Tag Archives: leadership

Digital Leadership Daily: November 2016 update

Digital Leadership Daily Photo

Thought I’d share some quick numbers regarding the Digital Leadership Daily service that I launched back in February. Nine months later, we have 146 subscribers getting a daily text message through Remind, 97 people on the Facebook page, and 650 followers on the Twitter channel. If you or someone you know would benefit from one carefully-selected technology leadership resource per day, feel free to sign up!

My keynote for the 2015 K12 Online Conference


My keynote for the 2015 K12 Online Conference is now available. It’s long because within it I profile numerous examples of innovative schools. Here is the description for my session:

Whenever any sort of change or innovation is discussed, the ‘Yes, but…’ objections are inevitable. However, instead of allowing those resistance points to dominate and defeat promising ideas, teachers and administrators can reframe opposition into possibility by asking the questions ‘Why not?’ and ‘How can we?’ Effective educators focus on adaptation, forward progress, and collective effort and efficacy. The ‘yes, buts’ don’t do anything except keep us stuck. Too often we get mired in negativity and defeatism instead of recognizing that – both individually and collectively – we usually have the ability to do and be so much more than our current reality reflects. This keynote focuses on transformative leadership mindsets and features exemplary schools from around the world that are ignoring the ‘yes, buts’ to make amazing things happen for children and youth.

Check it out and get some great ideas for changes you might make in your school. Be sure to see all of the other wonderful presentations too. The four conference strands this year are Maker Ed, Stories of Connection, Overcoming Obstacles, and Beyond The Core: Art and More. Did I mention the conference is FREE?!

Happy viewing!

Investing in leadership capacity: The amazing, wonderful District 59

Two years ago I had the incredible opportunity to work with the entire leadership team of District 59 in Arlington Heights, Illinois for SEVEN days. Yes, seven entire days with every central office administrator, every building administrator, and many of their teacher leaders. There were about 40 of us. We met approximately once per month from September to May. They also met for a couple of hours each month in between my visits. They labeled it their ‘21st Century Leadership Academy.’

What did seven-plus days do for us? They allowed us to go both broad and deep, to chart a progression over time that would build leadership understanding and capacity. Here’s what we discussed…

  • Day 1: The Big Picture: Start With the Why – How is the innovation decade going to change learning of, by, and for young people? (thank you Pam Moran for this question!) – Establishing our rules of play and group norms – Quick reactions to my TEDxDesMoines talk about extracurricular learning v. curricular learning – Because of digital technologies, our world today is more… – What are the implications and design considerations of what we just identified for learning, teaching, and schooling? (both positive and negative) – Organizational self-assessment – Getting set up with our new Google+ community
  • Day 2: Connecting and Collaborating – Review of last session’s evaluations and our rules of play – How connections foster innovation (Chris Anderson, Steven Johnson, and The Power of Pull) – Individual connection maps: How are we personally and professionally connected to ideas, individuals, groups, and organizations? (both analog and digital) – 5 stages of instructional evolution – Communities of interest v. communities of geography – Connected learning gallery walk – Interrogating our instruction: Are these connected lessons any good? How could we make them better? – Getting set up with Twitter and our new hashtag
  • Day 3: Problem- and Inquiry-Based Learning – Review of last session’s evaluations and our rules of play – Crowdsourcing – Understanding how Wikipedia really works – Crowdsourcing ideas for students and teachers – Essential elements of project-based learning – PBL v. traditional classroom ‘projects’ (how is PBL different from what we normally do in our classes?) – Interrogating our instruction: Are these elementary and middle school projects any good? How could we make them better? – Going deeper with the components of high-quality PBL – A PBL case study – Making sense of PBL in our own context – Getting set up with Feedly and some awesome school leadership blogs
  • Day 4: Critical Thinking and Technology Integration – Review of last session’s evaluations and our rules of play – A deep dive into The Road Not Taken and Thinking About a Lack of Thinking – When memorization gets in the way of learning – Characteristics of a thinking classroom – Interrogating our instruction: Utilizing the trudacot discussion protocol to foster richer technology integration – Challenge: Design a cognitively complex, technology-infused project
  • Day 5: The Affordances of Digital – Review of last session’s evaluations and our rules of play – Digital v. analog: Examples of the affordances of multimedia storytelling – How is writing changing because of digital and online? – Transmedia – Blended learning models – Personalization v. individualization – Interrogating our instruction: An elementary school scenario
  • Day 6: Visioning and Challenge Identification (aka Action Planning, Part 1) – Review of last session’s evaluations, our rules of play, and the past 5 sessions – Revisiting our responses to Because of digital technologies, our world today is more… (keywords and convergence) – Whereas… Therefore activity – Challenge identification: XPLANE cards – Analyzing our group narratives using Bolman & Deal and an effort-impact matrix – What are our biggest anchors that are slowing us down?
  • Day 7: Enabling Our Vision (aka Action Planning, Part 2) – Review of last session’s evaluations, our rules of play, and the past 6 sessions – What does it take to be a great leader? – Driving forces – Revisiting our responses in the Whereas… Therefore activity – Start-Stop-Continue – XPLANE cards and group narratives: Overcoming our primary obstacles – Interrogating our instruction: Using screencasting apps to address English/Language Arts, Math, or Science standards – Final thoughts on technology-infused learning

