Tag Archives: PLN/PLC

Reflection: Is the “Why” of a school administrator the same “Why” as a teacher?

From DepartmentOfEd Flickr https://www.flickr.com/ photos/departmentofed/8102546041. CC use https://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

From DepartmentOfEd Flickr https://www.flickr.com/ photos/departmentofed/8102546041. CC use https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

I have been fortunate to have spent the entire school day in several elementary, middle and high school classrooms in the past month. Why do I think this is fortunate?

Because, the fact is, we don’t often have the opportunity to witness a wide variety of teachers and students, in the classroom learning environment, for extended periods… and, it’s incredibly valuable!

I firmly believe that school administrators SHOULD spend as much time in classrooms as is practically possible. It can really help us concretely connect to the WHY of our jobs, it helps us connect to students, it helps us witness exemplary teaching (and, sometimes, not so

From US Army Corps of Engineers Europe District Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/europedistrict/4595576424. Under CC license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

From US Army Corps of Engineers Europe District Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/europedistrict/4595576424. Under CC license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

exemplary teaching)… in short, it gives us meaningful material to reflect on as we consider what we want our learners to achieve, how we know they are (or, aren’t) achieving that and what we need to do to ensure their success.

We all see with different lenses. This can be one of the greatest strengths for a learning community that is focused on the same questions and issues… as long as we truly consider the entire range of observations that come from our community.

Trust flows from a respect for each other’s ideas and the more we share our learning experiences and ideas with each other the more we can tackle the questions that answer why we are here, why we are educators… it is the same why. We just may have different ways of moving forward on supporting our learners.


Changing Paradigms for Changing Times? Thank you!

From: http://www.corwin.com/books/Book240618/ reviews#tabview=title

From: http://www.corwin.com/books/Book240618/ reviews#tabview=title

“The most important aspect of digital leadership is establishing a vision and a strategic plan for increasing authentic engagement of students in the teaching and learning process”  ~ Sheninger, Jan. 2014

So… I just finished reading Eric Sheninger‘s new book – Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. I also learned a new word. Heutagogical 

Here’s my conundrum: So often I feel that there’s this huge divide between those who are ‘on-board’ with digital literacy and leadership, supporting innovative education with passion and creativity, and those educators who are still pretty much stuck in the good ole days! I’m excited and honored to be connected to so many like-minded, 21st century focused educators but I feel like we often write about and promote ideas that are basically preaching to the choir. We read each others’ posts and share them/like them… It’s the educators who aren’t yet in the choir that we somehow need to connect to. How can we best do that!?

Sheninger does a great job of providing a plan for those who aren’t yet ‘connected’ to take those steps forward to become a digital leader. I have no doubt that many like-minded educators will greatly enjoy Digital Leadership. Hopefully, by reading this book, talking about this book and recommending it to others the ideas will spread.

So… the book. It provides a solid rationale for schools to start transforming into 21st century learning organizations. Sheninger lays out a very clear plan, with specific examples, for those who are just starting out to really embrace digital leadership. As Yong Zhao puts it, in the Foreword, “A framework for leading educational transformation with technology.” I was especially interested in his brief discussions of Web 3.0. Sheninger really pulls from all the current 21st century education thought leaders (Yong Zhao, Andrew Churches, Alec Couros, George Couros, Bill Ferriter and many more) as well as more traditional but still current educational leadership thought leaders like Michael Fullan and others.

There are so many wonderful points that Sheninger hits (the following are in no way a comprehensive list!):

  • The world has changed… and so must schools!
  • The array of digital tools available to schools to enhance learning, increase engagement, connect globally and communicate more effectively is enormous (Interactive White Boards. Chromebooks, Tablets, Web 2.0 apps [like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Prezi, Wikis, Animoto, etc.], Video Conferencing software, OpenCourseWare, Massive Open Online Courses, Gaming, etc.)
  • The concept of space (virtual or physical) is the entry point for instructional change… AS LONG AS THE TEACHERS ARE EMBRACING LEARNING FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW!
  • Support and PD for teachers is ESSENTIAL… empower, articulate the why and how focused on improving learning, build capacity, use data and share it transparently… and, acknowledge the potential roadblocks.
  • Digital leaders model the vision… once you use the technology you can become an advocate for it.
  • Communication, Communication, Communication… connected to Branding, Strategic Partnerships and Public Relations (he hits Branding/PR and Strategic Partnership building very well and often!)
  • The “Pillars of Digital Leadership”: Communication; PR; Branding; Professional growth and development; Student Engagement/Learning; Opportunity; and, Learning Environment and Spaces are all aligned to the ISTE NETS-A AND the Breaking Ranks Framework.

