Archive | Leadership and Vision RSS feed for this section

Which is bigger?

Question markI started a new principal licensure cohort this spring. On the second night of class, I had an awesome discussion with a couple of high school teachers about the perpetual issue of forcing students to learn math that they likely will never use again in their life. We make most (all) students take Algebra 2, for instance, even though most of them rarely (if ever) will use that learning later. Our ‘just in case’ educational model is based on the idea that we don’t know what students will need later in life, which is in stark contrast to many of the ‘just in time’ learning opportunities now available to us if we need to gain new knowledge or acquire a new skill. Our conversation led me to this question:

  • Which is bigger? The number of students who are forced to take math that they never will need or the number of students who, given the choice in high school, might not take the math courses they will need later?

We can come up with a number of these questions, each of which has major implications for leadership behaviors and school support structures:

  • Which is bigger? The number of students who begrudgingly make their way through required world language courses (like my son) or the number of students who learn to love other languages and cultures through those classes (like my sister)?
  • Which is bigger? The number of students who are usually engaged in the learning experiences and tasks that we provide them or the number of students who are bored out of their mind?
  • Which is bigger? The number of teachers who need to turn in lesson plans because they’re struggling with instructional coherence or the number of teachers who don’t?
  • Which is bigger? The number of students who are ‘socially promoted’ despite inadequate academic skills or the number of students who are held back by poor instruction and institutional bias or inequities?
  • Which is bigger? The number of students who are truly helped by our mandated adaptive learning software system for reading or the number of students for whom it has little benefit?
  • Which is bigger? The number of parents who complain loudly about a school decision or initiative or the number of parents who are silently approving or grateful?
  • Which is bigger? The number of students who receive gifted and talented services or the number of students who are equally ready but are denied such services?
  • Which is bigger? The number of teachers who are providing robust ’Tier 1’ instruction or the number of teachers who are not?
  • Which is bigger? The number of students who use technology appropriately in school or the number of students who don’t?
  • Which is bigger? The number of students who really need us to teach this thing to them today versus the number of students who already know it?
  • Which is bigger? The number of teachers who will abuse the opportunity to create their own personalized, self-driven, professional learning opportunities or the number of teachers who will use that chance to really stretch and grow themselves as skilled educators?

And so on…

Seems like we should be making instructional, policy, and resourcing decisions based on our answers to these types of questions, right?

Please add your own ‘Which is bigger?’ scenarios in the comments!

2020 Vision (revisited)

2020 VisionSince it’s now 2020, I thought it would be fun to revisit Karl Fisch’s video from 2006, titled 2020 Vision. In that video, Karl imagines he is the commencement speaker for the Arapahoe High School (AHS) Class of 2020, reflecting back on the past 13 years of schooling for that cohort.

In the video, Karl envisioned a number of possibilities:

  • AHS launches a 21st century learning initiative that is focused on preparing learners, workers, and successful contributors to the global community.
  • Google buys Logitech and a whole host of media companies and university lectures. AHS eventually buys a ceiling-mounted ‘GCam’ for every classroom, which captures video, sound (through an area microphone), and screen capture into unified ‘GCasts’ that can be uploaded to the AHS Learning Management System, which also contains RSS feeds, blogs, and Google Docs-like environments for every course.
  • AHS launches its ‘Warrior Portal,’ which eliminates grades and transcripts, allows for more-personalized learning pathways, and creates academic/work portfolios for every student.
  • AHS students each have their own laptop and routinely engage in tele-learning with 10 sister schools all around the world.
  • Google buys Ford, Apple, and AMD, allowing it to make breakthroughs in solar energy, battery technology, and quantum computing. ‘Google Panels’ replace 2/3 of worldwide energy production. ‘GCars’ travel 1,200 miles on a single charge and are essentially free transportation for homes with Google shingles or roof panels. The GCars also are WiFi access points, creating massive nationwide mesh networks. Google makes the first quantum laptops available for an inexpensive subscription to ‘Google Premium,’ which allows free learning (and shopping) for every laptop owner. 
  • AHS and Arapahoe Community College merge to become Arapahoe Community School (ACS), a partnership that results in every student graduating with a minimum of 2 years of college credit.
  • ‘Google U’ launches, incorporating elements of Google Premium, GCasts, university/library materials, Internet resources, and classroom tools, allowing ACS to dump its own courses and create true individualized pathways for students that allow them to both master essential learnings (competency-based education) and engage in passion-based learning projects.
  • By 2020, Google has created an eyeMAGINE computer that projects a 56-inch screen onto users’ retinas, global energy consumption has actually decreased, and ACS has grown to over 20,000 students, all of whom are empowered to “Change the World” (which has been the AHS / ACS motto throughout).

