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?

Are we there yet? Evaluating 1:1 and 21st Century Instruction

Are we there yet?

One of my goals for the 2015-16 school year was to research the impact of our 1:1 iPad program on 21st-century instruction.  This was year 3 of  1:1 iPads in grades 7-12.  It was time to see if we were making an impact.   Even though 21st-century instruction is a “dated term”, it is still the term we coined in the report.  Maybe technology infused pedagogy could have been a better term – but honestly, what we are really looking for is student-centered learning that is amplified using technology.

The research would include feedback from parents, students, and educators.  Because our program is a 1:1 in only grades 7-12, I also needed to look at the differences of our 1:1 classrooms vs. non 1:1 classrooms.  This was a change from our 2014 survey.

The first step in this process was to redesign a couple of surveys to ask questions to around these instructional practices.  The parent survey had very little revisions, the student survey had a few revisions, and the teacher survey had significant revisions.

I decided to send the newly designed teacher survey to one of my favorite email groups – KIC – a technology integration group based out of the Minneapolis- for feedback.  From that email, I received quite a few responses, but it was  Dr. Joel VerDuin’s (@jverduin), Chief Technology Officer of Anoka-Hennepin schools, that gave me excellent advice!  He suggested that I also include focus group interviews. What a brilliant idea! How to archive these interviews – why not record (with my iPad!) and include them in the report?  These powerful video interviews with students, teachers, and samples of student work could further tell a story of how technology was impacting our classrooms.  It goes beyond graphs and charts and makes these new learning environments visible!  To deliver the report, I needed a tool that would work with text, graphs, and EMBED video – so I chose Google Slides.  I altered the page setup (8.5 x 11) and begin to organize my work.  If anyone needs a printed copy – a PDF can easily be downloaded and printed.

Below is the results of my research.  While we have had some great success, we still have a tremendous amount of work to do.  We are by no means “there” yet and will be creating new goals based on the findings of this research.  Take a peek at the videos.  Some teachers are at the beginning stages of new learning environments, while others have been working at it for a while. This also does not capture all of the great things our teachers are doing – just a small sample!     All worthy of celebrating!

Link to Presentation





Ripples: Influence, Impact and Connected Leadership

I have been reflecting about influence, impact  and connected leadership today.  How do others influence me? How do I influence others?  How far does one’s influence/impact reach?   When I think about influence, I think of ripples.  The first ring of impact is quite visible and deep but is the smallest in diameter. The rings continue to grow, but may not have as much depth and impact as that first ripple effect. Of course the ripple effect is going to differ based on the kind of impact.  The impact of a stone will have a larger ripple effect than a single rain drop. We are constantly being influenced by other sources.  What started as one ripple, may be morphed by the influence of another, and another.  Even external disruptions like bugs and boats – (technology) – will have also cause a ripple effect on the original impact of the ripple.

Riplle Picture

Flickr CC – aislinnv –

Today I presented at the Symposium of Women Educational Leaders conference a session called Learning and Leading with Social Media.  This presentation is a compilation of many influencers from my PLN that has had an impact on me for many years.   Even last night, as I was finishing my presentation, I sent out a single tweet.

Tweet from Apr 25.

Tweets and ripples

That tweet was picked up and retweeted by Kory Graham (@korytellers) who in turn sparked some tweets by  @ShellTerrell  @pammoran  @RosaIsiah  @teachwithsoul  ‎@AllysonApsey @Jennifer_Hogan @JennBinis and then tweets from Australia @mlobrien1 and New Zealand @vanschaijik started coming in – offering to help and support.  This wasn’t just a sprinkle of support -but a pouring of support from women leaders from all across the globe. (View the storify  conversation)  

As I presented my thoughts of connected leadership to  admin and aspiring administrators in MN today, I began to wonder – what kind of ripple am I creating?  Am I making an impact?  Or a ripple of influence? My PLN, I have created and interact with, continues to mold who I am professionally, what I believe, and where I will take action. My hopes is to  pay it forward with drops, rocks, ripples to support other educator who are willing to make their own ripples with their peers, pln, and most importantly – students!

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 –

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.  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 –

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 –

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!

What if?

I have been participating in #ossemooc Innovator’s Mindset book study.  This week’s blog hop challenge asks us to ask ourselves what if?  SO, I decided to play along.  Below are some blue sky questions that may or may not challenge the status quo of school.  I will be honest  – its this kind of stuff that “trips my professional trigger”.   Collaboratively coming up with solutions  to the questions below (and having the time and resources to act on them) would be a professional dream.


