Friday, March 15, 2013

Mind in Motion

CPS has so many new initiatives, I'm not sure how central office keeps track of them all. But the good news is that the powers that be often present them to the PTA Advisory Council, of which I am a member.

For our March meeting, we met with two departments within CPS. First up was Abby Rose, who presented and sought feedback with a focus group (us) for the Office of Student Health & Wellness's Minds in Motion program. The idea, she said, was to develop a strategic plan for physical education in the District. The focus group is the first step in the process of developing the plan. The other steps are (2) researching best practices from foundation work and analyzing other large districts' PE practices; (3) drafting the plan; (4) reconvening focus groups with stakeholders to ensure that the draft plan meets their objectives; and developing a steering committee for the draft plan; and (5) bringing the plan to the Board of Education to adopt as a policy.

Ms. Rose began by asking each of us what our favorite childhood memory of PE is/was. Many of us talked about the presidential challenges of so many sit-ups, lap times, etc. (Mine was square dancing.) She then introduced herself as a former teacher and 8-year veteran teacher of PE in CPS. Finally, she led is through some brainstorming exercises for PE in CPS. She asked us what the ideal PE class or curriculum looks like, what makes good PE teaching, what resources PE teachers need to do their jobs effectively, and how PE should be graded. Finally, we created a snapshot of what our group's policy ideal would look like:

- dedicated PE teacher
- funding for position and program
- training and professional development resources for program
- PE class of 30-45 minutes every day for every child
- PE teacher is enthusiastic and motivated

Ms. Rose is running another parent focus group through the Parents United for Healthy Schools Campaign. If you'd like more information on the focus group, have questions, or would like to add your input to the development of the plan, please email the Mind in Motion group at


Next, we heard from Alex Soble and Mary Naset, who represent what they called "Team Digital" at CPS. They manage the social media aspects of CPS online presence, primarily through Facebook and Twitter. Mr. Soble, who seemed very young, described CPS social media as a three-layer cake, with layers for central office, individual schools, and within classrooms. (The Girl's 2nd grade class just started a blog, so this is a timely topic!)

First up, he said that his group uses social media to communicate to parents, citing the young age and accompanying tech-savviness of many CPS parents. His methodology for posting to Twitter or Facebook is to post things that (1) are informational for parents; (2) spark positive conversations; or (3) are relevant to LSC matters. He and Ms. Naset addressed my criticism of the slowness of Facebook posts with news by saying that Facebook isn't really the medium for fast-breaking news. However, if you want to receive Twitter alerts via text, you can send 40404#Chipubschools from your phone. He also said that his group uses analytics to track and improve info-spread of link shares, etc.

Next, he shared that his group did a few presentations to principal groups about the group's new guide for social media for schools. It's available at if you want to check it out for yourself or your school. We briefly discussed how CPS school sites don't allow access to Facebook from them, although they do allow access to and Twitter, where all information is also posted. There was a Twitter feed on the socialmediatoolkit page when I checked it from my iPhone during the meeting.

We spent the rest of the meeting talking about how to improve and general internet issues at schools. Our PTA moderator asked Mr. Soble to address the general cruddiness of Internet connections at some schools, which make checking anything or using any applications in the classroom near impossible for many schools, like her daughter's school (Lenart).

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