Sunday, January 30, 2011

From Leaning Back to Leaning Forward

Administratively speaking, one of our biggest challenges in the Edtech reform era is to help teachers understand the power of integrating technology into classroom instruction for powerful learning. Working through tech anxiety, implementation dips, confusing vocabulary, constantly evolving digital tools, etc. is a challenge, an almost seemingly insurmountable task, and it's not the only challenge schools are dealing with. Through my lens, leadership matters as we reform and integrate. 

Rushton Hurley, director of Next Vista for Learning, was recently interviewed by The Journal about bringing teachers on-board with technology. Hurley says that the more administratively "top-down the approach to having teachers use technology, the greater the chance teachers will see it simply as a necessary minimum to meet or even an annoying requirement to avoid if possible." He also suggests "solving resistance problems by working together [administrators and teachers] to figure out if the issue is what the technology is or how it is being used."

Recently, our school district migrated to Google Apps for Education. The administrative team didn't mandate use of any particular apps (other than Gmail and Calendar), we didn't press, but allowed people to experiment as readiness, time, and motivation allowed. What naturally happened is that a certain population of teachers became very interested in the tools (Blogs, Reader, Docs, Moderator, Sites, etc.), starting integrating the tools into classroom instruction, and then asked for more training and development. So we (the administrative team) sent them to the TIES Education Technology Conference in Minneapolis. The conference was catalytic.

We then brought in three Google Certified Teachers (who are also Google Certified Trainers) to work with our entire district. These individuals had the classroom credibility, they had the real examples and actual demonstrations, they had candid answers to genuine teacher concerns, and they had (have) the authentic passion, zeal, and spark; their approach to powerful, digitally-oriented learning was contagious. The result of this series of events is different (I think) than if the administrative team had mandated use of the Google Apps. Teachers saw colleagues who were successfully integrating technology and who were open to help those trying to do it. Also, during the Google learning sessions, teachers saw and began working on digital learning tools (make and take) that they could immediately begin using in the classroom. One teacher commented after leaving a Google Session, "I'm going to do that on Monday." 
After the "Google Day" the administrative team had an informal and completely voluntary rush of teachers advocating for a 1:1 school environment. To the administrative team, that was the most significant and notable result of this initiative: We had teachers coming to us to ask for a 1:1 environment because they saw how digital-age tools could amplify learning, make communication easier, and allow for exponential collaboration.  So, instead of the top-down 1:1 initiative where we would have pushed, pried, evaluated, and mandated, we empowered, listened, built on strengths, and invested in credible and meaningful development based-on teacher examples.

At the beginning of our Google Apps for Education, we truthfully had people leaning back with skepticism; they had pushed backward from the keyboard because of the Docs delay, the advertisements, the confusing vocabulary, the different way of organizing emails, etc. At the end of the day when the Google Certified Teachers were at our school district, teachers were literally leaning forward. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cashton Featured for Google Training

In this feature, the first teacher you see is one of our most tech savvy elementary teachers in the entire district. She has become a leader in our professional learning community in helping others proficiently integrate digital-age learning tools into our classrooms. The particular part of the full interview featured here highlights her excitement about communicating with parents. The second teacher you see is one of the Google trained, Google-Certified teachers. Not as a consultant but as an actual practicing teacher, he (and the rest of the team for that matter) did an excellent job helping faculty immediately see ways to meaningfully infuse technology into classrooms, from 4K to senior physics. Has anyone else had any experiences with Google Certified Teachers? What were your roadblocks in migrating to Google Apps for Education? Are you trying to garner support for the migration to Google Apps but running into problems?

Friday, January 28, 2011

100 Things to Watch in 2011

Expanded mobile opportunities? Children's e-books? What do you make connections with? (Caution: Some of this does not apply to education)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Birds Sing Sweeter than Books Tell How

The quotation of this blog post comes from E.E. Cummings, who poignantly makes it clear to us that hearing a bird sing is significantly better than reading a description about a bird's song. Much of the deliberation about the meaningfulness of technology integration misses an important point of underlying principle, that technology integration allows us to experience something; whereas without technology integration, we are trapped by distance, money, and opportunity, and hence must read about something. This is the difference between rationalism and empiricism. 

Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines rationalism as "a theory that reason is in itself a source of knowledge superior to and independent of sense perceptions." If reason through reading and discussion is sufficient for the construction of knowledge, then reading about volcanoes and critically discussing volcanoes is enough for students to "know" about them. The online dictionary defines Empiricism as "a theory that all knowledge originates in experience." If this is valid, visiting a volcano to "experience" it is the best way to "know" it. 

Certainly, when we as educators want students to understand a concept, we attempt to utilize both means of constructing knowledge, but up until technology integration, we were bound by (like I said) distance, money, and opportunity. Technology integration is a bridge between rationalism to empiricism, allowing educators better access and the opportunity to utilize both means of helping students construct knowledge. On the empirical side of technology integration, educators can use gaming, Google Earth, Skype, etc. to increase experience-based knowledge construction. On the rational side of technology integration, educators can use wikis, blogs, micro-blogging, back-channel discussions, forums, etc. to increase rational-based knowledge construction. 

Anyone who believes in constructivist-based learning should believe in technology integration reform. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Flash Mob

This is a great video about a phenomena that I was unaware of, a "flash mob." This video illustrates both the wonderful power and instant treachery of social media, limitless communication, and speed of novelty. Digital natives understand social relationships, information dissemination, entertainment, and motivation a bit differently than the rest of the world. To what extend does their inbuilt potential to use "flash" communication across the globe without concerns of time, money, distance, or language affect how we educate them? Does this new, digitally-oriented perspective change what we (as educators) deem as "essential" for them to know? Do they have anything to teach us? 

Google Teacher Academy Video Application

The race to be accepted into a Google Teacher Academy is in full force. We have a special education teacher who has applied (video below). The application for the upcoming Google Teacher Academy is due this week, and you can see more example videos of educators from across the world here. How does having Google Certified Teachers on staff benefit our efforts to help teachers develop skills to blend technology into traditional teaching methods? Does the credibility that goes along with this experience help tech integration reform? How do administrators have to support teachers who volunteer to jump in to this process?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Michael Wesch's New Youtube Video

For those of you who are fans of "The Machine is Us/ing Us," "Information R/evolution," or "A Vision of Students Today," Michael Wesch, of Kansas State, has just posted this video. He is currently working on a new video that focuses on the students' perspective in education. Dr. Wesch is currently accepting student videos that will be edited into a compilation, giving viewers a "boots on the ground" student perspective.

What do you think about the video? How does it apply to education reform? Who has the bigger challenge, K12 or higher ed in reforming how we teach?

For Whom are We Reforming?

This year (as with many past years), the annual Wisconsin Association of School Boards' convention focused on reform, opining to us to take "Bold Steps" toward a better system of education, one that presumably meets the needs of a changing workforce and an even faster evolving world. It occurred to me, however, that there is a third motive in taking these "bold steps:" the kids. Nationally, this has not gone un-noticed, so I thought I would put together a multi-media compilation (a resource guide, if you will) from some of the best thinkers on the topic of understanding kids today.

First, Ian Jukes.

Second, David Warlick.

Last, Don Tapscott.

Does any of this ring true to you? Are there any suggestions that don't make sense? Are there any points that are not emphasized enough?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why aren't schools destination-jobs for chefs (Part 2)

Every year, groups concerned about school nutrition come out with new, innovative programs: "Farm to School," "Guest Chefs," "Home-Style Meals," "Healthier US Schools Programs," and the list goes on. And, every year, regulations and expectations increase while school resources decrease, and we struggle to staff programs to meet these very expectations and intrusive regulations. Dietitians and institutional food preparers diligently work to lead programs that strive toward notoriety within the ecosystem of school nutrition. Awards are given to those dietitians who can actually incorporate fresh vegetables into the ridged 30-day menu cycle. Institutional food directors give popular presentations at conventions and workshops on how to best utilize federally driven exchange systems where schools can trade basic ingredients for money that they use to subsidize more quality heat-n-eat items. The school nutrition ecosystem of menu cycles, production sheets, and meal-to-labor-hour calculations ticks along at the pace of the very regulations the dietitians and institutional food experts themselves established. Way to go.

