Archive | October, 2009

Your technology coordinator works for you, not the other way around

A conversation I had with a superintendent at Nebraska’s first-ever Educational Administrators Technology Conference

Superintendent: I’m new to my district. I spent the first year getting the lay of the land. I’m now ready to start making things happen when it comes to technology and our students but our technology coordinator is blocking me at every turn.

Me: You know, your technology coordinator works for you, not the other way around.

Superintendent: I know. We’re having those conversations but it’s difficult.

Me: Can’t you just say ‘Look, it’s a digital age and we need to be facilitating technology-rich learning experiences for our students. Now, I can hire a technology coordinator who can help me do this or you can be that person. Which would you like it to be?’

Superintendent: Yes! I can say that! Thank you so much! I don’t know, I guess I just needed someone’s permission to do this…

I’m not sure why, but I seem to have this conversation every couple of months with some superintendent somewhere in the country.

7 steps to success when working with administrators

I spent yesterday with technology integrationists from the various Educational Service Units in Nebraska. In my experience, technology integrationists usually are wonderful people who know a lot about digital societal shifts and effective technology usage in the classroom. What they don’t necessarily know, however, is how to foster system-level change themselves and/or help school leaders do so.

Here’s what I think technology integrationists can do to assist their principals and superintendents:

  1. Administrators are unknowledgeable, not evil. Recognize that most of them are dedicated educators who want to do the right thing but may not have the necessary knowledge base or skill sets.
  2. The world has changed. Help them see the big picture: the larger, deeper societal shifts and transformations that form the external context within which schools are operating.
  3. We need to keep up. Help them see that the larger context is a desirable and/or inevitable destination for school systems generally and for their school organization specifically.
  4. We’re not keeping up. Help them see that the school system’s not where it should be in regard to the big picture. Create cognitive disconnects for them between their school organization’s status quo and the desired destination.
  5. Facilitate success. Help them gain the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to move toward the desired destination.
  6. Rebut the naysayers. Help them counteract the inevitable yabbuts (“Yeah, but…”; “Yeah, but…”).
  7. Rinse and repeat. Do this over and over again until they, you, and the system win.

The folks I worked with yesterday stated that they generally weren’t paying enough attention to #2, 3, 4, or 6. Their typical approach was to tout the benefits and wonders of – and to try to train administrators how to use – various digital technologies without sufficiently addressing the other aspects listed above. They also noted that the time they did spend working with administrators was focused too much on tool training and that they needed to spend more time on broader technology leadership issues.

Of course this model is applicable to other educators too, not just administrators. What do you think?

Tomorrow is Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day


Tomorrow is Wolfram|Alpha’s Homework Day. The company is inviting students to submit their homework problems to see if/how Wolfram Alpha can solve them. Should be interesting…

Will you or your students be participating?

ISTE 2010 conference keynote: The gloves are off!


Interesting conversations are occurring, well-known edubloggers are advocating for their topic suggestions (see, e.g., Vicki Davis and Brian Crosby), and, perhaps most importantly for ISTE, there seems to be a fair amount of interest in its ‘choose your conference keynote’ project.

After just a few days, my suggestion is duking it out with Kevin Honeycutt’s for the top position:


I think Kevin is a great guy, but I don’t think his topic should be a keynote over mine. It seems to me that 95%+ of the ISTE conference every year is the same thing: tools, teachers, and classrooms. These are important, but as I said in one of my comments under my topic suggestion:

We've been relying on teachers & teacher leaders & tech integrationists & tech coordinators for decades now. Where's it gotten us in terms of systemic reform? It's gotten us isolated pockets of excellence in a few classrooms. When a principal "gets it," nearly the entire school changes (minus the few resisters). When a superintendent "gets it," nearly the entire district changes (minus the few resisters).

I'll repeat… It is the formal leaders (administrators, policymakers), not informal leaders, that have control over ALL of the important variables: money; time; personnel hiring, evaluation, and assignment; organizational vision and direction; professional development; etc. All you have to do is look at a school like the Science Leadership Academy to understand the importance and power of a formal leader that "gets it."

Why such pushback on a leadership keynote? It's not like we have one every year. In fact, we'd be hard pressed to remember more than a small few in the history of NECC/ISTE. ISTE has five keynotes and I'm a big fan of Kevin Honeycutt. But one of the keynotes should pertain to effective FORMAL leadership. Otherwise we'll just keep talking about tools and teachers like we always do…

So the gloves are off, Kevin! I don’t know if I can pull this off, but I’m not going down without a fight.

Thanks to everyone who already has voted for my topic and/or participated in the conversation. Any assistance that you can continue to lend me would be most appreciated; I need more people to vote for my suggestion and to spread the word about the contest. I’ve got an uphill battle and am going to need all of the help I can get!

Related posts

Related tweets

Teacher layoffs: Should seniority rule?

