Tag Archives: leadership

More of this, please

So far Paul Bogush’s class commercial (10:34) is my favorite education video that I’ve seen this year. I’m not sure which part I like better, the first two-thirds with upbeat pictures and videos or the last third with student quotes, some of which nearly bring me to tears.

“Chin up and be fierce.” You are in Room 301!

Your class is difficult to describe. It’s not so much social studies … as it is life.

Before this class I had never sat in a classroom for a whole period without being bored or looking at the clock and hoping it’d move faster … but in this class I found that things were constantly interesting and looked at the clock hoping it would slow down.

With all the conversations in class it showed me that I should not be a speck of dust in a room of crowded people … but I should be the Eiffel Tower.

I know I have become a better person from your class with a little more knowledge … and a whole lot more heart.

You pulled me out of the shell … that other teachers put me into.

I want this for my kids. And yours. And everyone else’s. More of this, please.

Two cans and a string aren’t enough

Tincantelephone

Over at Education Week, Jenna Barclay describes how she compensated for her 8th grade students’ lack of access to digital learning tools by making do with the analog teaching resources that they had on hand. They simulated ‘wikis’ with butcher paper and colored pencils. They made a ‘table top blog’ using notebook paper, moving around the room and commenting on each other’s paper posts. They summarized an article by passing back and forth paper ‘tweets.’ And so on…

All of the comments on the post praise Jenna for her initiative and creativity. And rightly so. Instead of whining and giving up, she found innovative ways to try and foster the thinking skills needed by her students. By all accounts, she and her students had many successes. But the more I read, the more I just wanted to cry. Here’s the comment that I left on her article:

I think this is a wonderful tale of a teacher creatively ‘making do’ to serve her students as best she can. And, yes, one can teach critical thinking, collaboration, and other essential skills without technology.

BUT… digital technologies and the Internet take all of this to the next level. For example, as great as what Jenna did here is, it didn’t allow for students to expand their voice – and interact with relevant, meaningful audiences – beyond the local. And as creative as students can be with butcher paper, the simple fact is that students can be even more creative when we expand their toolkit with digital creation, connection, and collaboration tools. We can’t pretend that analog learning environments are equal in power to digital learning environments, particularly since nearly all knowledge work done OUTSIDE of schools is done with digital technologies.

So I love what Jenna did. AND I also want her and her students to have access to robust digital learning technologies so that they can be even more powerful and amazing and relevant to what they’ll need when they leave their analog school environment.

Heroic tales of innovation like Jenna’s are wonderful testaments to the creativity of the teaching spirit. But how many school leaders and policymakers will use stories like hers as an excuse to not put digital tools into the hands of students? Too many, I’m afraid.

In a digital, global world, access and equity issues are important. Jenna and her students deserve true power, not artificial, simulated, “look we can pretend we’re really doing this” experiences that sort-of-but-not-really capture the essence of the real thing. We would never say that using two cans and a string is the same thing as actually making a phone call. We would never say that scooting around in a plastic children’s car is the same thing as actually driving. And we would never say that lying on a flat surface moving our arms and legs is the same thing as actually swimming. Nor should we when it comes to learning with digital technologies and the Internet.

Instead of having our hearts warmed by this feel-good story, how about if we do a better job of getting teachers the tools that they and their students really need?

My TEDxDesMoines video: From Fear to Empowerment

Here’s my TEDxDesMoines video (8:19) from yesterday. Happy viewing!

A big thanks to everyone at TEDxDesMoines for a fantastic event, particularly the video editors who somehow turned our videos around in less than 24 hours. Amazing!

What’s the biggest ‘game-changer’ in education?

Over at the Connected Principals blog, George Couros discussed what he saw as the biggest ‘game changer’ in education: “being open to new learning opportunities, doing something with them, and making that human connection to our learners.”

Here is the comment I left for George

I would say that the biggest ‘game changer’ in education is the shift from educator control to student empowerment. When we enable greater student agency and put our children and youth in environments where they have much greater autonomy, ownership, and self-direction, completely different paradigms of learning, teaching, and schooling begin to emerge. Digital technologies and the Internet can be vital facilitators of these kinds of learning experiences but, as you note, George, they are but a means to a larger end. As long as we view schools as places where adults do things to kids, the game of school will never change. As Gary Stager says, “Less us, more them.”

Read George’s post and share your thoughts on what you see as the biggest ‘game changer’ in education!

rethink. redesign. go.

Back in May I shared our process at Prairie Lakes AEA for hiring our new technology integration team. Well, now our team has a new blog, rethink. redesign.

Rethinkredesignlogo

We’re just getting started, but we’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks talking about who we we want to be, what we’re going to be about, and how we’re going to do our business. Here’s our thinking behind our new name (and our work)…

#dreambigger. #designforit. #perpetualbeta. That pretty much sums up the work of my team and what we’ll be discussing on our blog. We hope that many of you will join us.