Here’s a couple more of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Technology can engage, connect, empower, and enhance teaching, how educators learn, the work done by schools, and stakeholder relations”  p.45

…”Leaders become the epicenter of their learning and determine what, where,  and  when they want to learn… Connectedness and control of learning provides leaders with the ability to determine their own path and to differentiate to meet their diverse learning needs”. p.122

Here’s some of the many references he makes:

What I didn’t like so much: Not really addressing the issue of the growing divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. Basically, Sheninger said to not let that be an excuse to not take the steps to transform. I would agree with that but I would also like to see creative suggestions on how to deal with making the divide less pronounced. That said, within each school’s individual context there are ways to balance resources in a fair (but not equal) way that must be done with sensitivity and confidentiality. Sheninger gave the example of a laptop cart with less than a full class set of laptops that is used to supplement for those who don’t have a laptop.

Basically, there’s  a lot to like, a lot to reflect on and a lot to walk away with and immediately put to use.

REPOST – What “School Reformers” — And All Of Us — Can Learn From Pope Francis About Creating Change

What “School Reformers” — And All Of Us — Can Learn From Pope Francis About Creating Change.

I actually first saw this article in the Washington Post blog by Valerie Strauss (unfortunately, the Post doesn’t have a WordPress share button but Larry Ferlazzo’s blog does!).  As I browsed Ferlazzo’s blog I came across another post that resonated with me, “Important Advice For Anyone Who Wants To Be Effective At Making Change“…

The fact is, leaders who listen make a huge impact. Along with that, humility goes a long way. Pope Francis has certainly been a good model of those characteristics (“Who am I to judge?“). Being a good listener and a humble person are signs that you are truly open to other perspectives. However, beyond that a leader must have the acumen and powers of observation to be able to know who is who, what is what and be able to read the climate of the place they are in to best decide which leadership tools will be most effective as they create change. Some techniques are effective in many places but will not work all the time for all situations.

From: Harvard Business Review Twitter at https://twitter.com/HarvardBiz/status /354329065299271681/photo/1

From: Harvard Business Review Twitter at https://twitter.com/HarvardBiz/status /354329065299271681/photo/1

Building relationships and making connections is often understimated. Again, this seems to be something Pope Francis understands and does well. After all, what could help build relationships better than genuine caring, compassion and the passionate belief that each of us can make a difference? Business, social science and conventional wisdom have converged (“The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents”)… Building that interpersonal network, establishing strong relationships, is important anywhere!

Learning! There’s no finish line!!!

NoLearningFinishLineIn June, last year, I shamelessly ‘advertised’ for LinkedIn and just over a week ago I posted a link to an ASCD resource that I saw through LinkedIn. They aren’t paying me… really! Nevertheless, I love the group updates that I get. So, here I go again!

One of the LinkedIn groups I subscribe to is called “Learning Forward“. Lately, there have been some great discussions in that group, appropriately focused on how learning is being transformed and how we must transform to keep our learning optimal and up-to-date. For example, the first edition of the Virtual Education Journal addresses game-based learning and virtual environments. The folks at EdWorks also contribute regularly to the Learning Forward group with posts like: “Kick-start Staff Morale with K-TECH“; and, “Flipped Classrooms Need Flipped Leadership“.

Anyway, if you’re not “LinkedIn” I highly recommend doing it AND connecting to like-minded educators and groups that you share some interest with. Learning never stops!

How much TEA for you?

In my previous post I touched on the concept, introduced to our faculty by Jennifer Sparrow during an EARCOS Weekend Workshop, of TEA… Targets, Evidence, Action(s). It’s a great way to organize thinking on what we do as a school. In many respects, it’s a simplified version of creating a results-oriented school advocated by Mike Schmoker, Rick & Becky DuFour, and others. In fact, it simplifies the SMART Goals process originally established by Jan O’Neill and Ann Conzemius.