Our evaluation results reflected our awesome work together. I freely admit that, as an entirety, this was probably the best professional learning experience that I have ever facilitated. To be able to sustain this level of quality across seven days was phenomenal…

D59 Evaluations

Here are some of my favorite comments from the session evaluations:

  • I like the vast amount of resources that can be shared with staff
  • The active engagement and modeling was very nonthreatening [but] challenged my thinking
  • It wasn’t just a sit and get. We used different tools without them being ‘taught’ to us.
  • Loved the entire discussion about ‘connectedness’
  • The chance to discuss and ask hard questions about where we are at was great.
  • Having time to work DEEPLY with colleagues – the time to really start to wrap our minds around what all of this actually needs to look like within the classroom setting
  • It was great to look at some sample units and critically evaluate them
  • The Whereas… Therefore exercise was difficult for me until the very end. Hearing the thoughts of all of my colleagues was powerful when it all came together.
  • Taking the time to dig through some difficult conversations
  • All the interaction and discussion with my table group. Lots of laughter and rich discussion.
  • My favorite part was the focus on ‘What exactly are kids learning as a result of this process?’ v. ‘Look! A project!’
  • Teachers keep asking us what 21st century learning looks like and we now have many examples to share with them
  • Scott was a model for how to teach
  • Challenging our thinking and beliefs is a wonderful experience
  • Looking at a teacher’s lesson and coming up with appropriate talking points to help the teacher think about how to improve it
  • [We have had] LOTS of opportunity to do the hard work – these are not easy conversations
  • Is there a number higher than 5? Great information on creating and evaluating PBL projects
  • So powerful to work collaboratively with table mates to plan a unit of study. Really helped with my level of understanding of how we want our staff to plan.
  • Working with apps to demonstrate and apply our understanding of what we know and have learned
  • Very concrete in terms of identifying the specific problems and potential solutions and then writing that narrative to describe that landscape
  • You made a very complex topic much more palatable. It was a challenging topic with many pieces, but due to your careful planning, the flow seemed more natural.
  • The continuing a-ha!
  • Thank you. I am really enjoying these times to learn and grow.
  • Thank you for yet another enlightening day. They are always exhausting but I learn so much.
  • I have learned a lot during this time together but, more important, I have learned a lot about the other leaders in the district
  • It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come as a group since September. Our progress is faster and more significant every time we’re together.
  • We are more cohesive and in alignment with our thinking than we were at the beginning of the year. We also had fun as we learned.
  • Best PD ever – applicable, engaging, empowering, collegial, just AWESOME!

Our work got a shout-out in Will Richardson’s new book, From Master Teacher to Master Learner, which is pretty cool:

It goes without saying that for many, finding the time to do their own PD is a real problem. No great answer to this is apparent other than a cultural reframing, one that is already underway. And that means schools should consider a reframing of their own learning time. For example, last year the Community Consolidated School District 59 in Arlington Heights, Illinois, was able to create sixty-three hours of professional development for administrators around modern learning contexts in an effort to begin real culture change. . . . We in schools need to make the time to understand these shifts for ourselves.

Two years later District 59 is in a significantly different place than before. They have continued learning, talking, and implementing. They are ROCKING OUT.

This is absolutely, positively, without a doubt my favorite kind of work. When we engage in sustained, extended discussions over the course of multiple months or years, we can see shifts in thinking and capacity occurring over time. We can see folks getting excited about the possibilities. We can build shared understandings and commitments. And we can build on all of that to start implementing new instructional and leadership paradigms in schools and classrooms.

Not every district is fortunate enough to have an amazing superintendent like Art Fessler, who recently was named as one of the National School Boards Association’s ’20 to Watch.’ Not every district is fortunate enough to have an amazing assistant superintendent like Ben Grey, who planned and co-facilitated the seven-plus days with me. But, like District 59, every school system can make a sustained, strategic commitment to investing in its leaders’ ability to learn and grow so that they are able to better create and support school environments that foster deeper learning, greater student agency, authentic work, and richer technology integration.