#ossemooc What If Challenge

#ossemooc What If Challenge

  1. What if the Carnegie unit disappeared from schools?
  2. What if student schedules were interdisciplinary and personalized according to their needs?
  3. What if we focused less on “what you know” and more on “what you can do to improve the world with what you know”?
  4. What if learning experiences outside of school, could be used to meet standards inside of school?
  5. What if our communities had a vested and shared interest in the success of our students and meaningful partnerships  were created to fully leveraged for maximum impact on student learning?
  6. What if higher ed partnered with k12 schools in teacher prep programs?
  7. What if learners had more significant and meaningful input into their educational experience?
  8. What if every educator was connected to a PLC (f2f) and a PLN (digital)?
  9. What if every student was connected to a PLC (f2f) and a PLN (digital)?
  10. What if “Assessment As Learning” trumped “Assessment OF learning”?
  11. What if schools were held accountable by holistic measures… not just standardized tests?
  12. What if every student, that graduated from high school, had significant resume worthy job experiences including internships, community reviewed business plans,  patents, and published work?
  13. What if every student  could articulate their human potential?
  14. What if we had time to ask with students, teachers, administration, board, parents, and community to ask…..What if – to help redefine what school is for?
  15. And more importantly…. What if we had time and resources  to  create solutions and act on those “What if’s”?

So there you have it!  What did I miss? What are your What if’s?  

STOP STEALING DREAMS: Seth Godin (16:57)


School vs Learning by George Couros - Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth

School vs Learning by George Couros – Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth

Is this a breakthrough idea?

Disclaimer: This blog post is just an idea.  It is nothing that has been shared with anyone in the district.  It is nothing that is even “in the works”.  Several factors in the past 2 weeks have contributed to this idea and even the idea of blogging about it.

  1. One of my grad student’s (@JG0005) blog post called Exposed that shares her thoughts about transparency at the beginning stages of a teaching idea and early implementation phases.  This post is a front end idea.
  2. Innovator’s Mindset Mooc discussion – A discussion about Inquiry based PD with George Couros (@gcouros) (2/15/16)
  3. School discussions about what PD will look like next year.  
  4. A Google Hangout with Scott Mcleod (@mcleod)  discussing Trudacot (2/17/16)
  5. A BAM Radio show interview with Brad Gustafson (@GustafsonBrad) and Ben Gilpin (@benjamingilpin) around creativity in learning/teaching (2/18/16) – My takeaway thought – What are the enablers of innovative teaching?  Does innovative teaching lead to creative learning?
  6. Our district strategic plan
  7. Reflections from chapters 4 – 6 Innovator’s Mindset book. 
  8. iPad/21st Century Feedback surveys – We have a good baseline.  Its time to start acting on the things that matter to us.
  9. Observations of current grad class – Connected Educator Connected Classroom.  First round of lesson plans have come in – and I am super excited from what is being shared. Amazing stuff in development. 
  10. Reflections of – This week at the elementary, I was excited to hear that some of the teachers implemented some of the ideas (with great success!)shared at previous sessions. I find these short conversations (½ hour or so) is enough for some teachers to have an idea and implement.  (reports of both student engagement and observation of teacher engagement).


Image Credit –

Breakthrough Idea – Teacher/Admin Genius Hour

Image Credit –

Big  Idea – Consider  Teacher Genius hour as a model of PD.   (Maybe Admin Genius hour too? – would love seeing administrators model ways they are being innovative – including this tech director)

Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. (


Driving Questions

  1. What effects does innovative teaching have on learners? (engagement, achievement, skills ect)
  2. Are we delivering on the vision and ALL priorities of our strategic plan?
  3. How do we move from pockets of Innovation to fostering cultures of innovation/learning?
  4. How do we give teachers ownership of PD and honor/celebrate their work?
  5. What opportunities does a  personalized inquiry based PD bring to our district?
  6. How can we creatively tackle roadblocks that get in our way?
  7. How do we empower all of our staff to take risks?
  8. Would modeling self directed learning at all levels in an organization lead to more opportunities of self directed learning for students?


Here are a few things that I know about PD.

  • In the book Drive, Daniel Pink shares that employee engagement today relies heavily on 3 things. Autonomy, Purpose, and Mastery.  
  • The best PD is pd that is embedded in the school day.  In a recent district survey, the number one barrier to effective use of technology is time (27%).  
  • The best PD is not a 1 and done, but something that is continually supported and followed up on a regular basis.
  • Learning is not just passively listening to a presenter’s lecture at a workshop, but an applied understanding of an idea/concept into the classroom and reflecting/presenting the results the experience.