Want to work with us? Learn more about our core beliefs and processes. See how we’re using the Influencer framework to help guide our design work. Get in touch!

Would Dr. King passively submit?

Diane Ravitch says:

the best way to remember Martin Luther King [is] not to think of him as a statue or an icon, but to take to heart his example. He did not bow his head in the face of injustice. He did not comply. He said no. He said it in a spirit of love and non-violence. But he resisted. He said no. He resisted. He said, we will not acquiesce to what we know is wrong. We will not acquiesce. We will not comply. We will not obey unjust laws. How does that apply to the situation of public education today? Public schools are drowning in nonsensical mandates. They are whipsawed by failed ideas coming from D.C. and state capitols that are following D.C.’s lead. They are subject to regulations and programs that no one understands. These mandates are ruining schooling, not making it better. The incessant testing is not making kids smarter, it is making kids bored and turned off by school. Schools are trapped in bureaucratic mazes that make no sense. What would Martin Luther King, Jr., do? Would he passively submit? No. He would resist. He would organize and join with others. He would build coalitions of parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, and members of the community who support their public schools. He would demand true education for all children. He would demand equality of educational opportunity, not a Race to some mythical Top or ever higher scores on bubble tests. He would not be silent as our public schools are worn down and torn down by mindless mandates. He would recognize that the victims of this political and bureaucratic malfeasance are our children. He would build a political movement so united and clear in its purpose that it would be heard in every state Capitol and even in Washington, D.C. And that is how we should commemorate his life.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/30/what-did-martin-luther-king-jr-teach-us

Do the right work

24 principals in a big room on Tuesday…

Do we know what ‘the right work’ is? Can we identify it and label it? Can we tell the difference between ends and means? Between desired outcomes and strategies? PLCs, Common Core, RTI, concept-based instruction, PBIS, 1:1, and Daily 5 are NOT the end goal, they’re just strategies and mechanisms to get us from here to there. Engaged learners, quality facilitating, and rigorous curriculum get us closer…

Painful

Can we create time and structures that allow us to do the right work? Do, plan, delegate, eliminate. What do we do that falls into each of these boxes? More importantly, what can/should we move into ‘delegate’ and ‘eliminate?’ WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR US? As Jeff Herzberg notes, we’re awfully expensive cafeteria monitors (and substitute teacher finders and class schedulers and bus duty monitors and …).

And then it gets really hard. What are our own immunities to change? What is stopping us from changing what we KNOW we need to change about our own work? And by the time we’re done, we’re stating some big (testable) assumptions:

  • I assume that if I do have honest conversations, then my teachers won’t “like” me and then they’ll lose faith in my leadership ability.
  • I assume that if I do delegate the way I need to in order to be a strong educational leader, then building morale will spiral on a downward path because of the notion that I am being lazy and not doing my job.
  • I assume that if I’m not in the flow of information, then I will lose my sense of power and be just another person going through the motions.
  • I assume that if I ask people to make meeting appointments [instead of just popping into my office], then they will think I am stuck up and will think that I don’t think they matter. Ending in they won’t like me.
  • I assume that if my staff knew that I didn’t know everything about our initiatives, then they would lose respect for me. It would change how they view me as their leader.
  • I assume that if I do not [personally] take on all of those duties that could be delegated, then certain parts of the school day will be chaotic and this will be a reflection of me as a leader.
  • I assume that if I do force change and push the envelope, then I will lose credibility with our staff.
  • I assume that if I force too much change, alienate staff, or go against prevailing culture, then I will be seen as a liability and my position will be eliminated.

A powerful day of reflection, conversation, and internal interrogation. Thank you, Troyce Fisher.

Image credit: Painful, Ben Raynal

Using technology to reinforce 19th century teaching practice

Graham Brown-Martin says:

why [has] technology, to date, had very little impact on improved learning outcomes? This could be because we continue to use technology to reinforce 19th century teaching practice to meet out-dated assessment models. Most of the world’s curriculum and assessment systems are based around fact recall rather than actually demonstrating that you have learned something and can deploy it within a problem-solving situation.

via http://www.wise-qatar.org/technology-education

7 building blocks for the future of schools

Leadershipday2013

If I had the chance to build a new school organization (or redesign an existing one), I would start by attending to the educational movements listed below. Every year we see these initiatives gain further ground in traditional educational systems. I see these as basic building blocks for the future of schooling and think that leaders and policymakers should be working toward greater implementation of all of these, both individually and in concert…