But what this ecosystem generates is worse than that which it had hoped to solve (I'll post more about this at a later date). Moreover, right down the street from the elementary school that has food efficiently satellited in from the production kitchen, there is a restaurant with a chef. This chef must turn a profit to stay open and must produce food that people want to pay extra for. This chef purchases only the basic ingredients at the most reasonable prices, often locally grown fresh vegetables. To both make a profit and attract patrons, the chef must exert skill and wield creativity in a quest to market cuisine, often with little equipment. The chef doesn't need a nationally endorsed program to encourage him or her to use locally-grown, fresh produce; this comes naturally. Schools have the farm-to-school program, which is riddled with issues of student-preference, distribution, and insurance coverage. The chef doesn't need a high-profile educational program to engender more skill and inspiration; in true to form passion for food, a chef's drive and experience is more than enough. Schools have the "Guest Chef" program, which will rarely reach rural schools or schools located in less than desirable areas. Still, the push and pull struggle between the established school nutrition ecosystem and (this is the dichotomy of the dilemma) what it wishes it were creates insurmountable challenges. Though caring and highly knowledgeable, dietitians and institutional food directors don't have chef skills, aren't used to the restaurant pace, and don't struggle to competitively keep customers walking through the front door. We give school nutrition directors awards for adding shredded, farm-fresh carrots to pre-packaged muffin mix once a month, while the chef at the restaurant down the street, night after night and week after week, creates profitable and appetizing fare, mostly with locally-grown, fresh resources.

Admittedly, I am embellishing points in this essay for effect, but my point is difficult to dismiss without consideration and meaningful debate. Why aren't schools destination-jobs for chefs? Why isn't the school nutrition ecosystem encouraging more trained chefs to consider jobs in schools? The restaurant industry is notorious for chewing up chefs alive. It's not an exaggeration to say that the profession of chefs is afflicted with alcoholism, bankruptcy, and divorce. Bad hours, high stress, and constant uncertainty plague the profession. I can't believe a certain segment of that population wouldn't find the stable work environment of schools appealing, with our decent benefits, retirement, and holidays. Again, why aren't schools places where chefs are applying to work? Answer: Dietitians and institutional food directors have unbelievably turned them away because they believe chefs don't have the training and understanding of regulation and dietary standards.  So, though dietitians have a great grasp of the regs and the food pyramid, they apparently don't have the expertise and experience needed to articulate the very goals they posit for our schools. And, though trained chefs have a great grasp of the skills and creativity needed to function in a restaurant, they are untested in their capacity to grasp and implement school nutrition regulation and policy.

I'd like to suggest a call to action, a charge to begin to attract chefs to work in schools and to create supportive scaffolding for them to successfully deal with all the rules.

Phases of Tech Integration in the Classroom

This is a great description of the stages that educators experience as they begin to and become experts in integrating technology into instruction. Really, this is another way to understand that tech integration is more of a continuum of skill, expertise, and perspective than it is a clear distinction of "doing it" or "not doing it." Where are you (or your staff) operating in these phases of tech integration? Perhaps the more important question is, what type of support and professional development is needed to support educators as they develop the skills to effectively assimilate technology into all instruction? Any insights?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Administrative Technology Standards: The Essential Questions (Part 4)

After thinking about this extensively, the notion first of "getting it" (and when I say "gettting it" I mean being able to effectively use digital-age tools for the purpose of conceptualizing the digital age) before we can "do it" (and when I say "do it" I mean begin to fulfill administrative technology standards). 

Some of this comes from Michael Wesch, some from Scott McLeod, some from Clay Shirky, and after those experts, I'm not really sure where the rest of the ideas originate. But what follows are essential questions that capture what it means for us to "get it."

For us to "get it," we need to be able to first answer the following Essential Questions:
1. How does technology help schools and society tap human resources of talent, goodwill, and productivity?

