Archive | April, 2010

Activity: Schools, change, and resource allocation

Here’s an activity you can do with school administrators and teachers (and maybe school board members?). Total time: about 45 minutes.

Resources needed

  • PowerPoint slides (pptx ppt pdf)
  • Pre-made Google Doc formatted like this, with sharing set up so that anyone can view AND edit
  • Internet access and a laptop for at least one participant in each group

Set-up (about 5 minutes)

Whem most folks think and talk about organizational change, they envision it in linear terms:


In reality, change in organizations looks more like this:

Read more…

Video – Social Media Reading List for School Leaders

This is a must-watch video by Hans Mundahl, Director of Experiental Learning and Technology Coordinator at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire. Not only does Hans have a cool title (how awesome would it be if every school had a ‘director of experiential learning?’), he makes a mean video.

Check out Hans’ 3–minute clip below, where he tries to explain the value of social media to his school leadership team. Then check out the wiki page that resulted from his efforts. Nice work, Hans!

[hat tip to Jesse Moyer at The Future of Education blog for leading me to this]

Does teacher tenure have a future?

As a school law instructor and tenured associate professor of educational leadership, I perhaps have a different view of tenure than most P-12 teachers. As we look to what the future of tenure may be, I believe that it’s important to recognize a few key issues that will shape the discussion and form of tenure in the years to come.

Before we begin, it may be helpful to have a quick overview of the history of tenure. Tenure was created to protect teachers against the personal and/or political whims of school administrators (and, sometimes, parents). Initiated by New Jersey in 1910, educator tenure laws gradually spread across the country. Today most states extend some kind of tenure protection to teachers. Protections typically vest for P-12 educators after two or three years in the profession, unlike their postsecondary counterparts, whose own vesting usually only accrues after six to ten years of probationary status. More recently, a few states have actually eliminated teacher tenure or discussed doing so.

So, with that background quickly covered, let’s get into the big issues. Note that the points outlined below don’t address whether or not teacher tenure is ideologically or educationally desirable. Instead, they highlight popular belief systems about the practice.

Read more…

Reappopriation of the personal sphere

Here are three quotes from Stefana Broadbent’s excellent TED Talk:

there are new, hidden tensions that are actually happening between people and institutions — institutions that are the institutions that people inhabit in their daily life: schools, hospitals, workplaces, factories, offices, etc. And something that I see happening is something that I would like to call a sort of "democratization of intimacy."

And what do I mean by that? I mean that what people are doing is, in fact, they are sort of, with their communication channels, they are breaking an imposed isolation that these institutions are imposing on them.


And this has become such a cultural norm that we actually school our children for them to be capable to do this cleavage.

If you think nursery, kindergarten, first years of school are just dedicated to take away the children, to make them used to staying long hours away from their family. And then the school enacts perfectly well, mimics perfectly all the rituals that we will start in offices, rituals of entry, rituals of exit, the schedules, the uniforms in this country, things that identify you, team-building activities, team building that will allow you to basically be with a random group of kids, or a random group of people that you will have to be with for a number of time. And of course, the major thing: learn to pay attention, to concentrate and focus your attention.

This only started about 150 years ago. It only started with the birth of modern bureaucracy, and of industrial revolution.


every day, every single day, I read news that makes me cringe, like a 15-dollar fine to kids in Texas, for using, every time they take out their mobile phone in school. Immediate dismissal to bus drivers in New York, if seen with a mobile phone in a hand. Companies blocking access to IM or to Facebook. Behind issues of security and safety, which have always been the arguments for social control, in fact what is going on is that these institutions are trying to decide who, in fact, has a right to self determine their attention, to decide, whether they should, or not, be isolated. And they are actually trying to block, in a certain sense, this movement of a greater possibility of intimacy.

Our students – and our employees – are reappropriating their personal spheres. Good for them.

Our mental models are the biggest barrier to moving schools forward into a digital, global era

What is the biggest barrier to moving schools forward into a technology-suffused, globally-interconnected era? Our mental models of what schooling should look like.

Unfortunately, most educators, parents, and policymakers have no idea what it truly means to prepare students for this kind of world.

