Digital Leadership with @E_Sheninger

This past week, I was fortunate to spend an entire day with Eric Sheninger at a workshop session called Digital Leadership.  I have been a follower of Eric’s for some time, watched his Ted Talk and read his Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times book. (which is now signed!)  But, I have never had the opportunity to hear him speak.  SO, when I found out he was coming to Rochester, MN and would have a whole day session –  I was in!

He provided incredible insights on how he was able to lead his school, New Milford High School a small high school with 600+ kids in New Jersey, with high diversity, little or no technology to become a  nationally recognized school and greatly improving test scores and graduation rates.  Below are my key takeaways!

No more excuses
An early turning point in the transformation was a  “Stop Making Excuses” mindset and it had an enormous effect on New Milford’s culture.  Because  “If it’s important to you, you will find a way.  If not, you will find an excuse!”

Accountability QuoteAccountability
Of everything that Eric shared that day, this was probably the most the biggest takeaway for me.   Eric shared that he observed EVERY teacher in his school 5 times per year.  Two were officially scheduled observations while 3 were unannounced.  His classroom look fors:

  • Clear learning objectives/outcomes
  • Student-centered as opposed to teacher-centered
  • Construction of new knowledge
  • Acquisition and application of essential skills
  • Creation of a learning artifact
  • Assessment – evidence of higher order thinking skills
  • Student Feedback

If he did not observe something in action, he would email his teachers and they would have so much time to provide the information. This would include learner artifacts and the standards they were aligned to.  One of my favorite quotes from his session – “I collect assessments, not lesson plans”.  I would have to guess the conversations around learning would be incredibly powerful with the data/evidence!

The collection of digital artifacts were beneficial for his educators too, as all educators have e-portfolios and are provided time (on the job) to work on their ePortfolios.  To do this, Sheninger eliminated non-instructional “duty-time”.  “We do not need $45/hr cafeteria monitors”.  Instead, he opted to provide team time and time for educators to reflect on their practice.

Eric did share that this observation model did not start right away.  I believe it wasn’t until year  3 or 4 into his transformational instructional design process.  This also was about how much time it took for the diffusion of this instructional design to happen. (Refer to diffusion of innovation)

Rigor, Relevance, and Innovation

Sheninger also shared the Relevance Instructional Design Framework developed by the International Center for Leadership in Education. (Sheninger now works for them).

Rigor and Relevance Framework

 While we have been focusing on deeper learning this year, what I like about this framework is it provides a scaffold of these types of learning environments.  Sheninger said while our goal should be to get our students to quadrant D, it is impossible to reside there at all times. In my opinion, It is also not fair to kids to provide them with an education that never allows them to move out of Quadrant A.   As I was perusing the leadered website, I did stumble on the rubric that aligns with the framework. Question to self – Could this align to our scale work? Should this framework be used in my Real World Learning design course?

Questions to reflect on… what do assessments look like in each quadrant?  My guess, as you move from quadrant to quadrant, the assessments move from knowledge-based assessments (quizzes/tests) to performance-based assessments. Eric did share one such project from his school and the rubric to match!  I believe all students in his HS had ePortfolios.  We should not only use student ePortfolios to show what they know… but show what they understand.   Evidence and reflection will be key.

Be sure to read Will Dagget’s research around this framework. (pdf)  My favorite quote from this whitepaper:

The value of state assessments is undeniable, but we cannot view them as the definition of academic excellence. Unfortunately, many of those in education do. When assessment is viewed as the end goal or finish line,
the test itself becomes a barrier to high levels of student achievement. However, if curriculum, instruction, and relevant learning become the focus, the tests will take care of themselves.


We need to “marry innovation with achievement when we look at instructional design”.  While we are always seeking to engage our students, engagement does not automatically equate to learning.  I have been guilty of this numerous times.  I get excited by shiny things but at the end of the day, if our students are not learning our objectives, we are wasting valuable instructional time.  It’s important to continually assess their understanding.  Can learning be fun? Absolutely!  But we need to keep the lessons/activities learner and learning focused!  

What do you want students to do with technology?As for technology, there is no doubt it can amplify and accelerate learning vs.  “water it down”.  Instead, we should ask ourselves how can technology be used to support sound student-centered pedagogy?

If leadership doesn’t get it – it’s not going to happen. This includes leaders in classrooms, schools, districts! Eric did a very good job modeling tools and effective practices during this session.  When I think of PD, this is the biggest improvement needed in our schools. I rarely see people MODEL effective technology with effective PD design.  RARELY.  While I feel good about the district side PD we tried this year, (post)  we need to challenge ourselves improve PD in our districts – modeling is key!

Note to self – use/model mentimeter and check out these tools that were shared during this session. (below)

All in all it was a fantastic day of learning, conversations, and reflection! Below is the storified tweets from this session.  How will this newly aquired information be applied, assimilated, or adapted???? Well…that is to be  continued!

Reflections of Deeper Learning PD

This reflection will serve as an artifact to meet my goals this year to improve my leadership presence and deepen my understanding of today’s educational environment.

A little backgroundJohn Dewey Reflection Quote

As shared in an earlier post, our district-wide PD efforts this year have been focused on deeper learning.  Deeper learning first and foremost aligns to priorities 1 -4 of our district’s strategic plan.  It also aligns to the Marzano Framework and PLC work educators have focused on in the past 3 years. (determining critical ELOs, creating common assessment, and scale work).