2. How does embracing new media allow us to explore highly engaging but low cost opportunities?

3. In what ways does new media allow society to aggregate talent and effort, producing a dramatically different social, working, and learning environments?

4. To what extent has access to information significantly changed the landscape of learning, working, and socializing? To what extent have the boundless opportunities to produce information changed the landscape of learning, working, and socializing?

5. What responsibility to we have to students to help them prepare for “workplace 3.0”?

6. How does our limitless capability to communicate change our notions of collaboration, contribution, space and time, and authority?

7. To what extend does the media culture of re-tweeting, re-scripting, re-combining, cut and paste, embedding, sharing, and open source challenge or complement copyright, academic rights, plagiarism, publication credit, and permissions to reproduce materials?

8. How can we create an environment of inquiry (or of problem-based learning) that engages the learner and optimizes learning through technology?
9. How does the use of digital-age tools amplify other educational initiatives, such as RTI, reading literacy, differentiation, etc.?

To answer these questions, superintendents need to actively engage in activities that build the skills dispositions related to the effective use of digital-age tools. Thus, the actual effective use of digital-age tools will help superintendents begin to answer the essential questions above. So the solution to the dilemma of helping superintendents "get it" so they can then "lead it" is to teach them to use digital-age tools.

The funny thing about this entire four-part blog series is that Scott McLeod told us this almost two years ago in his podcast on how current leadership models will not adequately serve to lead and encourage reform. Also, McLeod's CASTLE program (I believe) is the only real opportunity for district administrators to learn how to use digital-age tools and how to "get it" so that they can then lead it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The "Spark" of Technology

Often, I frame technology in a way that captures its intense nature: to me, it's an amplifier, meaning it accentuates something's qualities. So, if you (as an instructional leader or school district leader) are looking to reboot or re-energize an existing initiative, adding technology will naturally intensify the characteristics of the program, whether it's literacy, RTI, STEM, differentiation, or student engagement. Digital-age tools solve problems of communication and collaboration, allows for easier contribution and access to information, and inspires engagement.

It occurred to me today that adding the use of digital-age tools when beginning (or igniting) an initiative is also the hot spark you may need to get it running. For example, your third and fourth grade males are not reading up to grade level, and you are looking to implement non-fiction options in your leveled book boxes or include non-fiction examples in your mentor text. Indeed, this can be done without an digital-age tools, but with strain and push and pull on time and resources.

With a Diigo Social-Bookmarking group, Google's Reading Level search tool (under advance search), and a professional learning community all communicating through twitter, wikis, and blogs to find resources, this is much more easily done. Plus, the use of  technology will increases student engagement, and with the right support, leadership, and empowered policies, the teachers will appreciate the new experience.

To review, technology and digital-age tools: not only an amplifier but also a "spark" of ignition.

Tech Integration and the Elementary School

Guest Blogger: Ryan S. Alderson

Educational Technology including iPads, interactive whiteboards, laptop computers, and the multitude of wireless devices that access Web 2.0 tools are essential elements of a successful Four Year Old Kindergarten classroom.  If one embraces the Framework for 21st Century Learning established by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the assertion begins to take form.  Even in the earliest of primary classrooms, traditionally valued content appears from foundational skills in reading and mathematics to initial glimpses of the importance of global awareness and health literacy, all made more accessible and engaging through the use of educational technology.  Of more consequence are the connections between 4K classrooms and the 21st Century outcomes under the overarching strands of  “Learning and Innovation Skills” and “Information, Media, and Technology,” as it is here that the fundamental necessities of implementing lessons and activities that enhance students’ abilities to exercise their creativity, communication, and collaboration skills takes shape.
The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool, a widely embraced framework for early childhood development further establishes the connection between research-based instruction and the use of educational technology.  The model establishes objectives for academic, social, and emotional development, objectives which can be more readily achieved through the assistance of educational technology.  When considering the subset of Creative Curriculum objectives extracted below, the potential of hardware, software, and web-based applications takes further form, whether considering the use of social media to interact with other classrooms, sorting and classification drag and drop activities, or the established gains in student engagement and motivation.
·         Interacts with peers
·         Engages in conversations
·         Makes friends
·         Uses social rules of language
·         Attends and engages
·         Explores the visual arts
·         Shows curiosity and motivation
·         Makes connections
·         Uses classification skills
·         Uses print concepts
·         Identifies and names letters
·         Uses letter–sound knowledge
·         Shows flexibility and inventiveness in thinking
·         Demonstrates knowledge of the alphabet
·         Uses and appreciates books
·         Connects numerals with their quantities
·         Uses language to express thoughts and needs
·         Demonstrates knowledge of patterns
·         Participates cooperatively and constructively in group situations
·         Explores and describes spatial relationships and shapes
·         Uses appropriate conversational and other communication skills

