Archive | November, 2009

Dear Will

Dear Will,

In less than two weeks you’ll be here in Iowa. We’re excited to have you visit. We’ve got an eager bunch of state leaders awaiting your insights.

Just to let you know, this probably isn’t your typical group of school leaders. This session with you is invitation-only and we deliberately kept it small to foster good discussion. We only have 40 attendees and, as you can imagine, we had to make some extremely difficult choices about whom to invite.

The group includes 18 of our state’s most forward-thinking superintendents. Many of them have initiated 1:1 laptop programs, have begun student virtual reality initiatives, and/or are otherwise on the forefront of technology-related school reform. In addition to the superintendents, we’ve also invited 4 building-level administrators who live on the cutting edge.

CASTLE has been working extensively with the School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) and Iowa’s Area Educational Agencies (AEAs) to provide technology leadership training across the state. Four of the attendees represent the AEAs; three attendees represent SAI. We also have the 3 individuals from the Iowa Department of Education (DE) who are in charge of P-12 technology, the new Iowa Core Curriculum’s 21st century skills component, and administrator quality.

We have good relationships with the business associations in Iowa. In attendance will be the executive directors of the Iowa Business Council, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and the Iowa Chamber Alliance. One of the education reporters from The Des Moines Register also will be there.

Finally, rounding out the group are 4 attendees from CASTLE: myself; my new faculty colleague, John Nash (who used to be the director of evaluation for the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning); and two of our graduate assistants who have been helping us with our technology leadership initiatives.

You should be prepared for keen thinking and tough questions from this group. They’ve been mulling big ideas and ground-level implementation issues for a while now. They’re chomping at the bit to move forward but also are cognizant of current policy, funding, and staffing realities. It should be an excellent day of conversation.

Here’s what you need to know about us

There are a few things you should know about us. For example, Iowa has long had a commitment to and history of educational excellence, which has resulted in our students consistently scoring at or near the top of all states on standardized assessments. Unfortunately, as our citizens and educators are slowly coming to realize, our past success and current practices often don’t meet 21st century needs very well. Shifting our populace out of complacency and into a different understanding is an enormous undertaking for us. The whole state is struggling to shift from an agriculture and manufacturing mindset into a knowledge economy orientation.

We have other challenges. In a rapidly-globalizing world, we are one of the least ethnically diverse states in the nation, which means that most Iowans have had little substantive interaction with people of other cultures. Most Iowa communities are small; we only have two cities larger than 100,000 and another dozen that are larger than 30,000. Most Iowa school districts are small; nearly a sixth have fewer than 300 students, 70% have fewer than 1,000 students, and less than 9% have more than 2,500 students. A third of our students currently live in poverty. Our young adults leave the state, never to return, at the second-highest rate in the country. Our rural bandwidth and technology infrastructures are less than desirable. Our online learning opportunities for P-12 students are anemic.

We’ve also got some assets. Because Iowa’s communities are so small, they often are more closely connected to schools and students than in many other states. Our state government, local community, nonprofit, and corporate organizations all care about and have been working extensively with our schools for many years; there is a successful track record of engagement and conversation. The Wallace Foundation recently found that Iowa has the most cohesive school leadership system of any state in the country. Our state’s leading newspaper actually prints numerous positive stories about schools.

Here’s what we need from you

We need you to stretch our minds and our imaginations to the utmost limit. They’ve already heard me speak about digital revolutions, globalization, and changing workforce needs. They’ve already heard me challenge existing ways of thinking and doing at the school, district, and policy levels. Many of the educators in attendance have heard Alan November, David Warlick, Daniel Pink, Tony Wagner, Yong Zhao, Richard Longworth, and others.

We’re ready to take the next step. We’re ready for you to take our already-forward-thinking brains into 2015, 2025, or even 2050. We need to hear from you what the new information and technology landscapes are going to look like. We need to hear from you what school organizations could / should / MUST look like. And because you work with schools all over the world, we need to hear from you what innovative schools currently are doing to make the shift.

We can handle whatever you throw at us. Don’t be afraid to E-X-P-A-N-D our brains exponentially by asking us difficult questions and offering us enormous challenges. We need grounding in a future reality, but we also need concrete details about current and potential transformative practices. We need our mental models to be rearranged, reframed, and reconfigured. And, of course we want lots of opportunities for discussion and hands-on experiences. All that is not too much to ask, is it?!

So that’s our context. We appreciate your willingness to come to Ames. We’ll be sitting at tables in small groups. All of us likely will have laptops and Internet access. Rock our world, put us to work, move us forward. Thanks.

11-30 ISTE conference keynote update – Chris Lehmann retakes lead over Jeff Piontek

Here is the current leaderboard for the ISTE conference keynote crowdsourcing project. Chris Lehmann has retaken the lead over Jeff Piontek.

I’ll try to post a daily update between now and December 15. Have you voted yet?


