Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Digital Age and the District Administrator

Recently, I developed a course, entitled The Digital Age and the District Administrator, in order to assist superintendents in acquiring tech-oriented skills. The course is possible because of a unique partnership between Viterbo University and CESA #4.  It's been a remarkable experience, and it has reinforced my strongly held judgement that school district administrators have the full capacity to learn, utilize, and lead with digital-age tools. Below are my somewhat zealous essential questions for the course and the local news coverage that we earned. What is happening in your area to assist school administrators in developing the technology skills and dispositions needed to "lead with the brights on"?

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 has 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 do we an environment of inquiry that engages the learner and optimizes learning through technology?

Credit: Acknowledgement, recognition, and praise must be given to Scott McLeod (of CASTLE) and Jeff Utecht for inspiring this course and pioneering the way for leaders to teach leaders about digital-age tools.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Technology and a Community-Based School District Vision

With the political chaos of Wisconsin forcing administrators to make tough decisions and engage in difficult and emotional conversations, I've had to reflect on our school district's vision more than I typically do (sometimes even on an hourly basis). A bit more than a year ago, I facilitated a "reculturing" of our school district's vision and purpose. I did so by harnessing what academics call the "collective intelligence" of our community, utilizing a conversational process called World Cafe. Below, you will find a "capzle," which is a Web 2.0 tool that captures all the artifacts and components to the process, from the presentations I used with my school board, to the community invitations I distributed to welcome stakeholders as partners in the revision of the school district's vision.

Because the concept of vision development and vision articulation holds a prominent place in both the ISLLC Standards and the Key Work of School Boards from the National School Boards Association, most district administrators are well aware of its place in day-to-day decisions, strategic planning, and fiscal resource allocation. To what extent, however, do most district administrators understand how school district vision development and articulation relate to a clear and multifaceted understanding of digital-age tools, such as Web 2.0? The smart and incisively executed use of social media and other internet-based communication tools can intensify an administrator's ability to communicate vision and assist others in vision alignment. In other words, to what degree can district administrators continue to work toward accomplishing a school district's vision without a meaningful understanding of technology?

You may view the a "capzle" of the process here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ahead of the "Game"

Let me introduce you to James Paul Gee, a researcher on how gaming and learning interface. A pioneer in researching (and explaining) how gaming can change how students learn, retain, and apply knowledge, Gee has asserted that gaming can create spaces of "passion affinity," where students naturally construct meaningful knowledge through problem-based and contextualized learning experiences. After viewing the video (below) and reading over some of his philosophy about gaming and learning, has your mind changed at all about the appropriateness of video gaming in classrooms? To what extent do educational leaders need to understand gaming well enough to understand the potential learning that can result from gaming?

James Paul Gee from New Learning Institute on Vimeo.

For more information, follow Henry Jenkins' interview series with Gee here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Google Docs and the 2nd Grade

I could go on about the attributes of Google Docs, how they epitomize the Web 2.0 standard of "anywhere, anytime, with anyone." I could go on about how they motivate kids to engage in academic activities that they normally wouldn't do. I could also lecture on about how all kids, even elementary kids-without all the fully developed digital dispositions-can use Google Apps with purpose.

I could do all those things, or I could just show you a picture of my 2nd-grade son at home, writing a fiction short story on a Google "Word" Document, while his teacher gives him real-time feedback in the shared document, at 6:30 p.m on a Thursday night.

The Leadership and Technology Gap

Recently, David Warlick sat down with Scott Klosoksy to talk about the gap between leadership capacity and technology understanding, which is somewhat of a growing epidemic within the ranks of CEOs, administrators, and leaders across all disciplines. The graphic below is a visualization of the conversation, encapsulating the most salient points of the issue. After looking through the graphic, what strikes you as the most significant new concept that you learned? What are you going to try or do differently after analyzing this graphic? What information on the graphic changes your mind about how you view the relationship between technology and leadership? How can we as educational leaders close the "Gap" between leadership and digital aptitude?

Owly Images

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Creating Personal Learning Networks For District Administrators

The development of a personal learning network can be one of the most catalytic projects a school administrator can engage in. Book groups are great. Conferences are highly instructive. But both are intermittent and somewhat interruptive. A digitally-driven personal learning network, however, is ongoing and integrated into your professional (and personal) life. When a network of professionals all simultaneously learns and circulates information, the network has an energizing effect, serving to solve problems and expand knowledge-bases.

Last week, while teaching a class to district administrators about the use of digital-age tools, I explained the power of a personal learning network. One of the goals of the course is for district administrators to develop a personal learning network and to participate in a digitally-oriented professional learning community. What follows is a guide (of sorts) for district administrators who would like to develop their own personal learning networks. The guide is organized by some of the questions that district administrators asked me when I was teaching the class on digital tools.

What are Personal Learning Networks?

Here, William Richardson gives a brief overview of a PLN.

This infographic illustrates the degree to which people participate in PLNs varies.

Here, Jeff Utecht reviews the stages a person experiences as he/she engages in a PLN. 

Stages of PLN adoption
Source: Jeff Utecht's Flickr Account
How Do I Develop One?A great slideshow covering the tools people use to engage in a PLN. Build a PLN with Web 2.0 Tools (FETC 09)
View more presentations from Katie Morrow

How can PLNs help my PLC?

Mark Wagner does a great job in this slideshow explaining how PLNs and PLCs are interwoven.

Where do I go for resources?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

School Safety, Social Media, and Administrative Technology Aptitude

This infographic begins with an intriguing question:
  • "In an area-wide emergency, how likely would you be to use social media channels to let your friends and family know you are safe?

As I've said before, questions almost always lead to more questions (for me for that matter), so I began to think deeper about how this infographic interfaces with schools.
  • In the event of an emergency, how likely are parents to use social media channels to acquire necessary information? 
  • How could school communication through social media help or hinder effective management and facilitation of a crisis plan during a time of crisis? 
  • Do administrators understand digital-age tools well enough to effectively utilize them to communicate? 
  • Do school administrators understand digital-age tools well enough to even give the tools a chance as a potential means of communication? 
I encourage district administrators and other practicing administrators to look through this infographic and reflect on how populations use social media. Think about the pros and cons of using social media in an emergency situation or when implementing a crisis plan. Reflect on the ways social media may better connect stakeholders within a community response plan. What can school administrators do now to make an informed decision about the use of social media during a school crisis?