Many are familiar with the academic applications of computers, iPads, the iPod Touch, and Web2.0 tools.  Likely many are unfamiliar with a relatively new device making its way into classrooms.  With a decline in the initial cost, the SMART table has become an accessible tool in early primary classrooms.  Cashton Public Schools has provided further access to instructional tools by placing one of these units in each of the Four Year Old Kindergarten classrooms in the district.  The SMART table is an interactive device that enables students to explore content through the use of a multi-user touch screen. Even the preloaded activities enable students to create, explore, classify, sort, and manipulate objects in a learning center environment.  The content of each activity is designed to be modified by individual teachers to align to the specific needs of their students.  Further potential is realized through the SMART Exchange, a web-based environment though which teachers, publishers, and developers can share applications.  Although there continues to be much to learn about the potential of this tool, classroom teachers are already conveying the enhanced interest and engagement demonstrated by students interacting with the table and each other.
The use of educational technology is an essential practice that not only facilitates the exchange of information, ideas, media, and knowledge, it simultaneously promotes student engagement and motivation, provides access to the global perspective of learning, and prepares students to use the tools necessary for the collaborative, creative, and social context through which the next generation will navigate the challenges of tomorrow.  While the complexity of the application of technology increases as students learn and grow, even the youngest of learners benefit from multisensory learning opportunities made possible through technology.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Florida's Tech Integration Matrix

The State of Florida's video resource supporting the full integration of technology has a matrix for educator reflection (or in today's climate evaluation) of extent of tech integration  into a classroom instruction. When you access the actual site, each cell has example videos that show best practice in powerful instruction amplified with technology. The preeminent spot on the chart of tech integration mastery is when students function in a goal-directed environment while using technology to complete complex tasks that would not be able to be completed without tech integration. Where is your district?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cashton Featured for our Tech Integration

Ryan, my elementary principal, did a great job. I'm also very proud of our teachers, who have taken to utilizing technology to amplify their current pedagogical initiatives.

So, you've found something cool on the internet ...

This is a great graphic because it's funny but also true in our options to share and dilemmas we encounter. Please excuse the expletives, clearly here used for emphasis and tongue-in-cheek kitsch. Hat tip to Scott McLeod, who found this. The source is  :-)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Are we to venture-out into reform?

"We whom cannot even put or own home in order, riddled with rivalries and hatreds. Are we to venture-out into [school reform]?"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The New Digital Taxonomy

As an adaptation of Bloom's Taxonomy (usually without permission), we now often see the word "creating" atop the pyramid. In this version, we see current Web 2.0 applications somewhat classified into the different levels of learning and critically thinking. Look over the tools, explore a couple of them by going to their websites and either signing up to try or reading the "about" section.

Do you think that these tools help elicit or help communicate evidence of critical thinking? Do they add enough novelty and motivation so that student engagement is not a struggle? Do these Web 2.0 tools amplify your existing efforts to facilitate powerful instruction and hence critical thinking from your students?  Do you know of any Web 2.0 tools that the creator of this version of Bloom's Taxonomy missed?

The Digital Age and the District Administrator

The following prezi and links are for the CESA 4 class, "The Digital Age and the District Administrator."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why aren't schools destination-jobs for chefs?