Our district goal was to implement a K-12 ePortfolio system that captures deeper learning.  (Official goal – 100% of all teachers will CREATE or REDESIGN and IMPLEMENT at least 3 lesson plans per year that inspire learners to achieve at high levels as measured by student ePortfolio artifacts.)  This work also aligns with Marzano Framework Domain 1 Element 12 and 22.  

Our process over the year

We began our process in August (Day 1) introducing the district deeper learning protocol (DLP), that was inspired the Trudacot work of Scott Mcleod and Julie Graber.  Staff were provided time to design or re-design lessons that met at least 1 of the facets of the DLP.  As a district, we collected their personal action plans and would meet again in October. Staff were to collect student artifacts and share their work with others.  Here is a snapshot example of our October day.
On March 17 we had our last PD day.  It comprised of a celebration of sharing of their last redesign lesson, ePortfolio Artifacts, a Teachmeet session led by Byron Educators, and finally a crowdsourced slideshow of our staff’s next Big Ideas!  This is a great document to showcase what our staff learned and how they would apply their learning in future lessons!

Reflections from the March PD day

Overall.  It was a great morning.  Celebrating our educators’ work by focusing on student artifacts was very powerful.  Many educators shared (in our feedback survey) how impressed they were with what other teachers were doing. Then to move to the Teachmeet also proved to be beneficial.  We need more opportunities for our educators to learn from one another.  Making the invisible – visible (student artifacts, teachers sharing) is proving to have an influence on our educators – especially when you review the IDEAs that were generated after the sessions.

PD Design.  If we believe deeper learning can benefit students – we should model deeper learning strategies in PD.  From the Deeper Learning protocol, I believe we modeled learner agency, embedded opportunities for collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking (in the form of reflection) and relevance both in the topic and audience.

The role of ePortfolios. Since our move to a k-12 ePortfolio system (SeeSaw for grades K-5 and Google Sites for 6-12) the making of teaching and learning visible is very powerful.  Rolling out the ePortoflios has not been perfect. While we have had a few hiccups (will explain in future post), I feel it has been successful – especially for year 1. We certainly have work to do to improve implementation (as results from our survey) BUT I do believe that it is tools like ePortfolios that will help us capture the power of the deeper learning, student growth, and being college – career – life ready.

Modeling Failure. I had plenty opportunities to model failure that day.  When I arrived at 6:45am , I was welcomed with a “The Wifi is down”.  Ugh.  Having a pd day (dependent on technology) and the district wifi is down is never a good sign.   But the show must go on!  I turned on my mobile hotspot, and turned the keys over to the techs (to work with the engineer to solve the problem).  During the presentation, I was interrupted several times (by calendar notifications, phone call from our enginner, ect).  The final near fatal fail – was tripping over the projector cart power cable and watching the cart weeble and wobble nearly tipping the projector and my laptop over. Could it get any worse? I was almost afraid to ask!  Luckily the wifi was back up before the teachmeet session, (VM server issue) and the technology fails disappeared. Thank you Matt and Matt!

Prizes. While prizes are viewed as extrinsic… they do make the desire to participate a little more fun!  We gave away 1 BreakoutEDU kit and 2 wireless keyboard/track pads. LIVE Drawings for prizes were based on participating in the IDEA activity.  (used flippity.net and Google Forms)

Artifacts from the day!  I always appreciate photo’s and videos that capture the learning process. Next time, I would like to interview a few folks about this experience as it is happening.

 

 

The Tech Director’s 360 Survey

Back in July, I blogged about the need for me, a tech director of a small school district in MN,  to be more transparent.  Below is an update of my progress.

Earn your leadership every day.

Image Credit – quoteaddicts.com

The other part of my goals this year was to develop a 360 survey.  After much thought – I decided I wanted to focus on leadership traits.  I combined some of the Cosn Framework with statements from Survey Connect’s  – Sample Question Library to create a draft of my 360 tool.

I am looking for YOUR feedback on my DRAFT Tech Director’s 360 Feedback Survey.   I hope to have a mix of district leadership, educators, and support staff provide me with feedback sometime in Feb. So what do you think about the survey?  Is this too much? Too little? What am I missing?

A new approach to the “PD Day”

If I die - Staff Meeting

I will be honest,  I have led some bad PD in my day. I have read powerpoint slides, provided “click here, click there” how to sessions, all of which have been a one-time, one-size fits all approach.  Did my participants learn? How do I know they learned?  (both questions, I failed to ask – or maybe was afraid to ask?)

On the other side of the gamut (things I am more proud of) I have co-facilitated district edcamps, provided short Just In Time Training (JITT) sessions (small group),  coached educators 1:1, and am currently facilitating a cohort model  through the Innovative Instructional Leadership Program.

This year our district goal is:

100% of all teachers will CREATE or REDESIGN and IMPLEMENT at least 3 lesson plans per year that inspire learners to achieve at high levels as measured by student ePortfolio artifacts.

October 19, 2016, was day 2 (of 4) to help support educators in this process.  As we (instructional coaches/curriculum director/myself) were designing the activities we wanted to model good instructional practices.  We know a day of sit and get does not work in our classrooms, why would we incorporate this on our PD day?