First run…. A potential plan – Draft Draft Draft!

  • Kick of the event with PD time to explore the topics in @mcleod’s and @jgraber Trudacot lesson design tool.  There could be others but I really like the focus on students and deep relevant learning.
  • Teachers pitch ideas.  Either they create a new lesson or re-design an existing lesson that is improved “significantly” based on Trudacot topics to engage learners and deepen learning.  Maybe do a critical friends session.  The end result – must have a positive impact student learning in some way.  
  • Teacher ideas can be collaborative (seeking partners or team events) or independent.  Would love to see teachers collaborating across the disciplines
  • Decision is solidified, and teachers create an action plan
  • Create mini workshops or coaching sessions based on teacher needs to complete goals.  
  • Planning process is documented/journaled/or blogged along the way.
  • Teachers implement action plan/lesson idea into the classroom.
  • Teachers collect evidence and reflect on the process
  • Teachers (and maybe students too?) present their findings science fair style.  Or I am  thinking it would be cool to have a Ted Talk style presentation – short and sweet – 5-7 minutes tops.  Maybe Pecha Kucha Style?
  • Would love to invite the community to this event.  Maybe even other districts.  I consider this a celebration of the work of our Teachers AND an opportunity to share ideas to others in hopes it generates more ideas and action to try something.


ROADBLOCKS and “Yeah Buts” to overcome

I don’t have time for this.  I get this.  We need time and time needs to built into our system.   My dream would be time each week (just like a true Genius Hour project) to be dedicated each week.  However, ½ days every 2 weeks might work or  even 1 day per month.  If we do not have calendar time to support this idea, I do not believe we can have “systemic” success.   Can this be revised? Absolutely – but I am just sharing my “dream scenario” at this point.

Accountability. What about those who do nothing?  In my mind, most teachers would love an opportunity to have time to focus on creative lesson planning/mini action research – However, we know there will be some who will try to get by with as little as possible.  I do think a presentation expectation in front of peers, school board, community – could eliminate this factor….

We don’t know if it will work.  Lets face it.  There are many things we do NOW that do not work.  We have spent many dollars in PD that has been ineffective.  In my opinion, This has all of the makings of success.  The timing is right.  The focus on learning experiences is perfect.  What is the worst thing that could happen? We need breakthrough ideas and we need an avenue to share them and celebrate them!

But some people are more innovative than me.  Some people will make me look bad.  OK – this is a big BIG mindset issue.  We should celebrate everyone’s wins no matter where they are.  The only thing that would look bad is if you do NOTHING. Then that would be on you.

But what if my results are not good?  This idea is about an innovation journey. It’s about failing forward.   Even if results are not as great as one would wish – did you learn and grow along the way?  Even though the results were not as good as you wished – would there be things that you could “tweak” to make results even better.  There may be opportunity for feedback from peers – that could make the product so much better.

So there you have it!  – As this is at an infancy stage right now – there are plenty of opportunities for improvement.  But I do believe going down this path could be inspiring.  I think the creative ideas and innovative actions of our teachers can better define our future at BPS!

So what do you think… Is this a breakthrough idea?  Have feedback? I would lOVE to hear from you!

Image Credit –

Innovation: A parent’s perspective

I want to take some time to cross post my thoughts from a Voxer post/discussion in the #OSSEMOOC Innovator’s Mindset group.  The conversation really hit home for me – not just as an educator that works in a school system – but as a parent.

My Story. My youngest is a senior this year in a high school, outside of the one I work for,  and is enrolled as a PSEO student in a local community college.  We have had many college discussions. He knows college is the “right thing” to do.  But, he really is unsure of what he wants to go into to.  He is a good student. He gets decent grades, and decent test scores. He knows how to “play school” very well.  He has been accepted to a 4 year state university and plans to attend this next fall.

The problem.   My son has had ZERO self directed authentic learning experiences (in school) that would connect him (and his learning) to any type of career.  ZERO.   He does enjoy his PSEO classes, as I have observed more critical thinking than his HS courses.  But the relevance of what he is learning is still missing.  He simply continues to “play school”.