  1. Competency-based education and standards-based grading efforts that shift the focus from seat time to learning mastery.
  2. Project- and inquiry-based learning environments that emphasize greater student agency and active application of more cognitively-complex thinking, communication, and collaboration skills.
  3. 1:1 computing initiatives (and concurrent Internet bandwidth upgrades) that give students powerful digital learning devices and access to the world’s information, individuals, and organizations.
  4. The expansion of digital and online (and often open access) information resources that increase the availability of higher and deeper learning opportunities.
  5. Online communities of interest that supplement and augment more-traditional learning communities that are limited by geography and time.
  6. Adaptive software and data systems (and accompanying organizational models) that can facilitate greater individualization of learning content and pace.
  7. Alternative credentialing mechanisms that enable individuals to quickly reskill for and adapt to rapidly-evolving workforce needs and economic demands.
  8. ADDED: Simulations and problem-based learning experiences that foster students’ ability to engage in authentic, real-world work. (hat tip: Trent Grundmeyer)

What did I miss here? What would you revise or add to this list? Most importantly, how well is your school organization doing at paying attention to these 7 key components of future learning environments?

[I'm five days late with this, my own Leadership Day post. I figure that's okay; we've always accepted stragglers! Thank you, everyone, for your fabulous posts to celebrate this annual event!]

Calling all bloggers! – Leadership Day 2013

August 15 is the 7th anniversary of my blog. So, once again, I’m inviting everyone who’s interested to help me celebrate by participating in Leadership Day 2013!

Over the past 6 years, we’ve had over 400 Leadership Day posts. That’s awesome because, to paraphrase what I said six years ago,

many of our school leaders (principals, superintendents, central office administrators) need help when it comes to digital technologies. A lot of help, to be honest. As I’ve noted again and again on this blog, most school administrators don’t know

  • what it means to prepare students for the digital, global world in which we now live;
  • how to recognize, evaluate, and facilitate effective technology usage by students and teachers;
  • what appropriate technology support structures (e.g., budget, staffing, infrastructure, training) look like or how to implement them;
  • how to utilize modern technologies to facilitate communication with internal and external stakeholders;
  • the ways in which learning technologies can improve student learning outcomes;
  • how to utilize technology systems to make their organizations more efficient and effective;
  • and so on…

Administrators’ lack of knowledge is not entirely their fault. Many of them didn’t grow up with computers. Other than basic management or data analysis technologies, many are not using digital tools or online systems on a regular basis. Few have received training from their employers or their university preparation programs on how to use, think about, or be a leader regarding digital technologies.

So let’s help.

How to participate

  1. On Thursday, August 15, 2013, blog about whatever you like related to effective school technology leadership: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, resources, ideas, etc. Write a letter to the administrators in your area. Post a top ten list. Make a podcast or a video or a voice-narrated presentation. Highlight a local success or challenge. Recommend some readings. Create an app, game, or simulation. Draw a cartoon. Do an interview of a successful technology leader. Respond to some of the questions below or make up your own. If you participated in years past, post a follow-up reflection. Whatever strikes you.
  2. The official hashtag is #leadershipday13
  3. TO ENSURE THAT WE CAN FIND YOUR POST, please complete the online submission form AFTER you post, including a short teaser that will drive traffic to your post. Everyone then will be able to see your post in the complete list of submissions. If you want to link back to this post or leave a link to yours in the comment area, that’s okay too!

Some prompts to spark your thinking

  • What do effective P-12 technology leaders do? What actions and behaviors can you point to that make them effective leaders in the area of technology?
  • Do administrators have to be technology-savvy themselves in order to be effective technology leaders in their organizations?
  • What are some tangible, concrete, realistic steps that administrators can take to move their school organizations forward?
  • What are some tangible, concrete, realistic steps that can be taken to move administrators themselves forward? Given the unrelenting pressures that they face and their ever-increasing time demands, what are some things that administrators can do to become more knowledgeable and skilled in the area of technology leadership?
  • Perhaps using the National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators (NETS-A) as a starting point, what are the absolutely critical skills or abilities that administrators need to be effective technology leaders?
  • What strengths and deficiencies are present in the NETS-A?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges and barriers to administrators being better technology leaders (and how do we address them)?
  • What is a technology tool that would be extremely useful for a busy administrator (i.e., one he or she probably isn’t using now)?
  • What should busy administrators be reading (or watching) that would help them be better technology leaders? What are some other resources that would help them be better technology leaders?
  • How can administrators best structure necessary conversations with internal or external stakeholders regarding technology?
  • How should administrators balance enablement with safety, risk with reward, fear with empowerment?
  • When it comes to P-12 technology leadership, where do we need new knowledge, understanding, training, or research?
  • What are (or might be) some successful models of technology leadership training for school administrators?
  • How might preservice preparation programs for administrators better incorporate elements of technology leadership?
  • When you think of (in)effective P-12 technology leadership, what comes to mind?

Here are the 405 ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT posts from the past six years (405!)

A badge for your blog or web site

Leadershipday2013

I hope you will join us for this important day because, I promise you, if the leaders don’t get it, it’s not going to happen.

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