In our PD sessions, have been focusing on personalized and deeper learning that engage/empower kids.  We are using a Deeper Learning Protocol (DLP) based on the works of Scott McLeod (McLeod) and Julie Graber (@jgraber). (Called Trudacot)

Our October 19 agenda with results/evidence:

TableTop Group

Our Workgroup Table Toppers!

1 – Create District Teams Our first decision was to create district teams with representation of 2 educators from each level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) We also wanted to mix disciplines.   Our teachers are with PLCs on a weekly basis. We wanted the opportunity for them to connect with other educators and learn about their implementation and results.    We felt this would be a great opportunity to build cross district relationships and could potentially lead to new sparks!

2 – High energy starter – We started the day with an epic game of Rock, Paper, Scissors – tied to Growth Mindset  (Thank you George Couros for the idea!)

And the winner is…

3. Lesson Speed Dating –  Educators shared examples/artifacts of student work from created/redesigned  lesson plans.  We kicked it off this activity with 1 teacher from each building sharing what they implemented in their classroom to the entire staff. Then, within our groups, we did 3 rounds of sharing (each 8 minutes a piece)

Script to help guide the discussion
My lesson was…
My area of focus from the DLP was…
What I observed/assessed in student learning (ELO) success was…
What I observed in regards to student engagement was…
If I focus on this DLP area again, I would…
Questions or Comments?

Short Video in Speed Date in Action

While this focused heavily on the innovative things our educators did to deepen learning and engage/empower kids it was important to also highlight the learning.   After the speed date was done, we  had all staff analyze the following artifact with these questions:

  • What facets of the DLP does this artifact integrate?
  • Does this artifact show evidence that the student has met the essential learning outcome? (I Can Statement)
Artifact snapshot

This is an example of an 8th-grade artifact (In ELA) who emailed me earlier that week for some support on a digital citizenship project they were working on.

 

4. Going Deeper into the DLP ( In this activity, we wanted to give educators a blended learning experience with plenty of voice/choice, to study and create a learning artifact regarding a single DLP Facet.  We had 15 groups and assigned 3 groups to each facet. (Facets we focused on: Authenticity/Relevancy, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, Deeper Thinking).  Below are the instructions we used for this activity.  This will allow you to see the activity looked like (Built on Google Sites)

We allowed educators to choose their learning space.  I observed during the reading portion and video watching portion – some educators chose to sit independently (away from group) while others decided to do everything together. (Both AOK!) Only 1 group chose to sit in rows!screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-6-44-30-pm

Educators were to make a digital learning artifact that represented what they understood about their assigned facet. (We provide NO How to’s here)  We also recognized opportunities to build artifacts (not digital) to represent their knowledge.  Included was a small maker table if they chose that path!

Our little maker table!

Our little maker table!

 

The last portion of this activity was to do a Gallery walk and reflect on the learning experience.  Since everyone had access to the padlet, the workgroups began looking at what everyone else had created.  (which is a great formative assessment for us)  It was fun to see the creative ideas come through!  Some created mindmaps, slideshows, videos, screencasts, drew posters and took pics), ect.  It would have been fun to do another short speed date – first with each Facet teams to share their creation and then the teams select 1 project to go to be presented to the district group. However, we simply ran out of time.  (We may revive this idea, the next time we meet)

We also circled back to the growth mindset conversation we started with, and asked educators to take a silent moment to reflect… did they ever have a fixed mindset moment during this experience? Did they ever observe a team member in a fixed mindset?  Growth Mindset

5. Work time to recreate/design lesson to be implemented and student artifacts to be collected by the next PD day in January.   We gave educators approximately 2 hours to do their own creative lesson planning.  Educators then, submit a broad scope of their lesson re-design and include ELOs and DLP Facets they will be using.  Coaches will follow up with staff throughout the next several months.

6. Evaluate our Lesson – We wanted teachers to evaluate our lesson.  (Google Form)  Right now a little over 40% of  educators provided feedback.  Many reported they liked the groupings and enjoyed the sharing of lessons and ideas. By far the great improvement we need is to give more time to share and create!

We also are sitting at a little over  70% engagement rate. I WISH we had comparison data to sit and get PD!  But unfortunately, we don’t.  However, we do plan on taking feedback from our educators and improving the professional development day in January!

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-7-10-23-pm

Final Reflection

I am very happy with the result of our efforts and felt we met our goals.

Did we give our educators a different  district-wide PD experience? YES!   One that has multiple activities that activated multiple senses?  YES!

Did we go beyond reading powerpoint slides and give educators an applied experience that made learning visible? Assessable? With their peers?  YES. YES. YES.

Did our lesson include opportunities for learner voice/choice? Collaboration? Communication? Deeper Thinking? Creativity? Integrate meaningful technology?  Again All YES!  However, some were to a greater degree than others.

Do we need to improve for the next time? YES!  We are far from done and are already brainstorming for PD # 3 in January!

What are some awesome things you have done on PD days in your district? Share your ideas or provide feedback to this post!

Note: This blog post is in direct correlation and will serve as evidence of my 2016-17 professional goals:

GOAL 1: Improving My Leadership Presence

As I shared in my previous post – The Transparent Technology Director, I have decided to be completely transparent in my goals for the year. While I am still developing my 360 evaluation tool,  in the next few blog posts, I will be sharing my 2016-17 personal professional goals.  I dwindled the list down to 5 goals in COSN focus areas of leadership, instructional focus/professional development, stakeholder focus, digital communications, and information technology management.