Within our discussions of college  – we also need to discuss the considerable amount  of debt that will accrue over the next 4 years. The college he has chosen, estimates tuition and housing to run over $17,000 per year.    He has interests but still is not sure.  So, does he go to college undecided? Or does he wait until he knows what he wants to do?   Lets look at the odds.

  1. There is a chance he won’t make it past year 1 of college.   1 in 3 students will not make it to sophomore year.
  2. There is no guarantee of a career in his major of choice after college.  Only 27% of College grads have jobs within their major
  3. And IF he is successful, and graduates with a degree – he will have significant debt. Rates in 2013 say the average was $30,000 – I am doing some calculations and guessing this will be much more for my son. More likely doubled or more.

Consider the changing paradigms of “School” as we know it. (Video below)

Changing Paradigms – Based on Sir Ken Ted Talk


What student-centered innovation looks like today. Innovation that is TRULY student-centered can lead to potential careers.  There are a couple of times, within the school I work for,  I have been able to interview our high school students in courses that teachers allowed significant choice and voice in authentic learning.  In both of the examples below – the courses were designed on Hybrid days – where there was blocks of time where students would not need to “report” to class.

Example 1 – In @RyanRadke316 ‘s  child development class, genius hour project where students are able to freely choose a topic of research under child development AND use hybrid days to either go and interview experts in the field and observe the job in action.  One student, after a personal experience, wanted to further study post traumatic stress disorder.  This student was able to use their hybrid days to interview local child psychologists about the topic.  They were able to tour the facility and discuss specific topics about supporting the patients and the job in general.  When I interviewed this student – this experience sealed the deal and they made the decision to enroll in a psychology major in the next fall.

Example 2 – In @rockychat3′s stats class – students had an opportunity to freely study statistics outside of the traditional classroom during hybrid days.  I happened to interview two students who decided to put their stats knowledge to work with a current passion – and analyze basketball stats.  They poured over the data, analyzed, summarized  and would eventually share their findings.  Both girls shared that they did not realize that Math was “Everywhere” and this stats class had opened their eyes to the application of Math.  And one student, shared she would be pursuing a degree in statistics – specifically  sports analytics in the fall.

Not all open ended, student centered, student directed authentic classroom experiences  are going to lead to a career decision. But I can guarantee – interest/decisions in careers are more likely to happen when students have relevant real world learning experiences vs. reading about it in a book, watching a video about it, or practicing fictitious scenarios/problems on paper.

A few weeks ago, I was at a personalized learning summit in January.  Part of the summit included watching a movie called Beyond Measure.   One of the people, int he moview,  said it best when explaining our education system today relating to baseball.

“If learning baseball was like our current education system players would learn about baseball in high school, would create a play about baseball in college, and wouldn’t get in the game until graduate school. “

Questions to consider. Politicians want innovative schools and cry REFORM REFORM REFORM yet still hold schools accountable by test scores. Standards are a mile wide and can be very difficult to go deep with them.  Not to mention – are still organized by “grade levels”. School systems  in public schools still continue to work under a belief system where seat time = learning. And in Minnesota – the Carnegie unit is still king.  At some point, shouldn’t we  recognize EVERY student’s passions and talents? Shouldn’t we give plenty of student directed, authentic experiences in our classes that could spark new passions, talents, and career interests?  Sure we want them to be great readers. We want want them to be great mathematicians. But -so often the way we try to raise their scores is doing the same thing that doesn’t work in the first place. (Just more of it that kills the love of learning). When do we start working on the student’s personal genius, whether it be art, or music, or programming, or carpentry or “Fill in the blank” to land a potential career?

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What student-centered innovation could look like tomorrow (Warning – idea alert). An interesting and extremely innovative highered idea is the Gap Year. Where students “Take control of their learning” Its an interesting concept and to tell you the truth – would be an awesome senior year opportunity. I know – people may look at this idea and think/say, Ya But, Ya But, Ya But.  And we will find many roadblocks and many obstacles make ideas seem unrealistic.  Should obstacles stand in the way of what is best for kids?

What can parents do? So parents (aka voters and tax payers) when it comes to innovation in education your voice needs to be heard too.  Don’t settle for Ya but. Things are changing quite rapidly in the world of education and more importantly the world of employment.  Even though you have a 13 year internship on how school is done – you need to educate yourself.  When a college and is determined, make sure there are plenty of real world experiences within the core of the school work too.  Politicians need to hear you, as do our  school boards and schools.  Our kids need community members with strong voices and even better –  potential career connections and learning experiences.

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 –

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

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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

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  • 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 – By Carol Skyring