It was fascinating to see some of Karl’s projections from 2006. Today we see a number of dual enrollment programs, for example, and secondary students in P-Tech programs, the Bard Early Colleges, and other initiatives are graduating with college credits. We also have seen some progress related to retinal projection systems, electric cars, solar energy, battery technologies, quantum computing, and other fronts. Many states and school systems are implementing competency-based education (CBE) frameworks and project- / inquiry-based learning initiatives, and 1:1 computing is increasingly prevalent in our elementary and secondary schools.

Today we also see greater skepticism toward Google than many of us had back in 2006. We are not as far along as we could be on the solar energy and electric vehicle fronts, which speaks to both societal inertia and entrenched resistance from companies, politicians, and other major economic actors. AHS is still AHS and, like most other schools, is still trying to figure out its place in a global innovation society. And, as Audrey Watters just reminded us, we have hundreds and maybe thousands of educational initiatives that occupy the graveyard of bad ideas and poor implementation.

What visions for learning from earlier in this century still resonate with you? What progress have we seen (or not)?

The entrepreneurial mindset

RiskThis past weekend I participated in an event called The Entrepreneurial Mindset. The two days of learning were co-sponsored by the School of Education and Human Development and the School of Business at CU Denver. A number of SEHD faculty and staff learned about entrepreneurial practices and thinking alongside local school superintendents and other school district administrators. We heard from the Chairman of the Board of Semester at Sea, learned about the importance of emotional intelligence, did a deep dive on branding and marketing, and talked with entrepreneurs in both higher education and medicine.

Several key ideas resonated with me from our discussions. One was the idea that entrepreneurship is a mindset. It’s a willingness to take action, try things, and be resourceful. It’s a willingness to lean into the fear and welcome change. It’s a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them without being paralyzed. And it’s a willingness to focus relentlessly on the needs of the ‘consumer’ in order to improve their experience. In education, we’re not very good at many of these things. We also need to recognize as educators that entrepreneurship isn’t available to anyone who thinks of themselves as a victim. Passive, helpless mindsets don’t align very well with active, efficacious, change-oriented action.

Another key idea for me was that we have to be good problem seekers before we can be problem solvers. In education, we need more robust problem-seeking structures and behaviors that move beyond simple diagnoses of complex challenges. Otherwise we jump to ‘solutions’ that don’t address what’s really needed.

I also appreciated the reminder that value always lies in the perceptions of others. Just because we think we’re offering a good experience for others doesn’t mean that we actually are. But if we care to listen to the people we serve, they can help us improve what we do. This can be a bit challenging because educators are in it for the long haul and current ‘stakeholders’ may not see the value of some of what we’re providing until later in their lives. It’s possible, however, for us to care about both lifelong impacts and our children’s and families’ immediate experiences. I believe that is a goal worth striving for, even when we simultaneously serve multiple and sometimes conflicting stakeholder groups.

Business people use different language than we do as educators. They talk about ‘adjacent possibilities’ and ‘competitive offerings’ and ‘perceived stakeholder value.’ But at the heart of it all, their conceptions of mission-driven work and aligning that work to the needs of children, families, and communities are not that different. Yes, our children aren’t widgets and we should always critically examine the ethics and practices of any field. But it would be silly for us to pretend that the world of business has nothing to lend the world of education. If we choose not to hide in our P-12 and higher education bubbles, many of us could benefit from framing some of our work in different ways in order to accomplish our ‘job to be done,’ the critically-important job of helping the people that we serve.

In your professional life, are you entrepreneurial? What might be the benefits of such an approach?

Image credit: Risk, Sean Davis

Leadership for School Innovation graduate certificate 001: The launch

I received permission from my faculty colleagues and Dean this summer to launch a new Leadership for School Innovation (LSI) graduate certificate. I’ve done this twice before. In 2002 Joan Hughes (now at the University of Texas-Austin) and I received a large federal grant to create the first graduate program in the country designed to prepare technology-savvy school leaders. The $2.5 million School Technology Leadership Initiative at the University of Minnesota created 15 credits of new coursework that was given away – with accompanying pedagogical supports – to ten other university educational leadership programs across the country. Four cohorts of students went through the U. Minnesota program and numerous other students gained new school technology leadership experiences at partner universities. The U. Minnesota academic program is now defunct but my University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) program center, the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), was created that continues the research and service/outreach work. CASTLE is now co-hosted by the University of Kentucky and the University of Colorado Denver. In 2011 my CASTLE co-directors at U. Kentucky and I created the nation’s second graduate program focused on school technology leadership. That program ran for several years and is now an embedded certificate within a teacher leadership program.