In each of my goal blog posts, I will share my goal, why it’s important to me, action steps, resources needed, and predicted deliverables/evidence of learning.  As always, your feedback is appreciated.

Goal 1 – Increase my leadership presence at Byron Public Schools

  • Why it’s important to me –  Last year was a great learning year for me.  I was charged  with evaluating our district’s 1:1 initiative, and worked with district instructional coach’s on providing more Just In Training Time sessions for the district.   Within both of these items, I was able to re-connect with district teachers.   From these connections, I began a journey of learning more about our district’s classroom environments.  I LOVED being invited into classrooms and observing learning in action.  There were other times, I went in to observe classrooms with principals.  In any of these situations, I found it  helped me understand where I can be a better support for our classrooms and schools.  I would also like to improve my presentation skills.  I am, by far, most comfortable in small group, 1 to 1 settings.  However, in large group settings – I feel I feel I am not quite as confident as I wish to be.  I would like to  learn strategies that can captivate large group audiences.  I specifically am looking to improve my storytelling skills – as well as facilitation of large group staff development.  (NO SIT AND GET – or at least very little of it!)  
Leadership Presence Traits

Image Amy Cuddy Ted Talk  Your body language shapes who you are

  • Action Steps
    • Increase visibility within Byron Public Schools classrooms.  Work with each principal and schedule “walk-abouts” to observe learning in action.  While it is a challenge, I would love to be able to see 100% of Byron Classrooms by April/May. Keep a running doc of reflections in each building.
    • Conduct and record at least 20 interviews  classroom/learning stories to share with our community. (4 or 5 per building)
    • Find opportunities to observe large group presentations/PD.  (Good ones) Reflect on strategies  used to engage the audience.  Mix observations with F2F and online (TedTalks is a great place to observe!).
    • Design and implement effective in-house PD sessions (JITT and Staff Dev days). Take time to reflect – what worked, what didn’t work. – Revise and retry. Create survey to be shared after each session to improve efforts.
    • Find opportunities to shadow 5 leaders outside of my district to gain insight on leadership qualities/strategies of presence.  Reflect and assess skills/strategies I can improve based on what I see.
    • Schedule at least 1 #mnlead chat around “Leadership Presence” and possibly a follow-up Google Hangout on Air interview with leaders to discuss these traits/strategies. (by January)
    • Continue to challenge myself with experiences outside of my comfort zone. (ongoing)
    • Create a mid-year reflection/evaluation in January – share with superintendent
    • Improve skills from the Leadership Impact Quotient Assessment
      • Results from Sept 18 self-assessment (below)- I would like to work on my communication and emotional agility  based on my self-assessment data. 
Leadership Impact Quotient Assessment

My results from the Leadership Impact Quotient Assessment

  • Resources Needed (dollars, people, resources)
    • I would love coaching and continuous feedback on my speaking skills.
    • Continued opportunity to present within our district.  (with feedback on areas of improvement)
    • Connections of people to observe/shadow outside of district (It doesn’t just have to be in education either)
    • Opportunities to observe great presenters outside of Byron (could be travel
    • Work with principals to schedule walkabouts.
    • Schedule time weekly – to reflect on goal.
  • Research
  • Deliverables (complete by May/June) –  Interviews, Reflections/Blog posts, Survey Data, Meeting Dates, Agendas, presentations. Before/after Self-assessment
Leadership Presence Wheel

Leadership Presence Wheel – via orachoaching.com

The transparent technology director

Transparency Quote

This fall I will be creating an implementing a  360-degree survey to receive feedback on my performance as a technology director for Byron Public Schools.  I originally looked at using Marzano’s District Leadership Evaluation tool.  I have to admit, as a technology director, I had a hard time identifying with this tool and found that it would require quite a bit of word-smithing to make it applicable to my job. I also wanted to be completely transparent with my goals and professional growth this year.  For me, that meant using my blog as a place to publish my goals, measurements, artifacts, and reflections of work. Instead of putting this behind a locked site, for only me and my Superintendent to see – my  ePortfolio would be completely public.  (Thanks @gcouros for the inspiration!)

Why?  I want to become a better leader in my field.  Putting my growth information behind a locked site for only a few to see is not going to give me the feedback I need to grow.  Making this decision is not easy… I am putting myself “out there” for criticism.  However, having a growth mindset, I am ready to take that criticism and  grow from it.  (Do I have reservations/fears about this  – you better believe it!)

I began looking for an evaluation framework for the tech director role.  Two sites immediately surfaced  that I felt did a fairly good job  to possibly measure what I bring to Byron’s table.

  1. ISTE Admin Tech Standards (I also like some of the coaching standards – especially teaching, learning, assessment)
  2. COSN’s Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO

At first glance, the COSN framework is quite comprehensive and has many strands/sub-strands.  Essentially, it takes the tech directors position (they call it chief technology officer or CTO) and break it down to bits.  My concern in using this as a tool for myself and others – it’s too big.  If I were to create a survey tool from this framework – it would take too long for my end users(who are giving me feedback) to complete.  I also found that I was more inspired to use ISTE’s standards. It was much shorter and  I could really see areas where I could grow and become a better LEADER.  I am going to co/mingle some of the frameworks/standards.

