Off to #CUE17 (http://www.cue.org/conference). Perhaps it will prompt a blog post or two…
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As I sit here at Google getting an update on their awesome Google for Education tools, I have a few features on my wish list:
- Auto Play Embedded Videos in Google Slides – I don’t think I need to explain this one.
- YouTube Red for Education – AdFree Youtube, duh!
- Create a real Groups platform – We need a robust Group Collaboration platform, think hybrid Sites & Groups. Or better yet, make Google+ more usable for group/enterprise collaboration with support for under 13 year olds and walled garden collaboration in school.
And for a personal one: Please solve the email black hole when it comes to project and task management. Bring the power of the big blue Share button to gmail – Sharable Gmail Labels or a way to send Email to a Google Doc to be shared as an action item.
What would you wish for?
What does Good Instructional Leadership look like?
It’s a question that has come up often in the past year. As a leadership team in our district we’re reading through Hacking Leadership by Joe Sanfelippo (#gocrickets) and Tony Sinanis, which has great practical ideas for education leaders. But what does that look like when applied to instruction?
During one of our back and forth brainstorming discussions, this came up:
“It comes down to regular formative assessments (not just 3 benchmarks) and a leader who can ask guiding questions, inspiring teachers to do better”
That’s a pretty powerful concept right there. Powerful in it’s simplicity and powerful in it’s focus on student learning. This got me thinking about what’s really important for learning and how do we make sure we’re focused on supporting that as instructional leaders.
Supporting learning really comes down to building a culture around a common vision for what learning looks like. We aren’t all fortunate enough to build a school culture from the ground up (like @jcorippo & @mwniehoff) but we can all strive for a student centered vision of learning for our own schools and districts that can help frame (or re-frame) the current culture. A vision where everyone believes in success for all children, where we have high expectations like:
- Every child will read at grade level by 3rd grade.
- Every 5th grader will make an impact in their community for the better.
- Every 8th grader will be part of a team that problem solves world challenges for a better future.
Where we come together around action statements that look like:
Students will – Be present and engaged, ask tough questions, explore big ideas, have fun and change the world for the better.
Teachers will – Create engaging learning experiences for all students, assessing early and often, using the data to provide individualized student support towards standards mastery.
Principals will – Support teachers through reflection and guided questions that inspire teachers to move all students towards standards mastery.
Staff will – Provide support, inspiration and guidance while removing obstacles to learning along the way.
I guess for me, good instructional leadership looks like building/supporting/promoting/growing a community of dedicated educators, support staff and parents around doing what’s best for kids.
So what would your definition of Good Instructional Leadership look like?
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Back in April, Adam Welcome wrote a blog post that really got me thinking entitled It’s No Longer About 1:1. As I’ve been an advocate for 1:1 in schools since 2009, I immediately drafted a response, one that I uncharacteristically then let sit for several months so I could stew on it a bit more. In that time, it looks like the post has gone away, but my thoughts on it still remain. This is what Adam said that got me thinking:
“Even if you have the money to go 1:1, I’m not sure it’s the best idea right now moving forward. Showing students a multi-pronged approach with collaborating, creativity, problem solving, investigation, art and other relevant skills is important. Leveraging those needed skills in different ways is important as it builds different capabilities for our kids. Being able to transition from Google Apps to coding an obstacle course as part of their math instruction, to taking an iPad around campus on a picture walk looking for different angles or types of trees to include on a presentation are all really important skills that produce well rounded kids.”
What caused me to pause in my initial response was that I agree with Adam on the importance of building diverse opportunity learning environments. Many valuable learning activities in class do not require every student to have access to their own device and we should be providing opportunities for students to have a variety of technology tools embedded into the learning. But I also believe that providing every student with an internet connected device must be a fundamental educational tenet given how we access information today. That doesn’t mean that kids should be on the devices all the time, but their device should be available to access information when and where needed. I think it’s too soon to stop advocating for 1:1 as not everyone is there yet.
Not going 1:1 limits options for learning. A whole class collaborative essay with real time teacher feedback is hard to do without 1:1. Blended learning is hard to do without 1:1. Flipped learning is hard to do without 1:1. Real time classroom assessment with data capture is hard to do without 1:1.
“What do your classrooms look like? What do you want your classrooms to look like? What can your classrooms look like? More importantly – how can you leverage the money you have or don’t have to give your kids a well rounded technology experience that will build their skill level in many different ways.”