Don’t believe me? Go ahead and ask ‘em.

Who will be the next director of the Iowa Department of Education?

Judy Jeffrey announced yesterday that she is retiring as the Director of the Iowa Department of Education. She has been a tremendous supporter of revamping the ways that Iowa schools do business. Her signature legacies may be the Iowa Core and the Authentic Intellectual Work projects, both of which focus on students doing higher-level cognitive work in Iowa classrooms. If we can get both of these implemented AT SCALE (the first is a statewide initiative but the second is only in a few pilot schools), we may actually move Iowa classrooms significantly in directions they need to go.

We are seeing progress on other needed fronts. The number of school districts in Iowa that are implementing 1:1 laptop projects has gone from 6 (2008–2009) to 15 (2009–2010) to perhaps as high as 40 next year (which would be over a tenth of Iowa districts). Some conversations about increasing online learning opportunities for Iowa schoolchildren (currently our offerings are quite meager) seem to be reopening. The discussions that are occurring among Iowa school administrators about moving their school systems forward seem much more robust than they did when I arrived in the state three years ago, thanks to the tremendous thought leadership and professional development that the School Administrators of Iowa has been providing on this front. I am hopeful that we will make some headway on some other essential building blocks that we need to put in place (see my post on educational technology policy priorities and my Iowa series).

Of course all of this could come to a screeching halt. A change in governors and/or the state legislature would bring new policy priorities. A change in Director brings with it the possibility of someone coming in with different beliefs about where the state education system should be headed. We need someone who can keep the momentum going. Who can take the ideas embedded in the Iowa Core and get them implemented well at the local level. Who can change the belief systems of Iowa educators and citizens about what schooling should look like. Who can find ways to facilitate the other necessary structural supports that need to be in place to create a system of schooling that prepares our graduates for the next half century, not the last half century.

I know who I’d like to see as the new Director (anyone got the Governor’s ear?!). How about you?

We ARE the system

[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

As school leaders, we have the responsibility to

  • Facilitate learning environments that are respectful, empowering, and engaging for students
  • Create workplaces that are respectful, empowering, and engaging for staff
  • Prepare students for what is and will be, not what was
  • Build trust, not erode it
  • Be buffers, not barriers

and so on…

We can point fingers. We can blame others. We can rail against the system. But we must recognize that we are in charge of the system. In essence, as stewards of school organizations, we ARE the system. We create the system every day.

We must point those fingers inward. We must blame ourselves before we blame others. We must recognize the impacts of our own actions rather than always blaming external factors. Only then does real progress occur.

Principals, superintendents, curriculum directors, technology coordinators, and educational leadership professors: Are you ready to take responsibility for your own decision-making? Our students and staff deserve better…

[Inspired by yet another tale of woe by practicing educators about their poor leadership – and by my own recent failings as a professor.]

You can’t get to outer space with a rowboat


You can’t get to outer space with a rowboat. You need something with a little more oomph.

Neither can you get to genuine 21st century learning environments without putting a computer in every kid’s hands. Not just some of the time. All of the time.

Is 1:1 computing sufficient in and of itself? Will magic happen if every kid gets a laptop or a netbook? No, but it’s a necessary and essential condition without which the true magic never will occur.

Why aren’t you moving more quickly to get a computer into every student’s hands? (Yes, I mean you.)

Photo credit: Woman in rowboat

Teaching philosophy

My teaching philosophy is pretty straightforward. I believe that

  • the teaching-learning process is primarily for the benefit of the learner, not the teacher.
  • all students can, will, and want to learn, given the proper learning environment.
  • students actively and individually make sense of what they learn by integrating it into what they already understand. Because by definition teaching cannot occur without learning, I should always seek and value students’ points of view in order to understand students’ thought processes and knowledge acquisition.
  • my ultimate responsibility as a teacher is to create a learning environment that facilitates learning for every student. My ultimate goal is to make each class the best learning experience students have ever had.