My goal is to create 1 survey  and seek feedback from staff, district leadership/board, peers, and key vendors.  I do not want to create a survey for each audience type.  I want the survey to be short and sweet with some open ended areas for feedback/suggestions.  I am planning on using the following scale. (click this link to provide feedback on the scale)

Tech Director Scale

Need your advice! I have created a doc to collect overall feedback from you.  Note, the ePortfolio section at the top right of this blog.  I am just starting to build that out and could use your help.  What am I missing? What resources do you have to share? Do you have any comments/advice?

Innovation and the 4 PLC questions

PLCs have become a staple in schools across the US.  No matter where you are in your adoption of PLCs – it’s undeniable that there is power in teachers talking about students and learning.  I spent some time with my MN PLN friends Ryan Cox, Kristin Daniels, and Eric Simmons a few month ago talking about this very topic.   We even presented some ideas at the Fall MASA conference and the Ties conference  last year.  But, as I have been reading and discussing George Couros’s book – Innovator’s Mindset – I once again coming back to those 4 questions and ways we can use PLCs to catapult innovation into our classrooms and schools.

Below I have listed the 4 PLC questions and have shared ideas and conversation starters to further explore those questions with innovation.

 

PLC Question #1 – What is it we expect our students to learn?

I think it is important for all of us to think about what it is we want our students to learn in school.  We are accountable to meet certain standards and I think sifting through all of those standards and picking out the critical standards is very important work.    

But is that it?  Are we going to be satisfied with our students leaving our classrooms, grade levels,  and school being proficient only in content?   While we want our students to know content, we have much more responsibility than that to ensure that we are developing today’s and tomorrow’s learners/citizens.  Just knowing stuff, isn’t enough. Once our critical ELO’s are determined, the exciting/transformational innovation can occur when educators take the time to connect core content to real world (job, life, social/emotional, local/global citizenship) experiences.  Identifying subject area critical ELO’s also opens the door to interdisciplinary opportunities.  Students are reading in science and social studies – how can we take advantage of this time to assess reading?  

And finally, what is it our students want to know or are curious about? What are the opportunities to connect content with their interests?

PLC Question 1 - with a twist

Innovation opportunities with PLC question 1

PLC Question #2 – How will we know when they have learned it?

Once we pick our critical ELOs and design learning experiences we need to determine how we will know students understand what we originally set out to teach them.  This question has all to do about assessment and with assessment brings multiple opportunities for innovation.  The first that comes to mind is formative assessment (assessment for learning).  As we apply curriculum, we need to do small checks to see if students understand what we are trying to deliver.   We use this information one of two ways.  We either give students feedback to improve their success OR we alter something in our instruction to better meet the needs of our students.  There are a variety of ways to do formative checks to find what students know.  Technology can also provide an opportunity to innovate formative assessment.  Instead of a one sized fits all system, we can now tailor assessment according to the child’s needs at the child’s pace.

Some of the more recent things that I see that are exciting are technologies that making thinking visible.  Drawing pictures, telling stories, and creating products (go makers!) to showcase what a student knows can be a very rich form of assessment.  Even if a student makes something with their hands, they can take a picture/video and explain their thinking very easily with today’s tech tools.  These thoughts can be shared with parents, other students, and even at a global scale for feedback.   This moment of learning can now used as artifacts  to measure growth over a long period of time.  

Assessment AS learning brings incredible way to innovate assessment – as the student has more ownership of the learning.  Do you provide students with an opportunity to own their learning?   Do they take more time to self assess/reflect on their work?  Do they recognize their strengths  and area where they need to improve?  As we move content into “real world” experiences – I believe it is these types of artifacts and  reflections that can help us understand if students understand the real world skills we are trying to provide them.   I firmly believe – that the ePortfolio IS the assessment of the 21st century.

Assessment for, as, and of learning. Image credit – http://www.edu.gov.on.ca

How will we respond when some students do not learn?

One of my favorite videos is Todd Rose’s Ted Talk – The myth of average.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eBmyttcfU4  He offers a few critical findings from neuroscience that help us to re-examine assumptions about learning and new strategies to consider when designing learning opportunities for our students. Do you design your content and assessment to the edges or to the average?

If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree - it will live its whole life believing it is stupidThere are numerous ways we can begin to innovate when learners do not understand what we are trying to teach them.   First – have you provided flexibility in how a student can meet the assessment you have provided?  As we go down the road of personalization, we need to consider multiple paths to show learning and meet our learning goals.   Universal Design for Learning  offers some powerful strategies for educators to meet the needs of all learners by creating flexible paths to the how, what, and why of learning.  

So often, I see interventions being exactly the same thing that did not work the first time (or second) for students…only MORE of it.  And so the boredom and frustration begins.  How open are you in creating  multiple paths in learning? Do students  have an active role in the decisions about their learning? Will this bring more buy-in to meet the course goals?  

There is no doubt that relationships between the student and teacher can be key here.  The better we know our students, the better we can customize their learning and connect learning to their interests.  Are learner profiles beneficial option to get to know our students quicker?  (last year’s ePortfolio might help too!)  

What about the pace?  If students do not learn, do you fail them – and move them forward, only for the same students to get further behind and never catch up? At what point is this not acceptable?  I realize that there are grade level standards but these are conversations we need to consider to meet our students needs.  