17 Tweets about the ISTE conference keynote

Today there was what I thought was an engaging Twitter conversation about the ISTE conference keynote crowdsourcing project. Here is the general idea in 17 Tweets…

First, I posted about the latest standings and some backchannel grumblings I’ve been hearing:


Then I heard from John Larkin and Jen Wagner:



Elizabeth Holmes thought the keynote project was a good idea:


But Sylvia Martinez was less enthused:


Julia Fallon wasn’t too keen either:




Somewhere in there I said:


Gary Stager chimed in:


As did Susan van Gelder:


Which prompted me to ask a question:


I also said:


Susan replied:


Gary also stated:


Which prompted this comment from me:


And, as often happens, Gary got the last word!


11-29 ISTE conference keynote update – Some backchannel grumbling

Here is the current leaderboard for the ISTE conference keynote crowdsourcing project. Jeff Piontek has widened his lead a bit more over Chris Lehmann. Alan November has claimed the lead in a category and Karl Fisch is pulling away from Michael Wesch.

Does it matter if a nominee nominated himself? Does it matter if family members are voting for a nominee? When by all accounts the nominee is an exceptional educator and speaker, I don’t know if these matter or not, but I’ve heard some backchannel grumbling…

I’ll try to post a daily update between now and December 15. Have you voted yet?


11-28 ISTE conference keynote update – Jeffrey Piontek widens lead over Chris Lehmann

Here is the current leaderboard for the ISTE conference keynote crowdsourcing project. Jeffrey Piontek has widened his lead slightly over Chris Lehmann. Alan November also is moving quickly up the charts.

FYI, if you count totals across ALL categories, Chris Lehmann would be in the lead with 462 votes. Also, Michael Wesch would be tied with David Pogue for fourth with 199 votes and Will Richardson would be on the list with 107 votes.

I’ll try to post a daily update between now and December 15. Have you voted yet?


11-27 ISTE conference keynote update – Jeffrey Piontek now ahead of Chris Lehmann

Here is the current leaderboard for the ISTE conference keynote crowdsourcing project. As you can see, there’s been a shakeup at the top. Jeffrey Piontek is now slightly ahead of Chris Lehmann (if you don't count Chris' votes in the Universal Design for Learning category). Other folks who have moved up the charts quickly over the past 24 hours include Karen Cator and Alan November.

This clearly is going to be an interesting process! I’ll try to post a daily update between now and December 15. Have you voted yet?


Not enough school administrators are visionaries?

A recent article from The Economist, The Cult of the Faceless Boss, caught my attention. Here’s an excerpt:

In general, the corporate world needs its flamboyant visionaries and raging egomaniacs rather more than its humble leaders and corporate civil servants. Think of the people who have shaped the modern business landscape, and “faceless” and “humble” are not the first words that come to mind.

Be bold, not bland

Henry Ford was as close as you can get to being deranged without losing your liberty. John Patterson, the founder of National Cash Register and one of the greatest businessmen of the gilded age, once notified an employee that he was being sacked by setting fire to his desk. Thomas Watson, one of Patterson’s protégés and the founder of IBM, turned his company into a cult and himself into the object of collective worship. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both tightly wound empire-builders. Jack Welch and Lou Gerstner are anything but self-effacing. These are people who have created the future, rather than merely managing change, through the force of their personalities and the strength of their visions. George Bernard Shaw’s adage about progress depending on “the unreasonable man” applies just as much to business as to every other area of life, if not more.

The previous outbreak of the cult of facelessness was in the 1950s, when books such as “The Organisation Man” and “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” topped the bestseller list, and when two of America’s biggest firms, General Motors and General Electric, were both run by men named Charles Wilson. Today’s world is as different as possible from the one that produced organisation man: an unusual degree of turbulence requires unusual bosses, rather than steady-as-she-goes functionaries.

I wonder if this is the issue with P-12 school leadership. Are most of our school administrators just ‘steady-as-she-goes functionaries?’ Are they too bland, concerned more with not rocking the boat than they are with facilitating meaningful organizational change? Do we have too many managers and not enough visionaries? If so, is it possible to foster more visionary leaders within our current P-12 organizational and higher education preparation systems or is there no hope unless our systems change? Thoughts?

11-26 ISTE conference keynote update

Here is the current leaderboard for the ISTE conference keynote crowdsourcing project. I’ll try to post a daily update between now and December 15. Have you voted yet?


11-25 ISTE conference keynote update

Here is the current leaderboard for the ISTE conference keynote crowdsourcing project. I’ll try to post a daily update between now and December 15. Have you voted yet?


Did You Know? video series featured on Huffington Post

The Did You Know? (Shift Happens) video series has been featured twice on The Huffington Post in the past few days. One of the stories currently is the lead for HuffPo’s technology section.

According to Technorati and Compete, HuffPo currently is the world’s #1 blog. I know that Karl Fisch had no idea that his video would turn into the worldwide phenomenon that it has. We still hear from people and organizations every single day about it. I feel very fortunate to be affiliated with this video series!