This fall we had an unexpected transition in our school nutrition department, and we had to hire a new director. I believe in school nutrition. I believe in aggressively supporting the best school nutrition program possible, so I faithfully posted an opening for someone who is certified in institutional food preparation or who is a certified dietitian. In thinking about the complexity of the state and federal regulations, the associated paperwork, and the knowledge-based a director needs to effectively lead a school nutrition program, I didn't hesitate to think twice about the type of person I wanted to attract to the position: someone with a certification in institutional food preparation, who has the necessary sanitation certifications, and who has experience perhaps in a nursing home, hospital cafeteria, or some other place where there are ever-present nutrition regulations and production paperwork besides.

What I fell into, however, was not what I was planning on: an actual chef, like the ones who wear chef uniforms. I noticed very early on that this person was different. I think the first indication I had was when I "caught" him making the ranch dressing from scratch. I engaged with curiosity and caution in that I was worried about the usual stuff: increased labor hours, nutritional value, storage, the cumulative cost of all the scratch ingredients compared to the cost of the ready-made product, sanitation, etc. He looked back at me dumbfounded: "It takes five minutes, I'm using lowfat buttermilk and lowfat sour cream, and if I make it this way, it costs 7 cents less per ounce. Wanna taste the quality?" I told him great job, then walked walked away excited for lunch.

From there, unusual and unexpected lunch items began appearing in our 30-day menu rotation: homemade lasagna, real mashed potatoes, chicken teriyaki stir-fry with fresh veggies, actual roasted chicken, real-handformed-homemade meatballs. Student participation has grown by unprecedented numbers, community members have taken note and complimented our program, and teacher participation has increased. When's the last time you've had a parent give you an unprovoked compliment on school lunch?

This scenario raises some interesting questions.

  • Why didn't I immediately post a job opening for a chef? (This seems obvious in hindsight.)
  • Why have a 30 day menu rotation if it doesn't match the basic, scratch-style ingredients that may be available locally?
  • How do the skills and dispositions of chefs from the competitive world of restaurants differ from the skills and dispositions of certified dietitians/institutional food prep people? How do those skills and dispositions align to our goals for school nutrition?
  • What type of nutrition and regulation training should I be thinking about to support a chef in dealing with the over-regulated world of school nutrition? 
  • Why isn't there more overlap between the dietitian/institutional food prep world and the world of culinary arts? 
  • To what extent does the entire system of institutional food prep support or undermine the fine balance of having the capacity to serve high quality food that meets state and federal regulations?
  • Does the certification of dietitian or degree for institutional food prep unintentionally support the unfortunate world of heat-n-serve/pre-packaged food because they (the dietitian or institutional food prep person)  don't have the whole-scale culinary skills that restaurant chefs must have to turn an profit and to properly run a scratch kitchen?
  • Why aren't schools destination jobs for chefs? 

I'm not "plugged in" to the world of school nutrition, but it seems like there is an endorsed paradigm of school nutrition that may be at the expense possibilities, which might include (I can't believe that this doesn't seem obvious to us all) employing restaurant chefs to lead our school nutrition programs. The question is,  "With the proper scaffolding to support adherence to and proper execution of state and federal regulations, can chefs effectively lead a school nutrition program?" My answer? Definitely. Now, the challenge is to figure out how to support chefs so that they aren't doomed to fail by means of regulation and paperwork avalanche.

Any suggestions or thoughts?

National Education Technology Plan

The National Education Technology Plan 2010 arrived (via snail mail) today. I've already pursued through its contents online when it was first introduced about three months ago. A group of district administrators and I had bookmarked the executive summary in our Diigo group and highlighted/commented on some of the plan's recommendations. Here is the highlighted text from our group:
  • States should continue to revise, create, and implement standards and learning objectives using technology for all content areas that reflect 21st-century expertise and the power of technology to improve learning.
  • Leverage social networking technologies and platforms to create communities of practice that provide career-long personal learning opportunities for educators within and across schools, pre-service preparation and in-service education institutions, and professional organizations.
  • Ensure students and educators have broadband access to the Internet and adequate wireless connectivity both in and out of school.
  • Ensure that every student and educator has at least one Internet access device and appropriate software and resources for research, communication, multimedia content creation, and collaboration for use in and out of school.
  • Rethink basic assumptions in our education system that inhibit leveraging technology to improve learning, starting with our current practice of organizing student and educator learning around seat time instead of the demonstration of competencies.
  • Convening education stakeholders, in person and online, to share content, insights, and expertise and to collaborate on key elements of this plan. Ideas and best practices that emerge from these convenings will be shared throughout our education system.
My natural reaction to these standards (which cut across infrastructure, preparation, learning, etc.) is to think about the skills that leaders need to learn and then exert to effectively implement the National Tech Plan. What skills and essential understandings do leaders need to execute and hence realize this plan?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Accept it, embrace it, plan for it: Social Media