And finally, technology continues to evolve and provide more flexible paths for learners.  Does having content online help our struggling learners by giving them 24/7 access to their teacher?  What technologies provide flexible paths to content?  NewsELA is an example of a website that allows learners to read current events at their reading levels.  

How will we respond when some students already know it?

Designing for the edges not only supports our struggling learners, but also supports the learners who already understand the curriculum.  Essentially,  I see 2 options.  

First option – provide opportunities for students to go deeper with the learning. Technology that taps into student creativity can be fun!  (Enrichment worksheets are not fun)   It’s time to let our students creativity shine!  How do we continue to allow student to go up the blooms ladder?  Can we connect learning to making? Can students design something  they are passionate about?  Maybe they like art, or music, or basketball.  Is there anyway to tie the learning targets to their passions?  Maybe you give students a couple of options, and also allow a “Create your own path” type learning activity/assessment.  Students would need to present their ideas to you and there may need to be some sort of negotiation to determine if that idea is valid.  As I think of innovation – this is the cream of the crop – our students as innovators by implementing original ideas to meet learning goals!    

Option two – Let them move on to the next lesson/unit.  This is one area where blended learning can be of service to teachers and students and allow students to get through the content at their pace (which is much faster than those who struggle).  So what happens if you have students that get through the content quite quickly?  Is there an opportunity for a genius hour type project?   Or maybe there is another path for students to connect their learning to the real life experiences mentioned in question 1?  

So what are your thoughts?  Is innovation with PLCs a viable option?  What ideas do you have to bring innovation to scale in your schools?  What innovative ideas can you share aligned to any (or all) of the 4 PLC questions?

So you’re looking/hiring for a tech job?

Today I had an opportunity to attend a coaching seminar with Rick Olson – Don’t Just Manage – Coach.  While doing so I had an opportunity to reflect on how we hire and coach technology support in our school districts and possible improvements to the process.  While I am going to focus on hiring tech support – I believe the ideas in this post could be beneficial for hiring anyone with in an organization.

Hire Wisely

“Hire attitude – train skill.”  This is a statement I have heard quite often and am becoming a bigger believer in it.  I believe the look for’s for Fixed/Growth mindset are critical here so we need to be sure to ask questions during the hiring process that will allude to this.  While I realize there is a certain level of expertise that comes with the job of technology support – I would much rather hire a technician that might be lacking experience in a skill or two if they have the attitude and drive to improve their skills.  Having someone completely skilled – with a cruddy attitude – is not going to do your school or department any good.  Negativity and doubt can weigh heavily on a system.  If you are a tech, and are looking at getting a job – be sure you update yourself on the topic – and Carol Dweck’s book Mindset.  But, just don’t bring it to the interview and then wallow back into a fixed mindset when you are done – – – you need to start living it.

I also have two other takeaways for  hiring great staff.  Do phone interviews first.  This may eliminate wasteful time at an actual face to face meeting. We have been there – the paperwork looks awesome, but the actual person isnt a good fit after the first 2 questions.   You should be able to get a sense of attitude from the phone call. I also think it is a great way to find good people who’s skills might be missing in a few areas.  Maybe you have a couple of people on the fence – this may be an opportunity to learn from them a little more and if the attitude is there-  give them a shot!   The other idea was one that was shared from the audience.  Send the interviewees a scenario and have them ready to talk about it at the interview.  While they can google all they want – provide an opportunity for those critical thinking skills to shine during the interview process.

 

Are you a coach or a boss?

Are you a coach or a boss? Image Credit – http://insidehrdq.com/

Develop our people

This does mean that we need to think about having opportunities to develop our tech support. Do you have a career advancement process in place? Could this bring better more talented candidates to your table?  When your ready to hire and the notice goes out – is opportunities for advancement/growth listed?   I often think of Dan Pink’s book Drive.  The 3 big things that lead to motivation in the workplace are incredibly intrinsic =  autonomy, purpose, and mastery.  I think the first 2  – should be fairly easy to relate to techs and tech support. We need techs that can create solutions to problems and tech support is our purpose.  (we also need to highlight customer support is our purpose as well)  But – mastery may be one area that is a little blurred in our districts.  Gone are the days -”I want to work for a system and stay there and stay at the same level for 30 years.”  Are there opportunities for advancement/growth within your district?  Some of the things I have been tooling is the idea of certifications and advancement. Maybe we need to start investing in our techs and provide them with the skills they need to do the job.  Most other businesses in the world do this, do we need to create the same opportunities for our staff too?  How often do your techs submit for staff development funds? How often do you plan the actual development for your support staff? Has your techs created a learning network outside of your district? How about a PLN?  I also have to highlight we also need to be a learning organization. Not all learning has to come from external resources – are there opportunities for our staff to go above and beyond the job description? Do we recognize and honor that work as well?

If attitude is everything - what does your say about you?

Image credit – msmoem.com

What do YOU bring to the table? How do you impact your team?

One of the things that Rick shared today is that our staff are boss watchers.  If we want good customer support – we need to model the same things with our staff.   We set the pace of attitude.  If you’re having a bad day (we all do) be careful how you portray that attitude to your staff. If we really value customer service, we need to model it even when the conditions are tough.