This year I get to work with two different districts – one in Iowa and one in Minnesota – to do this again. Each is doing a 5-day Innovation Academy with their district, building, and teacher leaders. Like in District 59, I’m guessing that it’s going to be awesome because the districts have made a significant commitment to learn and grow together and to build their leadership capacity in this area. I can’t wait…

What is your school system doing to build its leadership capacity to foster 21st century learning environments?

Time to find other employment

In the past decade, most everyone with access has experienced what it's like to learn from anyone, anywhere at any time. In everyday life, this is no longer an event to behold but the way we learn. Any policy maker or leader who doesn't understand and live this needs to find other employment. - Dean Shareski

Dean Shareski said:

In the past decade, most everyone with access has experienced what it’s like to learn from anyone, anywhere at any time. In everyday life, this is no longer an event to behold but the way we learn. Any policy maker or leader who doesn’t understand and live this needs to find other employment.

via http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-shareski/make-it-stop_1_b_8142928.html

Transform, not reform

Greg Whitby said:

more businesses are moving away from improving old models to responding to the changing needs of consumers (and employees) within the context of a rapidly changing world. In addition, real time data has helped to create a whole new paradigm for doing things differently, thinking creatively and responding immediately.

On the flip side, education is still wedded to the improvement model; looking for enhanced solutions to old problems. We operate on the assumption that we can control the variables, link performance to accountability measures and tighten up processes. Where are the innovative solutions?

Improvement is no longer the challenge so let’s use educational conferences and colloquiums to focus on how we change the system not how we fix it. As Sir Ken Robinson says the challenge is not to reform but to transform.

via https://bluyonder.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/improvement-is-no-longer-the-challenge


Principals in action

Check out the new hashtag, #principalsinaction.

This is a great way for principals to share what they’re doing in schools. If you’re a school administrator, follow the hashtag to get ideas from your peers. And, of course, also share out your own awesomeness!

5 minutes about transforming schools

Bob Greenberg has been videoing some amazing thinkers for his Brainwaves YouTube channel. People like Mitch ResnickAlan Kay, Jerome BrunerNicholas NegroponteNoam Chomsky, and Eric Mazur. I’m not exactly sure why Bob asked me too but I got to spend a few minutes with him at the recent ISTE conference in Philadelphia and of course was absolutely delighted for the opportunity…

The video is titled Transforming Schools. Happy viewing!

Dreaming bigger for Iowa education


Lately I’ve been trying to dream a little bigger about Iowa schools. Feel free to map this onto your own state or province…


Bottom line

What if…

  1. every Urban Education Network of Iowa district had an ‘alternative’ high school for low-achieving students that focused on creative inquiry, collaborative problem-solving, and community contribution instead of worksheet packets and self-paced online courses? (some may already)
  2. each regional Area Education Agency had the capacity to help its districts create project-based learning ‘incubators?’ (kind of like Iowa BIG in Cedar Rapids)
  3. the Iowa Department of Education worked with the School Administrators of Iowa, the Iowa Association of School Boards, the Iowa State Education Association, the Iowa Business Council, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, the Iowa Chambers of Commerce, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, and others to help superintendents, school boards, communities, and postsecondary institutions envision a more transformative learning future for students?
  4. given our tremendous grassroots movement toward 1:1 computing environments – 200+ out of 331 districts (and counting!) – Iowa was the first state in the country (other than maybe Maine) to place its instructional technology emphasis on enhanced learning and teaching, not just access?
  5. like in many private schools and Rhode Island, high school seniors had to complete a deep, complex, multidisciplinary capstone requirement in order to graduate?
  6. every high school student in Iowa had the opportunity to do a credit-earning, community-based internship before graduation?
  7. there was statewide pressure from school districts on educator preparation programs to be more relevant?
  8. one or more Iowa universities worked with external partners to design and deliver a ‘Future Ready’ leadership graduate certificate that would give teacher leaders and administrators the skills necessary to foster 21st century learning environments?
  9. we utilized hands-on, engaging STEM activities more often in core math and science courses, not just in electives or extracurricular programs?
  10. Iowa Learning Online dramatically expanded its offerings to include electives such as Agricultural Engineering, Design Thinking, Sustainable Development, Digital Marketing, or Computer Programming and students not only could get high school or university course credit but also microcredentials that could be used for employment?
  11. our various statewide education summits were targeted, focused opportunities for us to work together and craft solutions, not just sit and listen?
  12. we trained district curriculum leaders in various blended learning models?
  13. we had regional exemplar schools across the state like Waukee APEX, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, or the urban National Academy Foundation schools, with an emphasis on intentional dissemination partnerships to spread best practices to other schools?
  14. we scaled competency-based education to the next level (like in some other states) rather than it idling in the pilot stage?
  15. like some states and districts, we created open access textbooks and taught teachers how to curate open educational resources (OER), thus freeing up textbook monies for other purposes?
  16. we did a much better job of raising the (inter)national visibility of Iowa’s amazing educational initiatives through better utilization of social media channels, online communities, and digital branding and marketing strategies?
  17. the Governor’s Office, the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Business Council, the Iowa Farm Bureau, and other partners collaboratively approached a major education foundation, corporation, or government grant program and said, “We’re deadly serious about thinking REALLY big here. Help us make it happen?”

