(iGods page 219)

My Daughter Briel recently sent me a YouTube clip called “look Up” that really spoke to me and helps put this concept into perspective, if you have 3 minutes, check it out:

I love this quote that Craig wrote in the book on page 225, if sums up this post for me:

“We celebrate technology as a gift but resist the temptation to prostrate ourselves before it. We must not let it fashion and mold us into its insistent (now!), efficient (faster!), and greedy (more!) image. We are made for more than information processing.”

One part of our Good Digital Citizenship Curriculum is to help our students find a healthy balance between screen time and actual face to face play time. As parents you can be the curators of play and imagination by building in pauses away from technology for your children.

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Spring Break is upon us, I am looking forward to being able to decompress, relax and do some reading. This Spring Break I will be reading the book “iGods” by Craig Detweiler. Just to give you a snippet of what he writes about, I quote: ”Our devices demand our attention. MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle notes how the current generation is “among the first to grow up with an expectation of continuous connection: always on, and always on them.” We have embraced this shift largely without considering the implications. Our basic philosophy has been summarized by William Powers: It’s good to be connected, and it’s bad to be disconnected. He describes us as “digital maximalists” operating under a basic maxim, “the more you connect, the better off you are.” Powers notes, “We never sat down and consciously decided that this was the code we would live by. There was no discussion, no referendum or show of hands. It just sort of happened, as if by tacit agreement or silent oath. “From now on, I will strive to be as connected as possible at all times.” I write this book because I want to pause and question the aphorism. This is an effort to step back, slow down, and take a long view of where we’ve been and where we’re heading.” page 7

I am excited to read the rest and share more incites with you. Have a great break and we will see you in April.

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