Are you empowering your team to help with the problems you face?  Change that is done to people is  more difficult than change where people have a voice in the solution.  How often do your reach to your team to create solutions? How often are you listening to them for problems?  One of the big takeaways from today is that we have be like coaches.  Many times that means asking questions rather than giving blanket statements. We also have to be open to the answers we received – it might be difficult to take but if you have a growth mindset you need to embrace that feedback to make your department better.

 

What strategies do you apply to develop a top notch technology team?  I’d love your feedback!

Innovation: A tech director’s perspective

As I shared, in my previous post, innovation is one of my passions and I want to strengthen and improve my understanding of it to help our district  create a culture of innovation.   It just so happens, a new MOOC (#OSSEMOOC) was beginning this month  around George Couros’s Book – The Innovator’s Mindset.  I had lurked previous, MOOCs before – but never was an active participant AND have yet to see a MOOC through.   So, here is my shot, to elevate further develop my learning through new opportunities.

Image Credit – Bigthink.com

Innovation = First Different, Then Better.

What does innovation mean to you? What does Innovation look like, sound like in your role? 

As a technology director for 20 years, change is a constant in my job.  I think about innovation often.    While you don’t need technology to be innovative, technology certainly can be a catalyst for innovation.  My inbox (email/phone) is continually bombarded with vendors trying to sell me their latest and greatest.  Sell me things that could “Revolutionize Education”.   I will admit, I do love shiny things – and even I wind up getting immersed and excited about the NEW – but I also need to remember to ask – Is it Better?

As I am writing this, I am reflecting on our PD roll-out of 1:1 iPads 3 years ago.   We focused on the SAMR model of integration.  Focused first on the S – Substitution with the hopes within 3 years, the grades would be at the M/R – or transformation. Our  thinking then – was to get our staff “comfortable” with what they already knew. And now, as I reflect on it – I am not sure it was the right decision.  Presentations, word processing and workflow was a significant portion of the initial training.  While we focused on the new of the ipad.  We unfortunately did not focus as much on the better.  Sure it was better that every student had a device – as they wouldn’t need computer labs, had the internet at their fingertips… but our initial training should have focused on the better – specifically BETTER of harnessing the functionality of the iPad to support a deeper purpose…. A student – centered education.  I want to mention I own this failure, as I certainly could have steered us down a better path of PD.  But I know more about iPads, more about GOOD pedagogy, and more about PD than I did back then.

Since this rollout several years ago – PD has improved and I continually try to innovate within the system.   We have had Edcamps, created a DLC position,  created a personalized gamified PD program, and worked with a local highered institute to create the Innovative Instructional Leadership program.  I believe our PD programs should be an incubator of ideas/innovation (around student centered learning)  VS sit and get one-sized fits all death by powerpoint PD.  Don’t get me wrong, large group PD can be good – especially when modeling excellent pedagogy practices.  (Something I want to get better at!)   But, there also needs to be follow up.  PLEASE – no more 1 and done PD.

Image Credit – Unknown.

Many times when an idea doesn’t work (the first time) schools will drop it.  Many times schools will not put forth adequate resources and time for ideas/innovation/action to become better. Measurements need to be determined and evaluated.  While it’s good to have measures – sometimes we don’t know how to measure truly innovative ideas/actions without living it for awhile.  And be ready…. many times Traditional measures  won’t be able to measure innovation.   I also believe reflection and reiteration is just as important as the putting an innovative idea into action.  No matter if you are a student, a teacher, a principal or even a “veteran” tech director – failure should be permitted and opportunities to revise – given.

So what does innovation mean to me? Because of my role in the district, both information and instructional technology – I believe that student-centered thinking and innovation (as in the definition of innovation) should be at the forefront of what I do.    Do I like these new tools/concepts because they are shiny or do they make things better?  They need to have both.   BUT, sometimes the “better” is not so clear and I have to be open to ideas that don’t necessarily seem to be student centered at first.  Have we given sites like Vine and Snapchat a fair shake?  Teachers throwing out grades?   I am always appreciative of divergent educators and will always leave MY DOOR open to new pilots in tackling these innovations  and will work to the Nth degree to help remove roadblocks vs being the roadblock (which unfortunately is the view of many folks in my position).

And finally, I have been participating in the Voxer Group for this Mooc.  One question was raised – Does innovation decrease the further up the ladder one  goes?  IE – From Teacher, to Principal, to Superintendent?  Absolutely NOT.  If anything – the further you move up the ladder – the MORE we should be innovating AND being very transparent of these innovations, actions, reflections, and reiterations….. It is my belief that transparent modeling might just be some of the best PD in a pursuing a culture of innovation.

 

Goal 2: Improving my professional learning through my PLN

I have been thinking alot about my learning and my personal learning network. I recently shared my past/current PLN experience. But now its time to think about where I want to be, and how my PLN can help me.    Over the next few months I want to take time to improve my professional passions and desires and will find ways to integrate these goals with my PLN.  Effective PLNs don’t just happen.  It’s important to continue to cultivate and customize towards one’s needs.

Learning Growing Changing

Image Credit – http://learninggrowingchanging.com/

Before reading my improvement  plan – it is important to mention they all are interconnected with MY Why.    Please note – if you are new to being connected, this may seem overwhelming.  Don’t be.  Instead, think of my thought process to accomplish this task.  I started with my passions and came up with some ideas on how I could further strengthen them. Then I moved to my desires.  Right now – these might not be my passions (yet) but are items I want to either improve upon, learn about, or be a part of!