The crux of Adam’s argument really revolves around funding. Fund 1:1 or fund 1:2 or 1:4 with Spheros, 3D Printers and other collaborative tools added to the classroom. Funding is a real issue for us in CA, since we have no dedicated funding source for technology and priorities are set by individual districts. Unfortunately, 1:1 is still seen in many districts as beyond their reach. This is where I struggle with what Adam was saying; if a district can afford 1:1 and chooses not to go that route, then I think they are constraining what I consider to be a foundational element of the modern learning environment.
Another reality to consider is state online adaptive testing. We call it the CAASPP here in California. Every 3rd-8th grade student needs to feel comfortable and confident with navigating their device, accessing information and responding to assessment questions online. This is infinitely harder if students don’t have access to their own device.
Spheros and 3D Printers are cool. I think things like Spheros, LittleBits, 3D Printers, Lego Robotics, Drones and their like are the modern day equivalent of the Computer Lab. We should be providing students access to these experiences. But right now, these tools are still relatively expensive, specialized tech that require a lot of care and feeding (support and technical know how) just like the Computer Labs of old. There are definitely times when being in a 1:2 or 1:4 device to student based activity is better suited to the learning objective. Classrooms should have multiple types of devices for learning, especially for Multi-Media projects. On this, I totally agree with Adam, but we shouldn’t compromise on a base line expectation of 1:1. An Internet connected device for every student is the “textbook required” equivalent for the 21st Century. Thankfully, the devices can do so much more than just access information and it’s our job as educators to make sure they are used for more than electronic versions of worksheets and textbooks.
This disruptive path we are on in education will continue. Fundamentally, how we access information has changed. Constraining access to information in a classroom does not help students learn how to successfully navigate a world of abundant information. Until classroom devices are as ubiquitous as textbooks, paper and pencils, we can’t let go of the goal of ensuring every kid has access to an Internet connected device for learning.
And I think anyone would be hard pressed to find someone that disagrees that it is having a profound impact on the world we live in today.
This post on twitter got me thinking this morning:
I found the below video in the pre-twitter years of the Internet and used it as a conversation starter around teaching with technology for many years. Then, I forgot about it. It was lost to one of my old YouTube playlists, never to be played again. Until yesterday, when I used it in a team building exercise to talk about my Why. The reason I’m a self described 1:1 evangelist and believe infusing technology into core instructional practice is absolutely critical for the future of education.
The video quality is bad and the tech is pretty hilarious, but to me, it is still one of the best examples of the dramatic shift in how we interact with information that is currently underway.
While the video is starting to show it’s age, I think it’s even more relevant today because if anything, the changes it depicts are accelerating, not slowing down. In Education, we have a responsibility to prepare children for their futures, not our pasts. How many schools are actually preparing kids to be successful in a new post information revolution world?
If you have a video that highlights the information revolution happening now, please share in the comments. I’m looking to refresh my old Building A 1:1 Vision Playlist. Thanks.
I’m stepping into a new role this year and I’ve already found myself getting pulled into the Binder Planning Model. You know the one, where the entire year is laid out in the binder, and you’re just turning the pages.
To me, it’s a metaphor for school planning in general. In schools, we like to organize our thinking around binders. A sequential entry of to-dos, dates, events and directions for everything that happens throughout the year, from day 1 to day 185, in one place. A binder, sitting on a shelf, within arm’s reach at a moment’s notice. It’s a practice that has perpetuated for generations.
One which reminds me of that old teaching adage, “Teach 25 years, not one year 25 times”. When I was new to teaching, I was handed a binder for the year and told, “here you go”. I dutifully took one look at it, realized it was mostly out of date and set about rebuilding the content from the ground up. The one thing I took from the binder was the general course outline. I put that outline into an online learning management system (Moodle at the time, I pre-date Google Classroom) and proceeded to pull in a ton of relevant content from many different sources, which I continuously updated, modified and adjusted every year.
Just as I didn’t want to fall into the same routine in the classroom year after year, I don’t want to fall into the same administrative routines year after year now.
Yes, new standards come along and new regulations are passed, and we dutifully update pages in the binder to keep current (we all do that, right?). But the binder format itself is limiting. It’s hard to adapt and update multiple copies with fidelity. It promotes sequential thinking and “sticking to the plan” even in the face of obvious need for adaptation. The binder models a “gate keeper” mode of information sharing that doesn’t apply in the connected world we now live and work. Granting access to multiple people requires lots of manual intervention (copy and send the green pages, replace page 20 with green 20, etc…). The content remains locked away on a shelf, unsearchable, and only referenced by a few. It’s a planning tool from the 20th (19th?) Century. We need a new planning model for the 21st Century.