Question: How can teachers and schools ensure that their students are learning what they need when it comes to Technology and Information Literacy?
Answer: Accept it. Embrace it. Plan for it. Make it a valued part of the curriculum. Develop standards and grade level expectations. Assess. Reflect. Evolve.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Administrative Technology Standards (Part 3)

By now in this third installment of my commentary on Administrative Technology Standards, I hope I've expressed my point clearly: There's an awful lot of literature out their telling superintendents "what to do," but their is not very much actual help for superintendents to first "get it" before they "lead it," particularly regarding digital-age tools. The abstract nature of how digital-age tools enhance communication, collaboration, information aggregation, and professional learning is difficult to understand. 

Ken Kay and his Partnership for 21st Century Skills (of which Wisconsin in a member) have recently realized that much of the progress that has to be made in moving schools into the 21st Century needs to begin with District-Level Leadership. They have started the EDLeader21 initiative to help superintendents:
  • Gain access to established and well-vetted best practices to integrate the 4Cs - critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity - into education.
  • Keep up to date with important news, insights, trends, case studies and practical advice about 21st century district initiatives.
  • Network with and learn from like-minded education leaders across the country.
  • Work with the nation's pre-eminent 21st century education experts

These "standards" look very similar to the ISTE standards for administrators. You will notice in their graphic below that the first "step" for district leaders to create a 21st Century School is to "Adapt Your Vision of 21st Century Outcomes and LEAD." 

However, before we--superintendents "adapt [our] vision of 21st Century Outcomes," and before we can begin to complete the ISTE Administrative standards, and before we can meaningfully engage in the CoSN Action Steps, we--as superintendents--need to first "get it" before they can "lead it." 

So, now what do we do? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Brief Introduction to Web 3.0

I increasingly hear more chatter about the next evolution of the web, and how we will use the internet to increase our overall quality of life. Web 3.0 is just that next advancement. Developments in augmented reality, personal learning networks, coding language, and wireless devices will define the possibilities of Web 3.0. I forget who this quotation is from, but I am sure I heard it via Michael Wesch; it goes something like, "There are no communication failures, only filter failures." Web 3.0 will also be smarter in how it retrieves and presents the correct information to participants. After viewing the slideshow, reflect on education. How will these transformations and improvements be utilized in schools? How can we harness the power of these developments to create powerful environments for personalized student learning? What type of leaderships skills do our educational leaders need to exert in order to affect real change as the internet becomes more responsive and intelligent? The discussion should start here. Web 3.0: The way forward?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Administrative Compression

Many of you know (or are about to) that I am not only an advocate for the use of technology for amplifying existing pedagogical initiatives, but I am also an advocate for small, rural schools. One of the biggest issues plaguing small, rural schools in the nation is administrative compression, the act of reducing the FTEs of school and district administrative time, all while the entire educational atmosphere is increasing its complexity and its need for leadership. The following post was initially posted on AASA's Blog, "The Leading Edge," in April 2010 and contends that district-level leadership matters. In the post, I also urge all district-level leaders to challenge acts of administrative compression by using the reason and logic seen below. I welcome discussion, suggestions, and comments on this topic, so if you have ideas or want to play the role of devil's advocate, feel free!