From Jennifer Sparrow EARCOS Weekend Workshop, Sept. 3-4, 2011

Our job is to focus on student learning and how to improve it. It’s just common sense that we first figure out what we want our students to learn (learning objectives/Performance Standards); gather evidence that indicates how well they are ‘getting it’; and develop a plan of action to ensure they are supported and able to reach those intended learning goals. A simple, direct approach to helping all learners meet their goals. Thanks again, Jennifer Sparrow! Cuppa TEA?

Shifts in the world = shifts in education? Welcome to the 21st Century!

I have three things very much on my mind, lately…

  1. the general direction that education is going;
  2. technology and how best to integrate it/use it/teach it;
  3. and, the work we’re doing at my school on continuing to build a collaborative culture.

Until I wrote that previous sentence I have been thinking of those three things separately. I must be going blind/losing my mind. Seeing them in print – it hits me hard that they are all inextricably related. The fourth thing, that ties the three together, is what I deal with at work on a daily basis.

I read Jay Cross’ Internet Time blog (irregularly) when I want to reflect on 21st Century learning as it spans the worlds of education and business. He descriptively summarizes the direction the world is going when he talks about learning…

The process of seeking out and sharing meaning is a responsibility of enlightened social citizenship… Work-life was much simpler in the last century. Information work entailed following instructions, logical analysis and left-brained procedures. Today’s concept work is improvizaton (sic). Learning leaders must deal with situations that aren’t in the rule book. Concept work relies on pattern recognition, tacit knowledge and the wisdom borne of experience. You can’t pick this up in a workshop… The workplace has changed. Business has become unpredictable. Results are asymmetric. Everyone’s connected…  Learning and work are converging. Time has sped up… The 21st century workplace is so different from its predecessor that managers and professionals must

follow a new set of practices to succeed.

Which leads to my thoughts on technology and education. There’s so many amazing blogs and websites that deal with technology, integrating it into instruction, tips and tools, etc. One of the most comprehensive ones I’ve come across is Educational Origami. I like it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is how it organizes ‘Digital Approaches’ into the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy categories. Useful for educators to help students build the competencies/practices necessary to negotiate and succeed in the 21st Century workplace that Jay Cross describes.

Every ounce of my being believes that developing a collaborative culture in which administrators, teachers, students and parents learn together by establishing what outcomes are essential (the Target); how we will know students are achieving those outcomes (the Evidence); and, what we will do to support ALL students in achieving those outcomes (the Action) is THE WAY TO GO! Rick DuFour and his Solution Tree colleagues have a great blog (for all of us) that helps keep us focused on how to develop a real collaborative culture centered on learning. Problem is… it ain’t easy!

Procrastination, Coblaboration instead of Collaboration, unwillingness to adjust practice based on evidence because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ all make it very difficult to stay on course and promote a collaborative focus on learning.

More to come later on using Targets, Evidence and Action as an organizer for school improvement and focusing on improving student learning…thank you, Jennifer Sparrow, EARCOS Expert Practitioner!

Learning Doing Gap

Book study completed!  Now what?

Point made repeatedly: We really already know

what we SHOULD be doing… .

The phenomenon (to use a relatively neutral descriptor) of the Learning – Doing Gap seems to occur for a variety of reasons (fear, lack of focus, lack of belief in self-efficacy [caused by many other factors], lack of skills/capacity, laziness, confusing talk with action [talking about what we can/should be doing is not

actually doing it], etc.). Personally, I think it really comes down to three things: the willingness of leaders to commit time and effort to a single-minded focus (on student learning); effective communication skills, ability to build trust (and eliminate fear).

The Dufours sure chose an appropriate title – Learning by Doing. That automatically takes care of being action orientated AND building trust (as we learn together we inevitably make mistakes and take risks… by doing that together, we build trust). At the heart of it – there are no shortcuts.  We all want a magic

bullet that makes everything better without much effort.  It does take effort but it doesn’t need to be an EXTRA effort.  The benefits far outweigh the costs when there is a clear focus and you ‘cut-out’ what doesn’t need to be done.  Work smarter and more focused, not harder.

WORK SMARTER! NOT HARDER. From Ryan Eliason's blog: http://bestbusinessyear.com/the-8020-rule/