What if we threw away the binder and every year we had a conversation about what we should do, how we should do it and why we should do it. What if instead of a binder, we had a live planning document, a shared google doc accessible to the entire staff. A scrolling sea of infinite planning possibilities. What could we accomplish if every year there was a blank slate with a running history of the years before. Not a pre-set script to be repeated, but a knowledge base on which to build and transform for they year ahead?
I think it’s time to move the annual department plan from a binder to a collaborative planning doc. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about programs lately (new occupational hazard I guess). After edCamp last weekend, STEAM has been front of mind. I tend to think of programs from the perspective of what do we want to see students doing. For a 1:1 program, it basically comes down to accessing information, collaborating, creating and presenting using modern tools. For a STEAM program, maybe it would look something like this:
- Problem Solving
- Problem Finding
- And having fun
What do you think a STEAM program should look like for kids?
There was a trap we found ourselves falling into back in the STAR testing days with data. We spent the majority of our time and energy focused on the kids just below the line. The ones close to being proficient. The ones that theoretically should be easy to move. That was how we (and many others) moved district wide performance and attempted to avoid the dreaded PI (program improvement). Targeted intervention with a subset of kids. The bubble kids. For many districts it worked. But the unintended consequence was that it left lots of kids behind.
I will never forget a principal at a school in a district I won’t name who told a group of parents that only kids that scored just below the line were eligible for their after school support programs, because there was no point in providing services to kids that were so far below the line they wouldn’t be able to move enough to count. Straight up. Seriously?
I’m writing this in part to remind myself not to fall into the same trap. All kids deserve our very best. Not just the one’s closest to a line on a test.
I have a new title. It’s a mouth full and when people ask what it is, it actually takes my brain a few seconds to spin up to say it.
Associate Superintendent, Learning & Innovation
On more than one occasion, once I get it out, people have commented that it’s kind of cool or that it’s different. I tell them it’s totally made up and that basically I’m now responsible for Tech and EdServices. People generally get it from there but I find the initial pause interesting.
Learning & Innovation seems to throw people for a loop. As opposed to a more traditional title with Educational Services or Curriculum & Instruction in there, both of which carry a pre-existing set of expectations. Learning and Innovation are both in there for a reason. They both have purpose. Because while I don’t personally think titles make much of a difference, they do carry a message. The words in Titles can remind us of what’s important and where our focus should be.
Learning because as a school district we should be about Learning. Student Learning. Teacher Learning. Principal Learning. Staff Learning. Parent and Community Learning. School should represent a hub of life long learning in practice.
Innovation because thanks to the Internet, the world we live in is smaller than it’s ever been and as a consequence, it’s changing must faster than it ever has. Innovation because in our part of the world (Silicon Valley), Innovation is in our community’s DNA. Innovation because it promotes outside the box thinking, reflection and analysis of process and goals and practice. Innovation because learning isn’t about standing still, it’s about moving.
So I’ve got a new title and more responsibility, but really, it’s just put a label to what I’ve been all about for a while now, Learning and Innovation.
I was reminded this weekend why I love edcamps so much.
After a challenging few weeks in a new role, I was very much looking forward to a relaxing weekend of sleeping in and tinkering around the house when a calendar pop up reminded me that edCampSFBay was less than 12 hours away.
I took one look at the 8am start time, quickly backwards mapped the 40 minute drive up to Notre Dame High School and figured I’d have to wake up around 6:30 to get their in time for coffee and bagels. On a Saturday. After a long week of back to school.
I started coming up with excuses not to go but seeing how I’d missed the last few edCampSFBays, I set the alarm, woke up early on Saturday and headed out for an edCamp, SFBay style.
I’m glad I did. From 8-3 (and for about an hour more at the after party), I was reminded why edCamps are awesome. I had a chance to catch up with some #eduawesome folks in the morning, sat in on a session about flexible learning environments and makerspaces in one of Notre Dame’s pilot furniture classrooms, caught another session about using Video academically with the one and only @rushtonh and then was in a great session about learning support for ELL, SPED and GATE students. All this before lunch!
Over lunch I had a chance to connect with two educators about their makerspace programs, who I will be connecting our STEAM folks with immediately. After lunch, I sat in on a fascinating session about teaching reading and differentiation for literacy. I also bumped into a couple teachers from my district and may have said yes to a few requests…
Rather than being tired at the end of the day, I was refreshed. A day of sharing and learning was just what I needed to reflect and recharge for the days ahead. Far from being an exercise in effort (although getting there took some), edcamp was a welcome state of mind.
If you are an educator and you’ve never been to an edCamp before, go. If you’re like me and it’s been a while, go. CUE Rockstar Camps and big conferences like ISTE are cool, but there’s just something about sitting in a room having a conversation and sharing ideas that’s so darn powerful.