This new LSI graduate certificate at CU Denver will be a little different. It will be wholly online like the U. Kentucky program but its focus will be broader than just technology leadership. I also have a design team from across the country that will be helping me outline and frame up the program. More on them in my next post, and more details on the program in the weeks to come…

Our Design Sprint is tomorrow. I’m excited!

Podcast – Talking with Richard Byrne on the Practical Ed Tech Podcast!

Last week my conversation with Richard Byrne went live on the Practical Ed Tech Podcast. Many of you know Richard from his primary site, Free Technology for Teachers, one of the most widely-read education blogs in the world. Richard and I have known each other for a long time. Maybe he’ll come see me in Colorado sometime. He’s an outdoorsy type – he’d love it out here!

Richard and I talked about a wide range of things, including Tik Tok, building leaders’ capacity to foster school innovation, keeping up with changing technologies, redesigning lessons with the 4 Shifts Protocol, filtering and blocking students, and so on…

Hope you enjoy the discussion. Happy listening!

10 signs that you may be missing opportunities with your school’s technology integration

Left turnHere are some signs that you may be missing opportunities with your school’s technology integration efforts:

  1. Your LMS is primarily used as a document management system
  2. Lots of Kahoots but not much student creation
  3. Many conversations about responsible and appropriate use, not many conversations about empowered use
  4. Teachers are the primary users of technology
  5. Digital worksheets greatly outnumber student multimedia products
  6. Teachers are gravitating toward technologies that allow them to tightly control the student learning experience (e.g., NearPod, GoGuardian)
  7. Silent work alone on ‘personalized,’ adaptive learning software modules is a dominant modality for students
  8. A greater emphasis on filtering and blocking than on equitable access and usage
  9. Technology professional development sessions are sparsely (or reluctantly) attended
  10. The ‘yes buts’ outweigh your visions for technology-infused student learning possibilities

These are just a few. What else might you add?

See also The unholy trinities of classroom technology usage

Image credit: Left turn, Clyde, Alan Levine

Podcast – Harnessing technology for deeper learning

Last week my interview with Tom Vander Ark went live on the Getting Smart podcast. Tom grilled me about my law degree(!) and then we got to the core of the interview.

Tom and I talked about school transformation and instructional redesign, during which I uttered this immortal line:

GettingSmartpodcast

Hope you enjoy the discussion. Happy listening!

2 books for 2 different needs

It’s always gratifying when something you write resonates with others. That’s particularly true when it’s something as big as a book (even a small book). I have had the wonderful opportunity over the past year and a half – thanks to series editor Bill Ferriter and the amazing folks at Solution Tree – to publish two very different books, both of which are intended to meet very specific needs of school leaders and classroom educators and both of which have been well-received.

DifferentSchoolsForADifferentWorld CoverMy first book, Different Schools for a Different World, was a collaborative effort with my joyful friend, Dean Shareski. The book is meant to be a very accessible on-ramp into the idea of why we need different schools these days. Obviously this is not the first book on this topic and there are some other excellent reads that I have in a prominent place on my bookshelves. But I appreciated the chance to approach the argument with my own unique voice and to frame the conversation around the school-society ‘relevance gaps’ that seem to resonate well with the school leaders with whom I work. In the book, Dean and I highlight six key relevance gaps and also discuss the four big shifts of deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion that many schools are implementing to address those gaps. We also provide some action ideas for each of the relevance gaps, profile a few schools around the world that are doing some interesting things as they work to prepare future-ready graduates, and close with some big ideas and important questions for us as educators and communities. The book has gotten good reviews so far. Because it’s only 53 pages long, it’s a quick read for educators, parents, or community members and hopefully an easy book club choice for any school or district that is still struggling with creating and enacting a future-ready vision for its students.

Harnessing Technology for Deeper LearningDifferent Schools for a Different World is the WHY book. My other recent book, Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning, is the HOW book. Co-authored with my very smart instructional coach friend, Julie Graber, this book takes the four big shifts of deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion that were outlined in the previous book and illustrates how to (re)design lessons, units, and instructional activities to accomplish those goals. Although the word ‘technology’ is in the title, at its heart this book is mostly about future-ready pedagogy and instructional design. If we want these pedagogical shifts to happen in our schools and classrooms, we have to explicitly redesign our day-to-instruction to make them happen. The book introduces the 4 Shifts Protocol and shows how it can be an excellent complement to SAMR, TPACK, IPI, the 4 Cs, and other models and frameworks. More importantly, the book includes eight examples of lesson (re)design so that readers can see how to use the protocol to reorient instructional activities. The book is meant to be intensely practical and contains dozens of concrete, specific ‘look fors’ and think abouts.’ The book ends with an entire chapter of tips, suggestions, and strategies for how to implement the 4 Shifts Protocol in schools. At only 57 pages, it’s also a quick read and numerous districts are now using the book and the protocol with teacher cohorts, instructional coaches, technology integrationists, and principals to drive their instructional redesign work.