As budget cuts loom again in many states, employee termination, seniority, and ‘bumping rights’ are in the news. The essential issue is whether organizational leaders should be able to retain the employees they think are the most highly-skilled or whether seniority (or some other factor) should be employed instead. ‘Highly skilled’ in this instance means ‘employee quality’ or ‘best fit for employer needs,’ both of which are typically defined by the organization, not the employee or union.

Here is an indicative quote from Iowa in favor of seniority-based employment provisions:

“We're not going to have this debate on whether or not somebody who has worked for a year gets to stay over somebody who has devoted 30 years of their life because they work harder," [Danny Homan, president of Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees] said. "That is baloney."

And here’s another, this time in favor of merit-based layoffs:

"You always want to focus on keeping your best-performing people," said David Keeling, a spokesman for the New Teacher Project. "The only thing worse than a layoff situation is one where you are forced to cut some of your best-performing people regardless of their contributions or their fit with their jobs."

Providence, Rhode Island parents have petitioned the local teachers union to give up seniority-based layoff protections. The New York Daily News has stated that

there is basically no relationship between seniority and teaching ability. A wide and scarcely disputed body of research finds that teachers' additional experience stops paying off after about year three.

Education Sector reported that rethinking teacher contracts could free billions for school reform. And a very interesting study out of Indianapolis showed that a majority of sampled teachers thought that factors other than seniority (but not student achievement, apparently) should be considered for teacher layoffs.

The National Education Association recently made news for stating that it would encourage local unions to “waive any contract language that prohibits staffing high-needs schools with great teachers.” In the past it had said that staffing and seniority issues should be left to local unions and districts. The American Federation of Teachers chimed in with its support.

I wonder if the majority of educators favor or disfavor seniority-based layoff protections. I wonder how the majority of citizens feel as well. If I had to guess, I’d venture that most citizens are against teacher seniority serving as the primary determinant of job protection. I’m not sure about public school educators. What do you think?

Please vote for my ISTE 2010 conference keynote suggestion

ISTE is asking us to help select one of its next conference keynotes. I am asking you to please vote for my suggestion:


As of this moment, the top three vote-getters all have to do with technology tools. Technology learning tools are important, but helping principals, superintendents, school boards, and policymakers understand what effective 21st century schools look like (and how to support and facilitate their creation and ongoing operation) is much, much more important.

Please go to ISTE’s keynote suggestion web site and give my suggestion three (3) votes. We need this issue at the forefront of our educational technology conversations and we need it at the forefront of ISTE’s work. We continue to talk about students and teachers and tools in the classroom – all of which are worthy topics – but NONE OF THOSE HAPPENS if the leadership doesn’t get it.

Note that this is just a vote for the topic. We vote later on potential speakers. You’ll have to sign in to vote but it shouldn’t take you more than a minute or two.

Let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for your support.

ITEC 2009 – Tweetup videos

Russ Goerend posted a couple of short video snippets from our small Tweetup at ITEC 2009 (for some reason a host of Flip cameras suddenly emerged…). In addition to a number of us Iowa tweeps, David Warlick and Steve Dembo kindly joined in the conversation.

Here’s the first video: 

And here’s the second one (FYI, the first 2.5 minutes is a repeat of the end of the previous video): 

I love the end of the second video where Angela Maiers talks about the lack of teacher time to learn/do technology:

They have time to run copies. They have time to go make blackline masters. They have time to correct 15,000 true-and-false questions. They have time to make cute little art projects for kids to cut-and-paste for 45 minutes…

Happy viewing (and thanks, Russ)!

ITEC 2009 – PLN: A gardener’s approach to professional learning

David Warlick is a wonderful speaker and an even more wonderful person. I was very fortunate to spend some time with him last night and this morning. I have very much enjoyed being a learner in his presence…

My notes from David’s second presentation at ITEC 2009:

  • Blogging is about listening as much as it is about writing
  • David is talking about who he reads (for example, Stephen Downes serves as a filter for David)
  • PLN = personal learning network
  • There's nothing new about PLNs; they existed long before the Internet; they were just more limited than they are now
  • Everyone's PLN is different
  • David: "I blog to learn. Many of my blog entries are questions from which I learn from others."
  • For a lot of people, Twitter is the heart of their PLN. For others, it's their blog, Facebook, Second Life, Ning, Delicious, Flickr, or whatever.
  • The Classroom 2.0 Ning has 31,705 members as of this morning
  • The real power of PLNs is in mining the conversation. Because conversation is getting laid down, becoming part of the record, it can be monitored, mined, etc.
  • Founder of Technorati: "Blogging is the exhaust of the human consciousness."
  • Warlick: “As a 6th grade teacher, I learned very quickly that the amount of time students paid attention to me was directly related to the strangeness of what I was talking about.”
  • David’s bookmarks are at
  • Social bookmarking is my personal digital library
  • Tagging is a key function in the networked Internet

See also: A gardener’s approach to learning

Keywords: personal learning network Warlick