Clearly this is a constructivist approach, one that I have found works extremely well with adult learners. Because I primarily teach prospective principals and superintendents, my students often are older and have more experience in schools than I do. To ignore their wealth of knowledge would be pedagogically unsound and philosophically ludicrous.

My approach to teaching has both benefits and burdens. On the positive side, I find that students respond well to my student-centered approach. They are quick to respond and participate in class, and I have little difficulty engaging them in course material that, for many, is quite difficult. Because my main teaching areas, law and technology, are extremely dynamic and unfamiliar territory for most of my students, it is important that I help them navigate their learning curves smoothly and painlessly (for example, my school law students love that I give them the ability to pass without penalty on Socratic-style questions from me, even though they rarely actually do so). On the flip side, such an approach establishes a very high bar for me to meet. Since I tell my students that I am working to make each class their “best course ever,” they have extremely high expectations about the quality of their learning experience. This puts some pressure on me to try and meet each of their individual learning needs.

I work extremely hard to provide a safe, high-quality learning environment for my students. One way I do this is to use formative assessments to guide my instructional practice. I tell students that an end-of-course summative course evaluation doesn’t help their own learning experience; we thus do “mini evaluations” one-third and two-thirds of the way through each course that I teach. I ask three primary questions:

  • On a scale of 1 (terrible) to 10 (excellent), how would you rate your class experience to date?
  • What are some things that you like about this class?
  • What are some ways that we can improve your class experience in the time that we have left?

I then present the results to students at the beginning of our next class (with accompanying graphs), emphasizing that I am striving for improvement. I not only go over students’ ratings and comments, I explain my thinking behind some of our class procedures and practices and offer tangible ways that I can act upon their feedback over the rest of the semester. The mini evaluations are especially useful when I am teaching courses for the first time because I tend to get the most feedback and my lowest ratings (both formative and summative) for classes that are new for me.

I implement a number of other bidirectional feedback mechanisms in my classes too. For example, at the beginning of each course, students receive a list of former students’ responses to the question, “If you could tell the students who next take this class one thing, what would it be?” from the previous class’s customized summative evaluation forms (used in addition to the university’s standard course evaluation form). I also frequently do quick, anonymous checks for understanding at the end of class sessions or online activities, asking my students “What is the most significant thing you learned in this class (activity)?” and “What question is uppermost in your mind at the end of this class (activity)?” All of my students submit reflective self-evaluations of their learning at the end of each course.

I like to experiment with my teaching. I constantly search for new ways to present material and to have students exhibit their understanding of course concepts. Lately I’ve been exploring the intersections of visual thinking tools and technology (e.g., mind mapping or concept mapping software). Many of my teaching methods involve the use of innovative information and communication technologies, both to model effective uses of technology in instruction and to expose my students to technology solutions that they do not know even exist.

As much as I enjoy my other activities, teaching is still the most professionally gratifying thing that I do each week.

Support engineering – Crazy high school robots that battle for supremacy

Yesterday I got the e-mail below. I watched the video trailer and made my contribution this morning. Crazy high school robots battling it out for engineering supremacy? How can you not support that?!

Hi Dr. McLeod,

For the past year I've been working on a documentary following high school robotics teams build combat robots for the National BotsIQ Championship.

My goal with the film is to be entertaining to all, yet motivational to students to get them involved in science and engineering (STEM) programs and for educators to see these alternate teaching methods. A lot of the teams featured are all girls teams.

I'm trying to raise funds to film the championship through a Kickstarter project.

Basically this equates to pre-ordering a DVD. For educators I have a special offer that anyone who pledges $25 or more (DVD level) and forwards their confirmation email to , I'll make sure they get an educational licensed version to show in classrooms.

I'm also working on an educational video (that will be on the DVD) on getting students (especially girls) involved in STEM programs, which I'd love to get input on from teachers to shape it so it works best for their needs.

If you would be able to post something about this, either on your website, Twitter, Facebook, etc., it would greatly help me reach my goal and make this the best film and project it can be.

Thanks for any help you can provide, feel free to ask me any questions. I have a special press area on the website for photos, videos, and other media.

Take care and talk to you soon.

Joey Daoud,
Bots High, Producer & Director