So if you’re still trying to get people ‘on board’ with a future-ready vision for schools and classrooms, consider Different Schools for a Different World as a possible read. And if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and do the day-to-day instructional (re)design work necessary to accomplish that vision, check out the open source 4 Shifts Protocol and the accompanying book, Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning. And, as always, please stay in touch as I can be of support to you.

Happy reading!

New book chapter in Multimedia Learning Theory!

Multimedia Learning Theory: Preparing for the New Generation of Students (edited book)I am pleased to announce that my book chapter in Multimedia Learning Theory: Preparing for the New Generation of Students is now available!

My chapter is titled Multimedia Learning and the Educational Leader. Here’s an excerpt from the Systemic Improvement section of the chapter:

One important role of principals and superintendents is ensuring that employee position announcements, job descriptions, hiring processes, mentoring systems, training, and evaluation criteria all enforce school organizations’ need for robust multimedia learning and teaching. Few school systems currently have powerful technology integration as a core competency for classroom teaching staff. Educational organizations’ omission of digital teaching proficiency and the ability to facilitate students’ higher-order thinking as essential, required skill sets for teachers and administrators sends clear signals to current faculty, job candidates, and educator preparation programs about institutional values. Until this changes, meaningful and authentic uses of multimedia technologies in P-12 classrooms will continue to be isolated aberrations rather than routine observances.

Over the past several decades, school systems have slowly instituted a variety of technical systems to facilitate the management of lower-level cognitive work. Student information systems, online gradebooks, electronic formative assessment tools, and data warehouses are all examples of technologies that help educators input, manage, analyze, and present student learning data (Wayman, Stringfield, & Yakimowski, 2004). Most of the data in these institutional systems focus on student demographic information, letter grades, test scores, and daily assignment tracking.

As educational organizations transition to student learning environments that place greater emphasis on higher-order thinking skills, they will need more robust technology tools that allow them to facilitate, collect, and evaluate more complex, abstract, open-ended student learning. Most of these tools do not yet exist, so it is difficult to envision at this time what they might look like. They are likely to include evolving features such as sophisticated document and portfolio management (including archiving and tagging of multimedia student and teacher work products); deep cross-artifact text, image, audio, and video analysis; infographic-like presentation of underlying patterns and meaning; and the ability to easily but selectively share through a variety of information and social media channels.

Other tools to facilitate effective learning and teaching will include system-provided technologies such as open access content repositories, streaming multimedia servers, online adaptive learning systems, and robust, social media-driven collaboration channels for students, classroom teachers, and administrators. Strategic partnerships with state and federal governments, corporations, foundations, nonprofits, and others will become more prevalent as school systems face inevitable gaps in funding and resources. Growth in these and other technology systems must be accompanied by concurrent growth in organizational thinking as well as administrative and societal permission and encouragement to utilize these tools.

Hope the book is useful to some of you. Happy reading!

Citation

McLeod, S. (2019). Multimedia learning and the educational leader. In P. M. Jenlink & B. D. Knight (Eds.), Multimedia learning theory: Preparing for the new generation of students, pp. 129-143. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

25 professional learning conversation stations

This past Thursday I created 25 professional learning ‘conversation stations’ for my principal licensure students. I printed them all out and spread them around our classroom (which is a school library). Each printed station contained a link or two – or a short reading (and a source) – and some questions to consider. The idea was to expose our preservice administrators at the University of Colorado Denver to a variety of ways to foster and facilitate adult learning beyond schools’ traditional, moribund professional development sessions.

My students traveled around the room in pairs or trios, visiting whichever stations they wanted (they had a shared notes document that listed all of the stations). Each group stayed at a station for as long or short a time as desired. Most averaged about 7 to 10 minutes per station, but some talked for nearly 30 minutes at a single station. At several points during our two hours on this activity, they got together with another group and shared what was resonating from their station visits. We learned a lot and had some awesome conversations together! At the end of the evening I gave them a link to all of the stations, so that they could later peruse whatever they hadn’t visited yet.

Here are links to both the conversation stations and the shared notes document, as well as the slide I used to introduce the activity:

Both of the main documents are editable. Feel free to modify them and make them better for others. If you use this activity in your principal licensure program or school district, let me know how it went!

We also had 3 pre-class readings and 5 beginning-of-activity provocations just to get us in the right mindset:

Pre-readings

Beginning-of-activity provocations

If you have any thoughts or questions about all of this, please get in touch. Otherwise, hope this is useful to you!

How are you introducing school leaders and teachers to alternative (better) forms of professional learning?