Each of these would be big. Many of these together would be amazing… What do you think? What would you add to (or remove from) this list?

Schools, baseball teams, and casinos


Ramona Shelburne said:

[Baseball] franchises that remain static will eventually regress and deteriorate. People, too. So the antidote is to be proactive. Change before you’re forced to. Keep putting yourself in the best positions to succeed. When things break the wrong way, break new ground.

“The mindset in everything we do is to be the casino,” Friedman said. “We want to be the house. We’re going to make a lot of decisions. It’s a high-volume business. We can’t be afraid of making mistakes. The key is to be right more than we’re wrong and … trust that it will work out well.”

via http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/12630518/the-los-angeles-dodgers-forward-thinking-front-office-force-reckoned-with

True for schools too, not just baseball teams and casinos…

Image credit: Baseball, Peter Miller

My feedback on the draft ISLLC standards

CCSSO logo

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is working on its latest draft of standards for school leaders. The ISLLC standards are intended to detail the knowledge and skills that effective district and school leaders need in order to build teams of teachers and leaders who improve student learning. CCSSO is seeking feedback on the draft standards. My feedback and comments are below. I hope that you will read the standards yourself and also share some thoughts with CCSSO about whether you feel that they adequately describe an effective school leader for today and tomorrow…

Please list any additional dispositions that you believe educational leaders need that are not listed on page 9 of the ISLLC 2015 standards.

Learner. Just because you’re reflective and/or analytical does NOT mean you’re a learner yourself. We have lots of clueless administrators who don’t understand / have not kept up with external societal transformations because they are not active, engaged, externally-focused learners themselves. So they don’t understand how our new information landscapes operate and what the implications are for educational practice. (neither do most Educational Leadership profs, sadly)

Does the section, “Using the Standards” provide you with sufficient direction about how the standards might be used to improve leadership at the state and local level?

Standards are necessarily vague. So providing TWO pages on ‘using’ them isn’t really going to do much for anyone. There are a few broad generalities here but they’re nowhere near specific enough to really be that helpful for practice.

Please list any competencies for transformational leaders that you believe would NOT fall into one of the categories represented by the seven ISLLC 2015 standards.

Where’s the future-oriented, innovation disposition in these standards, actions, and competencies. I’m struggling to see it…

To what extent do you agree that the ISLLC 2015: Model Policy Standards for Educational Leaders represent a clear, coherent vision for transformational school and district leadership that reflects current expectations for educational leaders and prepares them to effectively adapt their leadership to future changes and challenges? Please share any additional reactions or comments that you have about the standards as a whole.

The standards and the actions listed below them don’t really reflect in any way the ‘innovative’ disposition that is cited earlier in the ISLLC draft document. If ISLLC truly was interested in fostering innovative leadership practice, there would be greater recognition of and emphasis on the seismic transformations that are occurring in our information, economic, and learning landscapes. Instead, there’s nary a mention anywhere of the fact that schools need to look a LOT different than they currently do and the current factory model of schooling appears to be generally accepted as a given across the standards. When it comes to learning, then, what we’re left with in these new draft ISLLC standards appears to be a very technocratic model of school leadership that’s focused on increasing student ‘achievement’ on low-level factual recall items and procedural skills rather than fostering innovative, creative, collaborative critical thinkers and problem solvers [NOTE: if this is not what you intend, then you need to reframe and reword huge chunks of this document because right now it reads like an educational leadership standards document for 1995, not 2015]. Everything that’s listed here in the new ISLLC standards is arguably important. But the standards and actions are neither innovative nor forward-thinking enough so they fail to live up to the ideal of preparing school leaders to ‘effectively adapt their leadership to future changes and challenges’ because there’s nothing really future-oriented in them.

It’s also worth noting for page 10 that simply displaying the 7 standards horizontally across the 8 vertical dispositions in Figure 3 does absolutely nothing to ‘demonstrate how the dispositions are essential to the work of educational leadership.’ There’s no meaning made there. There is no explanation of the diagram or the intersections or what progression/extension might look like. You simply overlay them across each other and then say ‘quod erat demonstrandum!’ That whole section either needs to be explicated quite a bit or discarded.

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