Putting a Face on the Fact that District-Level Leadership Matters

Let’s face the facts: The fiscal condition of school systems in our current economic environment is not only troublesome, but in some cases has surpassed all expectations for the worst-case scenario. For most states, there is no solution to inadequate school funding. The tough reality is that this financial bombshell is destroying the valuable work accomplished through generations of district-level leadership in the form of permanent program cuts, school closures, layoffs, dissolutions and consolidations. Naturally, it should be time to pull out the visionary crisis plan, put together a command center, and defend the pillar of a democratic nation, the education of its children. Indeed, in a time of ambiguity, uncertainness and prioritization, we need leadership now more than ever. Let’s face another fact: It will be district-level leadership that changes our current trajectory by helping educational communities make the right decisions and—if we are all truly here for kids like we all say we are—facilitates a world-class education rich with innovation and built on the unprecedented quality and quantity of educational research.
The trend, however, is of school administrative compression, the practice of increasing the scope of responsibilities while decreasing the sufficient time for administrative leaders to fulfill the responsibilities. What these reductions in leadership expose—as school communities attempt to balance budgets through reductions in district-level leadership—is absolutely worse than the monetary benefit that the cuts originally were intended to remedy. By method of analogy, this carries the same logic as disbanding fire department administration in the midst of the worst drought in decades. Folks, district-level leadership matters.
At present, the dialogue about administrative compression is considered a local one, an act of concern and value by means of community decision making and local control. Through this point of view, the voice of those with the greatest level of experience and expertise, the advice of national experts on educational leadership, and the collective wisdom of practitioners is lost to school communities as they choose to compress or preserve district-level leadership. As this compression takes place, is it appropriate for experts, practitioners and researchers to casually remain on the fringe of the discourse? Is it respectable for us to ask ourselves the questions, “Who am I to tell another educational community [who is cutting district-level leadership] that they are making poor choices?” or “Who am I to tell a neighboring educational community to what extent they should value leadership?”
Questions, however, almost always lead to more questions, and before we can answer these questions, we may have to look to our defining purpose and charge: Who am I as a district-level leader? Who are we as an association of district-level leaders? What type of leadership do we believe in as we strive for student success? Who am I to make believe that I know so little about district-level leadership that I am mandated to be nonjudgmental about administrative compression?
We are experts in the field of educational leadership. From the collective standpoint of the experts on educational leadership, the associations to which we belong and contribute, and the district-level leaders working on behalf of kids, from our standpoint—there is no question as to how much district-level leadership matters. There is no question as to the substance and promise of our vocation. The fact of the matter is that we are the experts in the field of educational leadership. So, why is it that we are hesitant to posit a stronger stance? Why is it that we are somewhat unwilling to say, “Administrative compression is a destructive trend that will negatively affect almost every aspect within a school community. It is not good for kids, it is not good for board governance, and it is not good for labor relations.”
To advance the discourse further, it is fundamentally apparent that we function within a profession underpinned by a strong establishment of research built over decades of close examination. This body of work represents the philosophical foundation of study from which we draw best practices, licensure standards, problem-solving methodologies and reform insights. And, since we have amassed this body of work, we are also authorities and experts on it, yet are also accountable to it and its implementation and articulation. It is what embodies our area of expertise and defines our significance of knowledge and performance. Again, in the purview of this body of research, district-level leadership matters. Thus, how have we persuaded ourselves to believe that administrative compression is not a direct assault on this anthology of research on educational leadership? For without leadership, the promise of improvement resides in the realm of, “We should,” and never becomes “We did.” How is it that we have not converged around the same fundamental values to firmly convey that administrative compression is not only a poor decision on behalf of kids, but it also undermines our entire body of expertise, hence eroding our core purpose and promise?
Let’s put a face on the facts that district-level leadership matters. From contract interpretation to staff morale, from instructional leadership to vision development and articulation, from solution and innovation assemblage to community relations, and from political advocacy to governance, district-level leadership matters. Indeed, for many schools, programs, and districts, the edge of this rut may actually be the horizon given our current trajectory; however, the only way we will minimize educational collateral damage and pedagogical decay is through the transformative power of district-level leadership. Without doubt, we need district-level leaders now more than any other time in the last thirty years to fulfill the promise of our academic body of research, to work with compassion and vested interest in the success of our nation and local educational communities, and to reinvent public education for the Twenty-First Century.