I hope to accomplish the items below by June 1, 2016.

Strengthen my passions

  • School innovation to improve/personalize student learning.  I love to dream. I love ideas. I love to connect ideas and act upon them. (especially when it revolves around MY Why!)
    • Goal: I want to strengthen and improve my understanding of school innovation and how I can better facilitate opportunities for innovation and help my district create a culture of learning and innovation.
    • PLN Action steps:
      • Find, follow, interact with leaders in design thinking (dt).  Participate in a #DTk12chat.  Participate in a webinar/hangout around the topic.
      • Find and be an active participant in a Mooc (Maybe this one or this one) to learn more
      • Read and be part of an online book study – Innovator’s Mindset.  I have subscribed in one out of Canada (ossemooc) that started in Feb!
      • Share successful innovation stories within my district.  Identify local innovation stories and Tweet at least weekly to #byronbears AND blog OR periscope 2 times per month bigger stories about those innovations.
      • Create Twitter lists of the above!
    • What will success look like?: 
      • WSU Fall course outline will be created, I will facilitate a design thinking experience in the district. Potentially Summer 2016.
  • Become a better educator.  I am constantly thinking about PD and how I can deliver/model it more effectively and make it more relevant for the participants. I have 2 big areas I am working on – a new personalized/gamified pd program within our district. I am also an adjunct in a program where I am really trying to be innovative in the delivery of instruction and  assessment of learning.
    • Goal – Expand/Improve my PLN in the area of personalized learning
      • PLN Action Steps:
      • Curate a list of blogs/resources around this topic.  (diigo or evernote)
      • Find/follow/interact with educators who are doing amazing things with their students AND educators who are doing amazing things with their staff.  Expand my PLN in the area of Twitter/Facebook/Voxer.
      • Share my journey (wins and challenges) through blogging/tweeting!
      • What f2f opportunities do I have to learn and observe in action?
    • What will success look like?: 
      • Reflect on current PD program, find ways to improve it.  Evaluate Connected Educator/Connected Classroom course and reflect on opportunities for improvement. Analyze feedback from staff/students.
  •  Leadership.
    • Goal: Strengthen and improve my leadership – specifically around change leadership and developing other leaders.
    • PLN Action Steps
      • Find, follow, and interact with leadership experts AND folks who are also looking to improve their leadership.
      • Create Twitter list of the above!
      • Participate in a formal leadership chats (outside of #mnlead)
      • Maybe form a voxer group of technology director leaders in my state.
      • Influence leaders within our district and outside our district to become connected.
      • Blog at least 2 times about my progress of improving my leadership
    • What will success look like?
      • This is a little tough – I would guess my blog posts would help measure this.  Maybe do a presentation about leadership with another group?

Achieve my desires

Goal without a plan is a wish - quote/pic

Image Credit by blog.gneo.co

  • Become a better writer/blogger.  I am sure my high school teacher would smile to see this as a desirable goal – but I have learned a lot through my own reflections.  I would say I think about writing/blogging at least 3-4 a week, but wind up writing an average of monthly if lucky.  My blogs are terribly long and I find it takes me days to create them.
  • Goal: Reflect and improve writing through more frequent blogs. Work on efficiency of writing.
    • PLN Action Steps:
    • Read Write more in 2016 by A.J. Juliani
    • Find other blogs/bloggers who share insight on improving blogging practices. Curate and share those with my PLN.
    • Blog weekly and schedule time for it.
    • Quit worrying about telling the whole story.  Increase opportunities to blog about ideas in the works, challenges I face – not just things I have done.
    • When appropriate- consider blogging and directing to people to my blog for answers vs district emails.
  • What will success look like?: 
    • 4 blogs per month!
  • Influence/improve teacher preparation programs.  It wasn’t too long ago I went on a college visit with my son.  We did a tour of the college’s education building and I was troubled by what I saw.  Lecture halls with students in rows.  Sage on the stage. I want to learn how regional universities are preparing our teachers for today’s classrooms.  Can I help them improve their programs?
    • Goal: Expand my PLN in the area of higher ed preparation.
      • PLN Action Steps:
      • Find/follow/interact with cutting edge teacher prep programs (and leaders/professors)
      • Expand my PLN in the area of Higher Ed.  Lurk, learn, and participate in conversations with leaders pushing the envelope in higher education.  Right now I have a voxer group with a few members. Be more active in this group and find more people to add to this group.
      • Find online opportunities to interact with to be teachers in undergraduate programs.
    • What will success look like?
      • My dream – facilitate f2f conversation with institute about  ideas. Present to either A. teachers candidates ro B. Profs in teacher prep program.
  • Understand social media analytics for myself and district . It’s one thing to have followers and follow people. Its another to have people engage and influence “your brand”.
    • Goal: Expand understanding of social media analytics.
      • PLN Action Steps:
      • Learn about Twitter and Facebook Analytics and best practices to improve engagement and relevance to education.
      • Share learning in a future blog post and with district administrators.
      • Can analytics tell me how can I become better at giving back to my PLN?
    • What will success look like?
      • Measure Improvement within my own personal analytics (engagement – not just followers) and FB analytics of our district FB page.
Golden rule of PLN

Image Credit – http://www.slideshare.net/learntel/the-value-of-a-professional-learning-network-pln By Carol Skyring